CHICAGO (AP) — Tony Ferguson’s path to the lightweight title is becoming clear.
Ferguson won by technical knockout after a medical stoppage in a lightweight fight against Donald Cerrone at UFC 238 on Saturday night.
Ferguson (26-3) won his 12th straight fight, the longest active streak in the UFC, after a doctor stopped the fight after the second round after checking on the swelling of Cerrone’s right eye.
Cerrone was taken to a hospital with an orbital fracture.
With the win, Ferguson moved into a position to face the winner of the lightweight unification title fight between champ Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim champ Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in September.
“If me and Cowboy (Cerrone) don’t fight again, I want that title shot. I’ve had that title, I feel that’s why it’s such an emotional roller-coaster. I’ve increased my value after this fight tonight. If Poirier cannot do it, I’ll go to Abu Dhabi (UFC 242) and do it myself, and if (Conor) McGregor wants to dance, I have a tune for him too, so regardless I’ll be ready,” Ferguson said.
With the crowd and Cerrone wanting more, and Ferguson getting a late hit in, Ferguson wished the bout didn’t end the way it did.
“It’s not the way I wanted to win. It’s been a big journey, I don’t think anyone had to go through the kind of stuff I had to,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson was back in the cage after a layoff because of personal issues.
Ferguson beat Anthony Pettis in October.
Saturday’s main card also featured two title fights.
In the main event, flyweight champ Henry Cejudo (15-2) overcame a sprained ankle, which he injured during training at his hotel this week, and finished Marlon Moraes (22-6-1) in the third round for the vacated bantamweight championship.
Cejudo, an Olympic gold medal wrestler, showed off his striking game in the second round, delivering a series of uppercuts and knees to the face of Moraes.
Cejudo carried the momentum to the third round, taking Moraes to the ground and delivering a series of punches before the fight was stopped just before the third round ended.
Cejudo defended his flyweight belt against former bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw with a first-round knockout in January. Dillashaw went down to flyweight to chase his second belt, but he was stopped by Cejudo in just over 30 seconds and had his belt stripped after he failed pre- and post-fight drug tests.
Cejudo became the fourth fighter in UFC history to simultaneously hold titles in two different weight divisions.
“I’m not a double champion, I’m a triple champion: Olympic champion, flyweight champion and now bantamweight champion of the UFC,” Cejudo said. “I’m the only person in the world who has all these titles, nobody else. Whether you hate me or you love me, I’m the pound-for-pound king.”
In a women’s flyweight title fight, Valentina Shevchenko (17-3) defended her belt by landing a vicious left kick to the head of Jessica Eye (14-7) early in the second round. Eye was knocked out cold, but she was able to recover and walk off on her own power.
The fight between Ferguson and Cerrone was the highlight of the card. They had the attention of the crowd, which was equally split between the fighters.
The two exchanged blows in the first round. Cerrone landed a jab that put a cut above Ferguson’s right eye, bloodying Ferguson’s face.
In the second round, Ferguson went to work on Cerrone’s face, landing a series jabs and kicks, continuing to bloody Cerrone’s face and pounding his right eye.
Cerrone (36-12) took down Ferguson with two minutes left in the round, but Ferguson recovered quickly and continued to pound Cerrone’s face.
Ferguson delivered a punch just after the bell. It wasn’t immediately clear if Ferguson was penalized.
“In the second round, I saw his hands started to drop, my left hand started to land a lot more, he didn’t have too many answers to the kicks, I saw his confidence starting to decrease. And in the end of that round, going through a lot of emotions, just trying to get into it, I let a punch go at the buzzer, I thought I hit him at the buzz, it was on the other side of his face, not the side that was swollen,” Ferguson said.
Cerrone, who was alert and ready to begin the third round, was checked by a doctor who immediately put a stop to fight after checking on the swelling of Cerrone’s right eye.
Ferguson’s road to the lightweight title might not be that simple. Potential scheduling conflicts could affect the coveted title shot for Ferguson. Nurmagomedov’s agent has plans for his client to face Georges St-Pierre at some point, and Conor McGregor, the No. 3 contender, is holding out for a rematch against Nurmagomedov after he lost to him at UFC 229.
Ferguson had the interim title stripped when he wasn’t able to face Nurmagomedov in April of 2018.
Saturday’s fight against Ferguson was finalized just one week after Cerrone beat Al Iaquinta on May 4, giving Cerrone less than a month to prepare for Ferguson.