Jeremy Stephens rates Tony Ferguson’s chances in a matchup with UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Stephens meets Yair Rodriguez in the UFC Boston co-main event on Friday as they run things back again after their first contest ended in an accidental eyepoke last month.
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Helping Stephens initially train for that fight was Ferguson with the former claiming they worked on many things including footwork. And having worked alongside Ferguson, Stephens believes “El Cucuy” — who is on a 12-fight win streak — is more than capable of handing Nurmagomedov his first-ever loss.
“Stylistically, they’re both bad matchups,” Stephens said in a recent interview with Helen Yee. “Khabib’s got that one wrestling takedown. But I’ve rolled with Tony. He’s probably one of the strongest guys I’ve ever felt. He’s scrambly, he does awkward stuff. Khabib just doesn’t have the standup to mess with him.
“It’s hard to kind of lowpick Ferguson because his footwork is so good. He [Nurmagomedov] can’t do that like he did to Conor. Conor was able to come out, pressure him, throw some kicks, push kick, keep him at bay. You’re dealing with a different animal when it comes to Ferguson and Ferguson is not scared of Khabib. I think Ferguson will give it to him.”
As for Nurmagomedov, Stephens still believes “The Eagle” has more work to do if he is to claim the title of the pound-for-pound best fighter in the sport. As of now, “Lil’ Heathen” has Jon Jones occupying that spot.
“No, he [Nurmagomedov] hasn’t proven that yet,” Stephens added. “You got to look at Jon Jones and what he’s done — the long history of legends that dude’s beat.
“But he’s [Nurmagomedov] not the number one pound-for-pound in my eyes, but Khabib is very good, he’s very talented. He’s been dominating but so is Ferguson. That’s going to be a great fight.”
Nurmagomedov could take one step further in solidifying his claim with a win over Ferguson. We just need to wait and see if that fight will be a case of fifth-time lucky in 2020.