Justin Gaethje Earned A Date With Khabib Nurmagomedov After Finishing Tony Ferguson At UFC 249

Justin Gaethje (22-2) earned a referee stoppage over Tony Ferguson (26-4) to win the interim lightweight title in the main event of UFC 249 in Jacksonville, Fla.

Gaethje started fast against Ferguson, prepared for everything the former interim champion had to open the fight. Gaethje stung Ferguson over and again with a huge left hook, finding openings often throughout the first round. The second was much of the same, with Gaethje throwing absolute bombs. Gaethje continued to land huge shots, opening a cut over Ferguson’s right eye. But Ferguson landed a stiff uppercut that put Gaethje on his back before the bell saved him.

In the third, Gaethje hurt Ferguson with a big right. Ferguson kept coming forward and Gaethje continued dropping bombs. At the three minute mark, Ferguson began putting it together, finding combinations with quick shots and getting out of the pocket before Gaethje could respond.

Gaethje opened the fourth in a more passive state, allowing Ferguson to control the pace and opting to counter punch. Gaethje appeared to hurt Ferguson late in the round, but he escaped without much damage. In the final round, Gaethje continued to pepper Ferguson’s legs, hurting him over and again before the referee stopped the bout.

Ferguson came into Saturday night’s main event riding a 12-fight win streak, with his last loss coming in 2012. A former interim lightweight champion, Ferguson previously was forced to relinquish the belt after suffering a torn LCL in a freak injury on a television set.

Gaethje stepped in as a replacement for the current lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov after he left the United States to travel to the UAE, where it was assumed the event would take place. He was eventually re-routed to Russia due to travel restrictions and acknowledged he was under quarantine. Gaethje entered the event on a three-fight win streak following consecutive losses to top contender Dustin Poirier-Khabib and former champion Eddie Alvarez. With the win, he became the first fighter to TKO Ferguson.

Following the win, Gaethje will only do so much celebrating. With Nurmagomedov waiting in the wings, and apparently ready as soon as July, these two could fight before the end of 2020.