UFC 238 Preview: Tony Ferguson vs. Cowboy Cerrone, Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Eye

UFC 238 Preview: Tony Ferguson vs. Cowboy Cerrone, Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Eye article feature image

Paul Miller-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: UFC fighter Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.

  • Top-ranked lightweights Tony Ferguson (-150) and Donald Cerrone (+125) look to secure the next title shot in the UFC's deepest division.
  • The lopsided UFC Flyweight Championship fight between champion Valentina "Bullet" Shevchenko (-1335) and Jessica "Evil" Eye (+770) provides the best betting prop of the card.

UFC Betting Odds: Tony Ferguson vs. Donald Cerrone

  • “El Cucuy” Tony Ferguson (-150)
  • Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (+125)
  • Date: Saturday June 8
  • Fight Time: 11:00 p.m. ET
  • TV: Pay-per-view via ESPN+

“If you want to get hurt, I know a guy.”

When the UFC needs someone to take a fight on short-notice, it’s often Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone who gets the call. This time out, Cerrone’s turnaround will be just over a month. Cowboy beat No. 6 ranked lightweight “Ragin” Al Iaquinta via unanimous decision on May 4.

Cerrone will be stepping up against “El Cucuy” Tony Ferguson. Ferguson has won 11 fights in a row and is a former interim champion. Unfortunately, injuries derailed Ferguson’s title hopes and he never received his rightful championship opportunity.

This fight is about exciting as MMA gets, so let’s get into it.

Tony Ferguson’s Path to Victory

Ranked No. 2 in the division and No. 12 pound-for-pound, Tony Ferguson (24-3) is the most accomplished UFC lightweight to never win the title; “El Cucuy’s” 11-fight winning streak is the longest in the history of the division. Among all active lightweights, Ferguson is ranked:

  • No. 3 in strike differential (+1.95)
  • No. 5 in strikes landed per minute (5.51)
  • No. 6 in significant strikes landed (811)
  • No. 6 in submission attempts (15)
  • No. 7 in submission average per 15 min. (1.5)

Ferguson’s fighting style is defined by his relentlessness and his eccentricities.

On the feet, Ferguson throws constantly, walking his opponent down with volume striking. “El Cucuy” throws sharp elbows while in close. Ferguson is content to batter his opponent for 25 minutes but can finish the fight at any time. The Californian has near-limitless cardio.

Ferguson is most lethal when employing his grappling. His favorite position is the front headlock. “El Cucuy” often sets this up with his striking. He hurts and tires out his opponent, forcing them to look for a way out. Once his opponent initiates the clinch, Ferguson secures the front headlock, breaks his opponent down, and finishes with his signature D’Arce choke.

El Cucuy 💯 pic.twitter.com/ld68fDVGpm

— Action Combat (@ActionFights) June 6, 2019

On his back, Ferguson is an extremely active and dangerous grappler. He refuses to be held down and is constantly attacking with submissions, chaining one attempt after another. Ferguson either finishes his opponents or winds up scaring them off.

Against Cowboy, Ferguson will be facing an interesting dynamic. The biggest knock against “El Cucuy” is that he’s a slow starter and very hittable early. Ferguson typically has to survive an early onslaught before taking over. However, Cerrone is also a notoriously slow starter, so it will be interesting to see if Ferguson pressures out of the gate.

Ferguson needs to walk Cowboy down and eliminate space. He can’t allow himself to be caught at the end of Cerrone’s kickboxing range. Ferguson throws at a higher clip than Cerrone and Cerrone is a worse defensive fighter than Ferguson – emphasizing volume will exploit these advantages.

The grappling department is where it gets interesting. Ferguson may be able to secure the front headlock on Cerrone, but Cowboy has only been submitted once in his 48-fight career and that was back in 2010.

Ferguson should look to maintain positional advantages whenever possible. This fight is only three rounds so it’s likely the judges’ scorecards come into play.

