Is Dana White right to call for Tony Ferguson’s pension?

By | December 18, 2023

What was most important at UFC 296 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas? Here are a few post-fight thoughts…

Cody Garbrandt is getting some swag back

It was hard to gauge how much truth there was in Cody Garbrandt’s words when he said ahead of his fight with Brian Kelleher that he had just completed the most injury-free training camp since winning the bantamweight title against Dominick Cruz in December 2016.

Considering his performance, it seemed this was true. Garbrandt (14-5 MMA, 9-5 UFC) was a heavy favorite against the much less decorated Brian Kelleher, but he handled the spot exactly as he should have with a final highlight-reel knockout in the first round.

Despite all his trials and tribulations, Garbrandt is still dangerous. He has the power that can change any fight in an instant. The question right now, though, is: Can he find a home for that against the top tier of the bantamweight division?

His call-up of former flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo, who made an impressive 135-pound debut against Rob Font earlier this month, would be a real barometer of where Garbrandt stands. If he can win a fight like that, it would mean he is truly back and perhaps capable of making another run at the top.

It feels like Garbrandt has always been there, but he’s still only 32, and with some confidence back on his side it’s probably now or never when it comes to getting more out of his career than being tucked away during the prelims at the Major Cards in Las Vegas. .

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Josh Emmett delivers KO for the ages

Josh Emmett bounced back from his first losing skid in the most vicious manner when he flattened Bryce Mitchell in the opening round for one of the most terrifying knockouts of the year.

After two high-profile fights against Ilia Topuria and Yair Rodriguez, Emmett (19-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC) needed a win in the worst possible way to prove he’s still a featherweight contender. Although Mitchell entered the fight on short notice as a replacement, Emmett showed he is a level above with a thunderous one-punch finish that will now be one of the highlights of his highlight reel.

I’ve never really considered Mitchell to be one of the frontrunners in title contention, so I’m not sure how to put this win into context in terms of Emmett returning to another title challenge. But if anyone had any doubts, he certainly proved that the power in his hands remains a total gamechanger.

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Dana White wants Tony Ferguson to retire after historic loss

It’s difficult to say anything at this point about the state of Tony Ferguson’s career that hasn’t already been said after his defeat to Paddy Pimblett.

Ferguson (25-10 MMA, 15-8 UFC) tied BJ Penn’s all-time UFC record for most consecutive losses with his seventh, and you’d have to think this is the end of the road for him at this level of the sport.

Ideally, this would be when Ferguson would hang up the gloves, but in recent years, UFC brass have been willing to part with fighters in Ferguson’s situation if they want to compete elsewhere. And our biggest fear should be that that happens, which is why Dana White said after the fight that he would “love to see” Ferguson call it a career.

Ferguson just isn’t the same fighter who once went on a 12-fight winning streak inside the octagon. His technique, fast-twitch muscles, and ability to take damage have all deteriorated. What else does he need to indicate that he’s not the same man? I’m really not sure.

My gut feeling is that Ferguson will probably keep fighting despite this result. Maybe the UFC will give him another one. Maybe not. But either way, it’s likely to be a sad future for Ferguson until he realizes the minimal benefits he’s getting by continuing to fight.

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Is Shavkat Rakhmonov the best welterweight in the world?

Despite the winner of the main event holding the title, there is a compelling argument that Shavkat Rakhmonov is the man and the very best fighter in the world at welterweight.

With 18 wins and 18 finishes, no one in the sport is doing as well as Rakhmonov (18-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC). It may not be the most exciting thing in the world leading up to the end, but when the fights are over it’s always the same outcome, and that’s the referee pulling Rakhmonov off his opponent, which was again the case when he became the first to submit Stephen Thompson.

The 170-pound top is somewhat overloaded at this point. Belal Muhammad deserves the next shot, but Rakhmonov could very well take it away from him if the UFC decides that’s the direction it wants to go (which isn’t out of the question). Either way, it seems inevitable that he’ll fight for or hold that belt, and every 170-pound fighter should cross his fingers that he doesn’t get a contract with his name on it.

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Colby Covington’s increasingly bleak title proposal

The future for Colby Covington’s title aspirations looks bleaker than ever after he fell to 0-3 in undisputed championship odds with his unanimous decision loss to Leon Edwards.

Any way you looked at it, this was a tough performance for Covington (17-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC) to swallow. He handled it quite well in the aftermath, retracting virtually every piece in the book from claiming he won, dismissing the outcome, moving on to a callout of “Wonderboy” Thompson and much in between.

You can throw all that away, though, because in reality, there’s nothing throughout UFC history to show that Covington will get that title.

This is not an attack on him as a person, but rather what the statistics show for someone in Covington’s position. It’s nearly impossible to win a fourth UFC title after going 0-3, and when you consider the challenging welterweight division, the odds of him being an outlier become even grimmer.

At 35, Covington is at the stage where fighters in his division or lower have struggled in title fights. He obviously only gets older from here, and there weren’t many positives to take away that would make you think a rematch would look much different.

Covington’s best hope is that Edwards is dethroned, picks up a win or two in the meantime, and then somehow claws his way to another opportunity. Maybe the card will unfold in his favor and that will happen one way or another, but if I were a gambler I wouldn’t bet money on that.

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Leon Edwards’ questionable dismissal of Belal Muhammad

There isn’t much to say about Leon Edwards’ win over Covington itself. He did what he had to do in a relatively uneventful 25 minutes and got his hand raised without any controversy, and he should be commended for that after the reckless words Covington spoke before the fight.

What raised my eyebrows the most on the night of Edwards’ second title defense was his complete rejection of Belal Muhammad as the next challenger for his title.

If Edwards (21-3 MMA, 13-2 UFC) wants to argue that Muhammad (23-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC) doesn’t exactly provide the best option for fans’ entertainment after a boring fight with Covington, then fine . But if the Brit actually says that Mohammed has not earned it with his streak of ten undefeated fights, that is nonsense.

Love him or hate him, Mohammed has earned his chance to challenge for that title, and while he’s a polarizing figure, there’s plenty to further the fight. His history with Edwards dating back to their March 2021 fight, which ended in a no-contest due to an Edwards eye poke against Muhammad, is something to work with, and it’s the right merit-based matchup.

Edwards said Mohammed would break the barrier with a title shot, but again, that’s flawed. Mohammed is the line right now, and while Rakhmonov has been super impressive in his career, the names on his resume aren’t as good as Mohammed’s. That’s just a fact.

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For more information on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s events hub for UFC 296.

The story originally appeared on MMA Junkie

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