Tony Ferguson understandably has plenty to vent about considering the trouble he's had trying to get into the Octagon with UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. He'll have the chance to release his frustrations when he squares off against Justin Gaethje at UFC 249 on Saturday for the interim lightweight title. The main UFC 249 fight card is scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. ET from VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville. Ferguson (26-3) was set to challenge Nurmagomedov for the crown, but their match was canceled, for the fifth time overall, due travel restrictions created by the coronavirus pandemic.
Ferguson, who is in the midst of a 12-fight winning streak, is looking to capture the interim belt for the second time in his career, while Gaethje (21-2) hopes to improve to 7-0 in title fights. The latest Ferguson vs. Gaethje odds list Ferguson as a -190 favorite (risk $190 to win $100), while Henry Cejedo (-240) is favored as he puts his five-match winning streak on the line against Dominick Cruz (+200) in the co-main event. With so many angles to consider on this stacked main card, be sure to see the UFC predictions from SportsLine MMA analyst Brandon Wise before finalizing any UFC 249 picks.
A CBS Sports editor specializing in MMA, Wise has been dissecting the sport for five years. He specializes in picking main-card fights for UFC, which has enabled him to be profitable every year. Wise went a perfect 5-0 at UFC 239 and 4-1 at UFC 245. He also nailed Khabib Nurmagomedov's destruction of Conor McGregor in 2018, Stipe Miocic's upset of Daniel Cormier and Max Holloway's downfall in 2019. Across UFC 247 and UFC 248, Wise went 7-3 with his main-card picks, returning healthy profits for anyone following them.
Wise also nailed the main event of UFC 248 in March, telling SportsLine members to expect middleweight champion Israel Adesanya (-275) to retain his title against Yoel Romero (+235) by unanimous decision. He argued that Adesanya would keep the action on the feet and was proven correct as the champ landed numerous leg kicks en route to victory. Anyone who has consistently followed Wise is way up.
Now, with UFC 249 fast approaching, Wise carefully has studied every matchup on the main card, identified the best value in the UFC odds and released his MMA picks for each fight. He's only sharing those selections here.
Ferguson vs. Gaethje expert preview
Wise knows Ferguson had been preparing to fight Nurmagomedov, who currently is stuck in Russia. It marks the fifth time a matchup between the two has failed to take place after being booked.
Ferguson is in the midst of the longest winning streak in UFC lightweight history. The 36-year-old Californian has won 12 consecutive fights, the last being a second-round TKO against Donald Cerrone on June 8.
A former collegiate wrestling champion, Ferguson has not lost since dropping a unanimous decision to Michael Johnson on May 5, 2012. He captured the interim lightweight championship with a submission win over Kevin Lee in October 2017, but was stripped of the title after withdrawing from a fight with Nuragomedov in April 2018 due to a torn knee ligament.
Ferguson's winning streak could come to an end against the fourth-ranked Gaethje, who has recorded three straight victories after suffering back-to-back losses. The 31-year-old from Arizona's most recent win also came against Cerrone, as he scored a TKO in the first round on Sept. 14. Get Wise's predictions for Ferguson vs. Reyes and every main card fight here.
Top UFC 249 predictions
One of Wise's UFC 249 predictions: He's backing Yorgan De Castro (+150) to upset Greg Hardy (-175) in a heavyweight bout.
Neither fighter is ranked in the top 15, but that could change after their titanic battle at UFC Jacksonville on Saturday. The 33-year-old De Castro has begun his professional career with six consecutive victories. Five of the wins came by knockout, with four taking place in the first round, including his flattening of Justin Tafa on Oct. 5 in his first UFC fight.
Hardy (5-2, 1 no-contest) also hasn't had much experience in mixed martial arts since ending a six-year NFL career with the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys. The 31-year-old former Pro-Bowl defensive end, who won five of his first six fights, has improved his endurance and gone the distance in his last two bouts. He used an inhaler between rounds against Ben Sosoli in October, resulting in his decision win being overturned.
"Hardy has shown a questionable gas tank at best, and his hopes for this fight would be that both men go for quick knockouts," Wise told SportsLine. "De Castro will bait Hardy into some poor and reckless decisions early before finishing him off in the second round."
How to make Ferguson vs. Gaethje picks
Wise also has strong picks for Ferguson vs. Gaethje and every other bout on the main UFC 249 fight card. He's also backing a fighter whose "explosiveness" will propel him to a decisive victory. Get every pick for every fight on the UFC 249 main card at SportsLine.
Who wins Ferguson vs. Gaethje? And how exactly does each fight end? See the latest UFC 249 odds below and then visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight on the UFC 249 main card, all from the accomplished expert who has been profitable for five straight years.
UFC 249 main card odds (via William Hill)
Tony Ferguson (-190) vs. Justin Gaethje (+160)
Henry Cejudo (-240) vs. Dominick Cruz (+200)
Francis Ngannou (-260) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+210)
Calvin Kattar (-240) vs. Jeremy Stephens (+200)
Greg Hardy (-175) vs. Yorgan De Castro (+150)