UFC returns to our screens this weekend and Betfair writer Frankie Monkhouse expects the promotion to come back with a bang...
"Don’t take your eyes off this one as it will be all out war from the start."
Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje
Live on BT Sport
Ultimate Fighting Championship chief Dana White has pushed through his highly anticipated UFC 249 with the 12-fight card given the green light for Saturday night at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
The evening will be shut off to the public, bouts decided behind closed doors, but the television cameras will be in attendance, beaming fights around the world to an audience that has been starved of action in recent weeks.
UK fans can follow live on BT Sport with the main event advertised for a 05:00 GMT start time. There will be increased levels of interest and organisers are confident the evening will live up to the hype.
All change in the main event
This event was originally set for 18 April in Brooklyn when headliner Tony Ferguson was set to take on fans favourite Khabib Nurmagomedov. The coronavirus outbreak forced those plans to be shelved with White and his team sent back to the drawing board. A travel ban made many fights impossible but, following a frantic search for a suitable location, Florida came to the rescue.
The final line-up has been confirmed and as well as Ferguson v Gaethje, there's also an exciting undercard. Some of the standout support acts include Henry Cejudo v Dominick Cruz at bantamweight, an interesting match-up at heavyweight involving Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik, as well as Jeremy Stephens v Calvin Kattar in the featherweight division.
El Cucuy on a 12-fight unbeaten run
California's Ferguson may be 36-years-old, but he is showing no signs of slowing. El Cucuy will enter the arena unbeaten in the octagon since 2012 when suffering a unanimous points loss to Michael Johnson in New Jersey. Since then he has won each of his dozen starts, including a stunning TKO over Donald Cerrone on UFC 238. Tony picked up a Fight of the Night bonus last summer and will be eager to continue his winnings ways.
A closer look at the form shows Ferguson has every right to be confident in both his ability and power. Each of his last two outings have been won comfortably inside the distance and he hasn't troubled the scoring judges since outpointing Rafael dos Anjos in 2016.
It is, therefore, little surprise to see he is well fancied to collect career win number 26 here. The jolly in the fight winner market trades at 1.68/13 on the Betfair Exchange and that's expected to be popular with followers of the form. Those looking for a bigger price will be drawn to the method of victory market where they'll find 3.65 on another devastating knockout win, 43/1 for the submission and a heavyweight 7.87/1 if you expect him to score a points decision.
The Highlight's hattrick of KO wins
Opponent Justin Gaethje made no secret of the fact he isn't a fan of risking his career on short notice fights when initially asked to replace Nurmagomedov but the delays since has afforded him a full, if slightly odd, training camp for this bout. The Arizona born KO artist will prove to be a much more dangerous opponent with fitness and sharpness behind him.
Having patiently waited his turn, The Highlight will know victory on Saturday in front of a huge TV audience is likely to catapult him towards a money-spinning fight with Nurmagomedov later this year. He may be the betting underdog, but the former World Series of Fighting champion boasts a winning run, arriving on the back of a hattrick of KO victories.
That began when knocking out James Vick two summers ago before dealing with Edison Barboza in similar fashion. He was last seen making light work of the respected and capable Donald Cerrone, a heavy-handed assault ending things in the first round. Gaethje is 2.6213/8 on the Betfair Exchange, a fourth KO win on the bounce catching the eye at 3.1511/5.
Expect all-out war
Ferguson v Gaethje promises to be an all-action affair from the opener. The underdog boasts real power and will be a threat throughout. If Ferguson takes his eye off the ball for even a second, he'll be made to pay a heavy price.
It's easy to lean towards the explosiveness of Gaethje but Ferguson is a dogged, determined and proud fighter. He boasts a long winning run and that's no fluke. He is capable of standing up to the power of his opponent and returning fire.
Don't take your eyes off this one as it will be all out war from the start. The form fighter has won each of his last two by TKO and Gaethje's two career defeats have come via that method.
Ferguson by KO @ 3.65 (Betfair Exchange)