Tony Ferguson defeated Kevin Lee when the two fought last October, but Daniel Cormier believes the bout provided compelling insights, as to why Khabib Nurmagomedov’s going to be trouble for the champ.
Ferguson faced Lee at UFC 216, and proceeded to submit the rising lightweight with a third round, triangle choke. Although most people had Ferguson as the favorite heading into the contest, after the bout, the revelation that Lee had been battling a staph infection prompted debate as to how much it had impacted his performance.
Well, fast forward to today, and Ferguson is set to fight Nurmagomedov on April 7th, at UFC 223. Recently Daniel Cormier was interviewed by Bloody Elbow’s Stephie Haynes, and not surprisingly, he was asked to weigh-in on his teammate’s upcoming scrap with Ferguson.
While doing so, the light-heavyweight champ said this:
“…I think this is a great fight and a very winnable one for Khabib. He just has to understand that this will be one of those ugly fights where Tony may cut him, and he’s got to be okay dealing with the blood. He’s got to be okay with just being in a really nasty fight, because as weird as Tony Ferguson is, he’s as tough as they come—one of the toughest son-of-a-guns I’ve ever seen…
The most telling thing when I think about this fight is that Kevin Lee is an ultra-talented guy. I like Kevin Lee and think he’s a very good fighter. But, when you talk about top pressure and top control, he does not have the reputation for being a smothering top fighter like Khabib. He was able to take Tony down and get to the full mount — with staph — Kevin Lee had staph and he was able to get in that dominant position. I think that would be the most worrisome thing for me if I am Team Ferguson. You cannot do that with Khabib, you won’t get up. You’re stuck there forever. Good fight, though. I can’t wait to go watch.”
It’s an interesting point. While many people, including myself, have noted that Ferguson has a nasty guard, will that be enough to negate the relentless attacks of Nurmagomedov? Will the latter be able to pass Ferguson’s guard? And if he does, will Ferguson be able to work his way out? Against one of the most complete, pressuring grapplers in the game? Would Lee have got caught by that choke, if he had been 100%?
We will likely find out some of the answers to this question on April 7th.
UFC 223 will go down in Brooklyn, New York.