Tony Ferguson throws a spinning elbow at Anthony Pettis (Zuffa LLC)

Former lightweight sensation Tony Ferguson is once again looking to pick up from his now five-fight losing streak this weekend against the divisional mainstay Bobby Green at UFC 291. The former #1 contender is currently on a five-fight losing streak following a submission loss to Nate Diaz in an odd, but competitive pay-per-view main event at UFC 279, and hopes a win over the always-entertaining Bobby Green will give him exactly what he needs for what he’s calling a final title run.

Green, who is coming off of a controversial no-contest against Jared Gordon, is also on a losing streak, having been finished by Drew Dober and the current lightweight champion, Islam Makhachev. Both are getting old and can’t really afford another loss, making this a competitive yet bittersweet bout between former contenders for the fans.

How to watch: Order the UFC 291 PPV now to watch every fight live this Saturday night, including Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje.

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Betting Odds

Oddsmakers seemed to have lost faith in Ferguson due to his recent performances, putting him at a near 3-1 underdog.

  • Bobby Green: -380 (BetUS)
  • Tony Ferguson: +310 (BetUS)

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Fight Breakdown

It’s hard to “break down” the fighting style of both of these men. Both are the epidemy of unorthodox fighting in their own unique ways, showing up with a different fighting style in nearly all of their bouts.

While Bobby Green’s fighting style is oriented around his boxing, it’d be unfair to give him such a one-dimensional assessment. He throws wild knees and elbows from extremely creative angles that throw off his opponents more often than not. As well as this, while he doesn’t utilize them too often, he has extremely effective side kicks that he throws both to the legs and the body, with relatively sharp accuracy. The only straightforward aspect of Green’s fighting style is his boxing, but even in an MMA setting, it’s fairly unorthodox. He throws very long-winded combinations, mixing both shots to the head and the body, while using traditional boxing head movements with techniques like well-timed pulls and pivots as well as his trademarked Philly shell.

Green’s main deficits, which haven’t seemed to resolve themselves throughout his career, have been his grappling ability off of his back, and his overeagerness to exchange in the pocket. Throughout his career, nearly every time he’s put together a solid winning streak, he’s either found himself at the tail end of a brutal knockout loss that he could have avoided, such as his fights with Poirier and Dober or dejected after fifteen minutes of being controlled by superior grapplers. As well as this, he waivers towards the later rounds of his fight, noticeably packing less heat in his punches and aggressing forwards much less. For Green to win this weekend, he needs to stay on his feet and avoid entering the pocket with someone as crazy and willing as Tony Ferguson, while maintaining a pace consistent enough to stay active for all fifteen minutes.

While Green’s fighting style is consistent enough to assess stylistically, Tony Ferguson is an entirely different can of worms. I genuinely don’t think that I’ve seen anyone as stylistically inconsistent as Ferguson, both for better and for worse. Like Green, he has a boxing base, but the BJJ, wrestling, Muay Thai, Wing Chun, aikido, and more that he throws in during his fights make him more of a wild card than anything. In some fights, he comes in looking to purely close the distance to throw elbows and body shots, like in his matches with Barboza and Pettis. For others, he opts to take a grapple-heavy approach, using his relentless pressure and his confidence off of his back to slow his opponents down, as he did with Kevin Lee. Then in some matches, he throws the manual away completely, opting for Mortal Kombat-esque sweep kicks and spontaneous iminari rolls. His fighting style is a lot like his personality, spontaneous and seemingly-random but still motivated by a specific goal.

Once again, this unorthodoxy has both helped and hindered Ferguson in the past. While forward rolls and tomahawk elbows have gotten him out of some messy exchanges in the pocket, these kinds of techniques have often made him a victim of his own hubris. He’s often shown that, once he’s likely down on the scorecards in a fight, he throws everything against the wall to finish his opponent, stepping into the pocket with devastating strikers like Justin Gaethje or shooting takedowns at renowned grapplers like Nate Diaz or Beneil Dariush. As well as this, while his cardio still seems strong relative to other competitors, he’s noticeably slowed down in the past five years in terms of speed and agility. In a lot of ways, he’s too old and too slow to be as spontaneous and unorthodox as he is, which has put him in some horrendous positions in his last five fights.

Prediction and Betting Guide

This is a tough one to pick. As bad as people think Tony’s looked in his last five, his most recent bout against Diaz showed that he still has what it takes to go with the best if he’s on point. On the other hand, Green hasn’t looked too sharp in his most recent outings either. As well as this, the brutal nature of his knockout loss to Dober and, while accidental, his headbutt no-contest against Jared Gordon raise some questions about his chin.

Objectively, it’s very difficult to pick Ferguson with where he’s at in his career, but it’s equally difficult to see a way that Green could win. He doesn’t seem to have the explosive power necessary to knock Ferguson out, and is definitely not sharp enough on the ground to submit him or control him for some rounds, so, in my opinion, his only chance to win is to get a decision against a Tony who didn’t show up at his best.

I’m not 100% ripe on it, but Ferguson’s money line at +310 seems like a solid pick if he actually shows up, but if you want a “safer” pick, go Green by decision, or better yet stay away from this fight with a ten-foot poll from a betting perspective and enjoy a historic match between two of the best lightweights of the 2010s.

Pick: Ferguson to win (+310) or Green via decision (+120)

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