In what is simply an odd fight booking, Tony Ferguson will face Michael Johnson this March at UFC 197. The UFC confirmed the bout on Thursday following an initial report from the Los Angeles Daily News.
The fight is a rematch of a 2012 matchup, but given recent results from both fighters, its booking is a bit strange. Johnson defeated Ferguson in that first matchup by decision, but Ferguson has rattled off seven straight wins since that matchup. That run most recently featured Ferguson taking out Edson Barboza by submission in December, and it seemed he’d be in line for a top five opponent.
Instead, Ferguson will try to avenge his most recent defeat, while Johnson gets a significant opportunity to plug right back into relevance in the lightweight picture. The Ultimate Fighter season 12 runner-up has had an erratic run in the UFC, and he’ll enter the March 5 event on a two-fight losing streak. Though the first of those losses was one of the worst decisions of 2015 in his fight with Beneil Dariush, the second with Nate Diaz was clear and without question in December.
According to a follow up report from MMAJunkie.com’s John Morgan, Ferguson’s desire to fight before his child is born in April is a big factor in the booking, as two more relevant options in Khabib Nurmagomedov and Eddie Alvarez were unable to compete by March.
UFC 197 hits the MGM Grand Garden Arena for a pay-per-view event, with Rafael dos Anjos vs. Conor McGregor and Holly Holm vs. Miesha Tate set to co-headline the card.
Penick’s Analysis: From the standpoint of Ferguson wanting to avenge a loss, the booking makes sense. Beyond that, it’s extremely risky and the furthest from most interesting matchup for Ferguson. Johnson just got beat handily, Ferguson is on the cusp of title contention, and he’s putting that on the line for a fight that might not wind up meaning much of anything. The title picture in this field might sort itself out without him moving forward, and that could be to Ferguson’s detriment.
[Photo (c) Joe Camporeale via USA Today Sports]
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