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Tony Ferguson has no answers for Charles Oliveira's grappling, loses unanimous decision

·Combat columnist
·2 min read
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LAS VEGAS — Charles Oliveira took Tony Ferguson down early in each round of their lightweight fight and then held him there, dominating the former interim champion and winning by scores of 30-26 on all three judges’ cards Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 256 at Apex.

It was Oliveira’s eighth consecutive win and by far the most significant of his career.

It was Ferguson’s second consecutive defeat, after he was stopped in the fifth round of a lightweight title fight by Justin Gaethje on May 9 at UFC 249.

Ferguson endured an incredible amount of punishment in that fight and on Saturday, he didn’t look nearly the same. Oliveira was able to control him on the ground for long stretches in each of the three rounds. Ferguson had little to offer off of his back.

He caught Oliveira with an upkick in the second round while he was on his back, but it was an illegal kick because the referee ruled Oliveira was a downed opponent.

Oliveira’s best moment came late in the first round, when he transitioned into an arm bar with about 12 seconds left. Ferguson was in serious trouble, but he heard the clappers signifying the 10-second warning and he gritted it out and didn’t tap.

Ferguson nearly escaped once in the second round, but Oliveira caught him in a triangle choke and brought the fight back to the ground.

Ferguson didn’t have the explosion or any answers for Oliveira’s grappling and he suffered a difficult defeat that will drop him down the rankings.

Ferguson will have to determine whether he came back from the Gaethje fight too quickly. He angrily insisted beforehand that he had not, but he was clearly not the same fighter on Saturday.

Some of that was Oliveira’s skill, but Ferguson has never been held down like that before in a career spent battling the best lightweights in the world.

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