If the fates were kind, we’d have seen Tony Ferguson take on Khabib Nurmagomedov ages ago. But they’re not, and Ferguson has suffered injury pulling him from the match-up while Nurmagomedov has had to pass because of being unable to train due to Ramadan. So here we are, ready for the co-main event for UFC Fight Night 91, and Ferguson isn’t fighting the Dagestani, nor anyone else worthy (like Michael Chiesa). Instead, he’s taking on newcomer Landon Vannata.
Ferguson comes out wielding confidence as the heavy favorite, but when Vannata starts moving Matrix-style with his hands down, dodging nearly everything and then pegging the TUF winner with a spinning backfist and punch after punch… holy cow. Ferguson is suddenly no longer confident, and Vannata is following him around the cage, nearly bent at the waist with each Ferguson fist flying harmlessly by. Vannata almost finishes his foe, landing a kick flush to the face that has Ferguson stumbling and falling and stumbling and falling. Only by the grace of referee John McCarthy and his autopilot-induced grappling. When the horn sounds, it ends one of the best rounds of combat the entire year.
Round 2 sees Ferguson throwing his jab over and over again, bloodying Vannata (he still doesn’t seem to give a f*ck). But when Vannata ducks his head Ferguson latches on, first with a guillotine and then with a D’Arce, and when he pulls Vannata to the ground with it and squeezes tighter, the tap is inevitable.
Oh man, what a great UFC debut