It was not a banner night for either Tony Ferguson or Junior dos Santos at UFC 256.
One bout removed from having a 12-fight winning streak halted by Justin Gaethje at UFC 249, Ferguson had a chance to jump right back into title contention with a victory over Charles Oliveira in Saturday’s co-main event at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Instead, “El Cucuy” was dominated for three rounds by his Brazilian opponent in a lopsided unanimous decision defeat.
That came as a surprise to Dana White, who expected a return to form for the longtime contender. Nonetheless, White still came away impressed with Feguson’s durability after “The Ultimate Fighter 13” winner survived a nasty armbar from Oliveira at the end of Round 1.
“I thought we were going to see the old Tony,” White said at the UFC 256 post-fight press conference. “I thought that the last fight he was affected by weight cutting and we were going to see [the old Tony]. Ten out of 10 people tap to that armbar. The fact he even made it through the armbar is unbelievable and just a testament to how tough and durable and crazy Tony Ferguson is.”
Ferguson will turn 37 in February and is now coming off back-to-back defeats in which he absorbed a tremendous amount of punishment. White acknowledges that Ferguson may be past his prime, but he isn’t ushering the fighter toward the door just yet.
“Of course that’s possible [that he’s past his prime], but Tony needs to go home and spend the holidays with his family and take some time off and think about what he wants to do next year and we’ll see what’s next for him,” White said. “But yes, every time you fight in this business, that’s always possible.”
The prospects appear to be even more grim for former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos, who suffered his fourth consecutive KO/TKO defeat in the Octagon at the hands of French prospect Ciryl Gane.
White was succinct when asked about what’s next for “Cigano.”
“I do [think it’s time he starts looking at his future],” White said, who later added that Saturday was “possibly” the end of dos Santos in the Octagon.
Dos Santos was hurt by a jab in the first round from Gane and then was dropped by an elbow from the Frenchman. Though the blow appeared to land at least partially on the back of the Brazilian’s head, White believes the stoppage was just.
“You guys tell me what you think, but what I saw was Junior had gotten hurt,” White said. “He got rocked, and he was almost walking away and turning his back to him, and Ciryl was throwing shots at him and then threw an elbow. They were squared up. You turned your back, and then he caught you on the back of the head.”
With White’s recent proclamation that significant cuts are on the horizon, dos Santos looks like a prominent veteran who could be on the chopping block. That’s simply par for the course, according to White.
“That’s every weekend,” he said. “We’ll be talking about it next weekend too after the fights. It’s part of the sport. I think between last year and next year you’re gonna see a lot of the old big names moving on or retiring.”