Tony Ferguson did his part Saturday night to ensure he won’t get left behind in the UFC lightweight title picture.
In the co-main event of UFC 229, in what is expected to be the biggest event in UFC history, just one fight before the highly anticipated Khabib Nurmagomedov-Conor McGregor lightweight title bout, Ferguson and Pettis put on what was turning into an all-time classic fight over the course of two rounds.
But Pettis suffered a broken right hand in the second, and his corner waved the fight off after the round at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It goes down as a TKO victory at 5:00 of the second round for Ferguson the former interim lightweight champion, who earned his 11th consecutive victory.
“I had f*cking fun in there,” Ferguson said. “Nobody was going to take this time from my I treated it like sparring in there. I was out for a year, you fans are f*cking amazing.”
Ferguson, who was returning to action after just a six-month break following surgery on a torn LCL, was tested early by Pettis, who threw kicks at the knee. Ferguson shook it off, though, and started picking up the pace, stalking Pettis and landing shots all over.
Pettis, though, is a former UFC and WEC lightweight champ for a reason, and he still has plenty of fire. Pettis found a home often with his overhand right, and landed his biggest one early in the second, dropping Ferguson to that mat.
This set off an utterly wild second round, a whirring, bloody tornado of frenzied, back-and-forth action. Referee Marc Goddard called a timeout to check a deep hairline cut suffered by Pettis. After the restart, Ferguson turned the fight in his favor and had Pettis on the run when the horn sounded for what turned out to be the end of the fight.
“I had a great time,” Pettis said. “I was here to win, I broke my f*cking hand, I broke my f*cking hand. No excuses. That’s a tough guy, I felt my right hand shatter and I said ‘sh*t.’
Ferguson improved to 24-3 with his 10th KO/TKO victory. Pettis (21-8) has dropped two of his past three.