Gaethje may have put the final nail in the coffin for any hopes of seeing the long awaited Ferguson vs Khabib Nurmagomedov showdown at the empty VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday night, but he did so in the most honest way possible. Utilising vicious punching power and a steady barrage of debilitating leg kicks, Gaethje gradually wore down Ferguson en route to a technical knockout stoppage 3:39 into the fifth round of their lightweight clash.

Tony Ferguson isn’t human

Ferguson, a bloody and bruised mess at the end, absorbed more damage than many of Gaethje’s former opponents put together taking the shots that have put down the likes of Donald Cerrone, Edson Barboza and James Vick in the past.

A final left jab from Gaethje (22-2, 5-2 UFC) landed flush in the final frame, forcing Ferguson to take a step back and shake his head in hopes of regaining his mind. After watching Ferguson (25-4, 15-2 UFC) get knocked all over the Octagon for the duration of that frame and much of the bout overall, Herb Dean had seen enough, and he stepped in to save “El Cucuy” from any further damage. With that, Ferguson’s 12 fight winning streak, which began in October 2013, had reached its end.

But he was unable to offer anything telling in return with Gaethje adding new found patience to his superb striking accuracy to get the comprehensive win.

Prior to the stoppage, Gaethje arguably won every round against an opponent who had been dominant against all opposition for years. Ferguson’s best moment came late in Round 2, when he wobbled Gaethje with an uppercut just before the horn. For much of the rest of the time, it was Ferguson’s granite chin that kept him afloat, even as Gaethje put him on wobbly legs on multiple occasions.

Gaethje gets his hands on Khabib next

The victory presumably sets up a title unification bout with Nurmagomedov, who was supposed to face Ferguson before being stranded in Russia due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Moments after dispatching Tony Ferguson in the UFC 249 headliner, Justin Gaethje chucked his newly won interim lightweight crown aside. The meaning of the gesture wasn’t difficult to interpret.

“I’m waiting for the real one,” he said.

“This is hard work. I’ve worked since I was four years old. It’s each day at a time for me…and you just have to be better than yesterday. That’s all it is,” Gaethje said.

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