Tony Ferguson won Season 13 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” | Photo Courtesy: Spike TV
Fresh off his impressive run in winning Season 13 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Tony Ferguson leads the lineup for the UFC 135 “Jones vs. Rampage” prelims against hard-nosed veteran Aaron Riley on Saturday at the Pepsi Center in Denver. The bout will be televised on Spike TV and supported by a middleweight clash between Nick Ring and Tim Boetsch.
Three other matches round out the undercard and will be streamed on the UFC’s Facebook page. Here is at the UFC 135 undercard, with previews and picks.
Tony Ferguson (11-2, 1-0 UFC) vs. Aaron Riley (30-12-1, 3-3 UFC)
The Matchup: Ferguson was impressive in winning “The Ultimate Fighter,” as he steamrolled the competition and fellow finalist Ramsey Nijem -- at welterweight, no less. His blend of athleticism, takedown mojo and sharp standup make him one of the more intriguing reality show winners in recent years because he looks a heck of a lot more like a finished product than some of the others the show has produced.
To hardcore fans, Riley is one of the game’s most respected longtime veterans, having engaged in some of the sport’s memorable brawls. Whether it was showing his great chin in dropping a brutal decision loss to Robbie Lawler at UFC 37 or his classic scraps across various organizations, Riley can always be counted on to show up and fight, regardless of the size of the opponent or circumstances. He is also likely a bit past his prime but still has some bite, as evidenced by his payback decision domination win over Shane Nelson at UFC 101. Riley is an all-in slugger with the kind of experience you cannot teach and mileage you only get after a lot of blood, sweat and various things on your body are broken several times over.
This is a nice piece of matchmaking by the UFC. Ferguson’s ability to unload solid, compact counters from a tight boxing crouch in the pocket will be key to countering Riley, who likes to plant his feet in the pocket and go shot-for-shot against foes. The ace card for Ferguson is his outstanding wrestling. On “The Ultimate Fighter,” he implemented his will on opponents, and there was not much they could do to stop him, as he consistently beat them in transitions, particularly when striking.
Look for Ferguson to test it out on the feet a bit, but, being a smart fighter, he will be restrained enough not to let it turn into a macho brawl, which is the only kind of fight Riley is likely to win.
The Pick: At some point, Ferguson will either land a massive sweeping punch or hit a takedown, and that is when he starts to roll, following up with a barrage on Riley that is equal parts accurate and relentless; Ferguson by first-round knockout.
Continue Reading » Next Fight: Tim Boetsch vs. Nick Ring