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UFC 249 Picks

MMA Fight: UFC 249: Khabib vs. Ferguson
Key Matches: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson
When: Saturday, April 18, 2020
Time: 11PM EST
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
TV: PPV

by Loot, MMA Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Khabib Nurmagomedov, (-260), 28-0 (10 KOs, 8 Submissions) vs. Tony Ferguson, (+200), 25-3(12 KOs, 8 Submissions)

The UFC 249 main event is a big one, with UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov taking on Tony Ferguson. This is for all the marbles. For Khabib, it's his chance to put a definitive stamp of greatness on his career, which would always seem incomplete without a win over the most dangerous contender of his era. For Ferguson, it's a golden opportunity to notch that greatness-clarifying win that he has long sought. It's hard to remember a time when the top two guys in the division were so far and ahead of the rest of the pack. These are the two top guys by a large margin and now we get to see who is the top dog.

Or do we? When Ferguson managed to tear a knee ligament after losing his footing at a media gathering at UFC 223, it confirmed that this matchup is cursed. Injuries, bad weight cuts, and a bolt from beyond now make this the fifth time this fight has been scheduled to occur. It's a big part of how you can have a guy like Ferguson, unbeaten for 8 years and on a long winning streak, just now getting his first shot at the title in what might be the most overdue title opportunity in the history of the sport. A lot can happen between now and April 18 and let's hope the fifth time is the charm for this elusive matchup.

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In a sport where even the best sponge losses at the top levels, we're looking at two fighters here who do not lose. Ferguson hasn't lost since 2012 and only once in the last 11 years. Khabib, meanwhile, is 28-0, the kind of unbeaten mark you seldom see in the sport. Coming off a destruction of Donald Cerrone, Ferguson has beaten every relevant lightweight other than Khabib. And with Khabib coming off wins over Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier in his last two fights, any suspicions have been liquidated. He is the top guy at 155 and now sets out to cement his legacy as one of the sport's greats.

Even as a well-known champion who has never lost or even come particularly close to losing, people may still struggle to wrap their head around the true level of menace that Khabib really represents. On one hand, he's not flashy and you could even say he is one-dimensional. But no one comes close to beating him, so that must be some kind of dimension. He gets a grip on guys and is like a python patiently tightening his grip with each successive breath. It doesn't jump off the screen and captivate like fighters who blast their opponents out of the octagon. But then you take a peek at the expressions on the faces of these otherwise feared 155-pounders as they're in the grasp and what Khabib can do really starts to register.

The ground-control Khabib is able to exert is otherworldly. If he clasps his hands around the waists of his opponents, there is no repelling it. You're going for a ride. Opponents take on the countenance of a man drowning on a slowly-sinking boat. And now that he's fighting 5-rounders in defense of his belt, it only brings his powers more to light, as dealing with him when also battling fatigue makes the situation that much more dire for his opponents. And while a prolonged stand-up battle with Ferguson is ill-advised, we lately see a version of Khabib who is more adept on his feet, even knocking down and holding his own against McGregor in their 2018 match.

Ferguson is 36—five years older than the champion. This is the manifestation of a long road of struggle to get here. He kept improving and winning and finally gets his shot. This means everything to him and one should fully expect him to prepare accordingly—both mentally and physically. It stands to reason that Ferguson will not make this easy on Khabib, as even the most-ardent Khabib backers would confess. On paper, he has the package of skills that could make life hard on Khabib.

Ferguson can do it all. His striking is brutal and varied. While Khabib's opponents appear helpless and hopeless as he does his thing, Ferguson opponents often look the victims of automobile accidents by evening's end. He really lays it out there, with an unrelenting stream of punishment, with sharp knees and elbows that slice up his foes. Five of his last 9 wins are by choke, as he also has a deep ground game. With those long and flexible limbs, combined with his extreme ability and know-how, he can cleverly snake in a variety of fight-finishing holds, even when on his back.

While Khabib has seemed to settle his weight-making issues and Ferguson always makes weight, this fight being at 155 pounds is noteworthy. Two longtime lightweights, both men would be at 170 if they had their druthers, but they're more or less locked into 155 pounds with the championship stakes being so high. I think it is Ferguson who might be a little more dry and brittle at this weight. I think the last five years, from when this was first supposed to happen, have been kinder to Khabib. He has gotten better and is still a fresh fighter. We have no evidence to say Ferguson is in any way over the hill. But I don't think the last 4-5 years have been as kind to his body. At 36, I can't help but think his chances would be better either a few years ago or maybe at 170 pounds.

In what figures to be a taxing battle, how each fighter will go into the 4th and 5th rounds is a key concern. And I think that's where Khabib's better overall freshness as a fighter and just the fact that he thrives in a late-stage fight with his unending stamina will give him the edge. Let's not forget to acknowledge that if anyone can pull this off, Ferguson is certainly special enough to do it. I just suspect he will come up short, with Khabib sweeping the last two rounds for a win. I'll take Khabib.

Loot's Pick to Win the Match: I'm betting on Khabib Nurmagomedov at -260 betting odds. Did you know... that you could be wagering on fights at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying inflated odds with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!

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