Cowboy Cerrone’s Path to Victory

It seems like just yesterday I was breaking down a Donald Cerrone fight. Now ranked No. 4 at lightweight, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (36-11, 1 NC) added to his already-historic resume with a dominant decision victory over “Raging” Al Iaquinta last month. Cerrone put on perhaps the most complete striking performance of his career, out-landing Al Iaquinta 138-90 and knocking the New Yorker down twice.

Cowboy Cerrone channelling his inner Anderson Silva with a front kick to the face! #UFCOttawa pic.twitter.com/vcUVnIsh2R

— Action Combat (@ActionFights) May 5, 2019

Following his latest win, Cowboy is now ranked:

  • No. 1 all-time in wins (23).
  • No. 1 most knockdowns in UFC history (20).
  • No. 1 all-time in post-fight bonus awards (17).
  • No. 1 all-time in finishes (16).
  • No. 2 all-time in total UFC bouts (31).
  • No. 2 all-time in UFC lightweight wins (17).
  • No. 1 among active lightweights in knockdowns landed (11).
  • No. 1 among active lightweights in significant strikes landed (1042).
  • No. 1 among active lightweights in takedown defense (90.0%).
  • No. 7 among active lightweights in strikes landed per minute (5.01).
  • No. 7 among active lightweights in total strikes landed (1173).

That’s a long list of accomplishments for the future Hall of Famer.

Against Ferguson, Cowboy gets a favorable style matchup on the feet. Cerrone wins 86% (18/21) of his fights against orthodox opponents. Cerrone and Ferguson are both slow starters, but Cerrone has been getting up to speed more quickly in recent fights. Cerrone has a great chance to put Ferguson in some serious trouble early.

As mentioned above, the grappling in this fight will be very interesting. Like his opponent, Cerrone is a dangerous fighter off of his back. However, Ferguson has only been submitted once in his career (back in 2009) and is not much of a takedown threat.

Cowboy’s most likely plan to win involves staying at range, hurting Ferguson early, and building on that lead over 15 minutes if he doesn’t secure the finish.

The X-Factor: Elite Competition

Ferguson and Cerrone are remarkably similar. They are both captivating personalities, historically successful fighters, and elite finishers.

While Ferguson has achieved his success by building a winning streak, Cerrone has etched his name in the history books with total activity (overcoming several setbacks in the process).

Both men have faced the best the UFC has to offer, but only one of them has remained undefeated against ranked competition.

  • Against opponents that are currently ranked, Ferguson is 4-0 and Cowboy is 5-7.
  • In UFC title fights, Ferguson is 1-0 and Cowboy is 0-1.
  • Against common opponents (Barboza, Pettis, dos Anjos), Ferguson is 3-0 and Cowboy is 1-3.

Current and Past Odds

Ferguson’s odds have been all over the place. “El Cucuy” is a favorite for the third time in a row.

Cowboy is entering as the underdog once again.  Cowboy has won his last three in a row at plus-money.

Fight Prediction

This is a very tough fight to call as both men can finish the fight from anywhere and at any time.

Ferguson is on an unprecedented winning streak, but has fought sporadically and been plagued by injuries. Though Cowboy has had numerous losses, he’s found new life at lightweight and has been looking his absolute best lately.

Ultimately, I’ll defer to the adage that there are levels to this. Ferguson has yet to falter inside the Octagon, while Cowboy has fallen repeatedly when facing top-ranked fighters (including multiple men Ferguson has beaten).

The Pick: Tony Ferguson (-150)

Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko (-1335) vs. Jessica “Evil” Eye (+770)

Shevchenko is going to win this fight. There’s no question about that and the odds are set appropriately. However, there is great value on the “Fight goes to decision” prop.

  • Shevchenko has gone to decision in 66% (4/6) of her UFC fights. Her only finishes were against Juliana Pena (unranked due to inactivity) and Priscila Cachoeira (ranked No. 47 per Fight Matrix).
  • Eye has gone to decision in 90% (9/10) of her UFC fights. Her lone finish was a freak TKO due to doctor stoppage.

Shevchenko is an incredibly risk-averse fighter. Against Eye, she’ll find a physically formidable but technically outmatched challenger.  That’s a recipe for a Shevchenko decision.

The Pick: Fight goes to decision (-115)

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