Final Preventing Championship (UFC) is about to uncork a slam-bang most important occasion within the type of Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje, two savage light-weight fighters with a status for blood, violence, and all the pieces that made legislators afraid to legalize blended martial arts (MMA) within the first place.

I count on their interim 155-pound showdown to be nothing in need of superb delirium.

However there’s one thing in regards to the UFC 249 pay-per-view (PPV) most important occasion that has me fascinated about these previous Chinese language meals jokes (pig out now, get hungry in an hour) as a result of the winner is … nicely, the proprietor of the substitute strap.

Even when you attempt to discredit present light-weight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, we nonetheless can’t overlook the truth that whoever wins the Ferguson-Gaethje headliner this Sat. evening (Might 9) in Jacksonville, Florida, will spend extra time speaking about “The Eagle” than they’ll about their efficiency within the UFC 249 most important occasion.

That’s why the phrase “undisputed” is so necessary in Bruce Buffer’s dramatic (however entertaining) introduction to championship title fights. I do know it sounds silly to should say it aloud, however undisputed means there isn’t any disputing who’s the rightful champion, and I’m unsure we are able to say that about both Ferguson or Gaethje, whatever the {hardware} bestowed upon them this weekend in “The Sunshine State.”

To that finish, I discover the bantamweight championship co-main occasion to be much more compelling as a result of it’s much more definitive. It additionally has, up to now, one of the best storyline of 2020 and possibly one of the best “comeback” in MMA historical past. There have been others, just like the time Randy Couture whooped Tim Sylvia for the heavyweight title again in early 2007, however “The Pure” agreed to that contest lower than a yr after his hasty retirement at UFC 57.

Georges St-Pierre vs. Michael Bisping is up there as nicely, however the French-Canadian’s resolution to vacate the title with killers like Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero scorching on his path, takes a few of the bravado away from his upset victory over “The Rely.” In actual fact, Dominick Cruz could face the most important competitors from himself, having already staged an unbelievable comeback at UFC Struggle Night time 81, taking the title from then-champion TJ Dillashaw after spending 16 months on the bench and registering only one struggle throughout a span of four-plus years.

In opposition to Dillashaw, Cruz was the +125 underdog. In opposition to Henry Cejudo, who deserted his submit (and his belt) at 125 kilos to wreak havoc within the bantamweight division, “The Dominator” will clock in round +175 (Cejudo stands at -245). These are acceptable odds for an athlete who did not register a bout in over three years and was final seen wanting befuddled in opposition to a a lot youthful — and a lot better ready — Cody Garbrandt.

There’s a really sturdy likelihood that Cruz, 34, remains to be the identical fighter he was in 2016. That may sound like a very good factor, contemplating how dominant he was as each challenger and champion. It’s really a serious concern, as a result of the division has just about collapsed throughout his absence. Dillashaw popped for Erythropoietin (EPO) and can spend two years in detention, Garbrandt has been knocked out in three straight fights, and longtime nemesis, Urijah Faber, has lengthy since dropped out of the Prime 15.

The brand new guard consists of Prime 5 contenders Aljamain Sterling, Petr Yan, and Cory Sandhagen, only a few of the large names at 135 kilos who patiently await the result of this struggle. Partly as a result of Cejudo has saved the division on maintain after his shoulder surgical procedure earlier than complicating issues with a charitable donation to the profession of Jose Aldo. Had “Junior” not been bounced from this struggle because of journey restrictions, we wouldn’t be having this dialog.

Since we’re, it’s a very good time to level out that Cruz (22-2) can also be coming into this contest on quick discover, yet one more drawback as he prepares to face Cejudo throughout 5 rounds of motion. Even when you’re unimpressed together with his shtick, there isn’t any denying “Triple C” is the actual deal after profitable 5 straight and capturing titles in two completely different weight lessons. For Cruz, it’s a far cry from his 2014 comeback, when he was generously paired with Takeya Mizugaki after three years on the disabled listing.

The excellent news is, we are able to count on one of the best model of Cruz we’ve seen in years.

“I really feel like cash,” the previous champ instructed the media on Thursday (by way of MMA Junkie). “My physique is wholesome. I used to be preventing with a shoulder harm for about three title fights, I had that shoulder harm. I simply put stem cells in my physique and simply tried to make do. I used to be continuously aching, continuously sore. I don’t should do any of that anymore. My knees are stronger than ever; my arms are utterly rebuilt. I really feel nice. To be trustworthy, I actually do. I really feel stronger than I’ve in a very long time.”

What Cruz is attempting to perform at UFC 249 can’t be overstated. It is laborious to face in awe of the mountain he’s making an attempt to climb as a result of Cejudo is such a goofball. However this isn’t simply athletic competitors, it’s cage fight, and the margin for error is so small that any variety of minor errors … a slip-on the canvas, a zig as a substitute of a zag, an overextended punch, may be the distinction between victory and defeat.

All whereas somebody is attempting to knock your block off.

With that in thoughts, think about being so extremely gifted as a fighter that you would be able to simply come off the bench after three years — on only a few weeks’ discover — and beat the No. 1 man on the planet to seize the crown. Merely put, Cruz could also be on the verge of what’s arguably the best comeback within the historical past of MMA. will ship LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow protection of the whole UFC 249 struggle card RIGHT HERE, beginning with the ESPN+/Struggle Cross “Prelims” matches on-line, that are scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard stability on ESPN+/ESPN at eight p.m. ET, earlier than the PPV most important card begin time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

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