UFC 262: Tony Ferguson vs. Beneil Dariush
By: Clint MacLean (@DieHardMMAPod)
The co-main event of UFC 262 is a high-stakes battle in the lightweight division that perfectly sets up the delicious main course we have following it. The Lightweight title picture is in shambles, and UFC 262 hopes to focus on it one fight at a time. Tony Ferguson is a top contender and has been his entire career, but his recent skid has forced him out of title contention in the division where he once held the interim strap. Beneil Dariush has always been on the outside looking in but finally gets the recognition he deserves along with an opportunity to show he belongs on Saturday. One of these men will be just one win or a huge performance away from calling out the champion, and it should be an incredible fight.
Tony Ferguson (+155)
37 years old
25 – 5
80% finish rate
12 wins by KO/TKO
There was a time when we believed that Tony Ferguson was the one man capable of dethroning Khabib. In the last year, Tony has fallen from being the chosen one to being a crazy guy in the alley behind Sizzler. Tony Ferguson has always been a special kind of crazy, but he seems to have gone off the rails recently, and his self-belief borders on delusional. Tony is a slick submission artist with some serious wrestling skills in his back pocket. On the feet, Ferguson is a tornado of elbows which he uses with deadly accuracy to slice and dice his foes into bloody messes before the officials mercifully save them. All the tools are there, but Tony’s durability is the big question at this stage, and at the age of 37, the door is closing if he intends to capture the undisputed title.
Beneil Dariush (-175)
32 years old
20 – 4
65% finish rate
8 Wins by Submission
Beneil Dariush is a real dark horse at 155 and has been for the majority of his career. Well-rounded and powerful, Dariush has a respected skillset and can both grapple and stand with the best fighters in the division. I personally believe that had Dariush not ended up on the wrong side of Alexander Hernandez’s vicious UFC debut in 2018, he likely would have been in title contention sooner, but that loss set him back in a big way. Dariush is riding a 6 fight win streak and has never looked better. Coming off a win over the other dark horse of the division, Diego Ferreira, Dariush is looking to make good on his opportunity to crack the top 5.
This is a fight that is impossible to predict.
I know, that’s not at all what you wanted to read when looking at an article breaking down a fight, but the simple fact is that Tony is so wild and unpredictable at this stage of his career that all options are on the table for this fight. We have seen Tony go to war on the feet and get dropped and hurt multiple times, only to come back and run through his opponents later in the fight as they slow down. We have seen Beneil Dariush do much of the same after failing to submit Drakkar Klose in the first round and coming out in round 2 with murderous intent because his legs were completely gassed out. Both men are capable of grinding. Both men are capable of front running. Both men are more than capable of flipping the tables and coming from behind.
I have a feeling that Beneil will look to come out more controlled in this fight and his wrestling advantage. We just saw Tony Ferguson out-grappled by Charles Oliveira in his last fight, and Ferguson didn’t have much to offer from his back in that fight. Beneil Dariush is a thinking man’s fighter, and I believe he will have noticed that simple path to victory and look to emulate it. Beneil should be more than capable of taking Tony Ferguson to the mat and controlling him there; the only question is if he can keep that up for 15 minutes. Dariush was capable of pulling this off against CDF, but CDF may not have the wrestling pedigree that Tony does, and Dariush has a bit of a questionable chin.
If Beneil Dariush slows down in this fight even just a little, Tony will turn the tables on him and go to work with tight boxing and elbows. 3 of Beneil Dariush’s losses have come by way of knockout, and while Tony is not a one-hitter quitter type of striker, his death by 1000 cuts approach can absolutely take its toll late in a fight. I’m not sure that Dariush can endure what Tony is capable of dishing out. The final piece of the puzzle is whether or not Tony Ferguson has it left in him to go to war. This entire plan of Tony taking what Beneil has to offer early and coming back to take over the fight and finish late is fully reliant on Tony not being completely shot. And there is a genuine chance that he might be at this stage. I am not certain that Beneil should be favored over the great Tony Ferguson, who has only lost to 2 recent title challengers, but I can’t trust him with my money either. I believe the value in this fight is on Tony, but buyer beware. I am not betting on this fight personally, but if I had to, I think I would have to line up behind Tony for one last go.