The Ultimate Fighter season 13 winner Tony Ferguson faced off with longtime veteran Danny Castillo in one of the weakest co-main events in UFC history.
Ferguson entered the night with two excellent stoppage victories over Katsunori Kikuno and Mike Rio, and has looked genuinely scary of late. Danny Castillo has proven his worth with a six-year-long Zuffa career but has never had the opportunity to snag a belt.
When the two faced off, it resulted in a fun, scrappy ground battle defined by Castillo's top control against Ferguson's wild submissions. Two of the judges would give Ferguson 29-28 scorecards, earning him a close split decision win.
So what did we learn?
Tony Ferguson Is a Gamer
Generally, when you're fighting a savvy veteran wrestler who has won lots of fights with smothering top control, you don't try anything too fancy. Jab him to death, stuff the takedowns, out-point him, don't stay underneath. That's what the smart way to handle somebody like Danny Castillo.
Tony Ferguson, though? He's too exciting for that "smart" stuff. Flying body kicks, all-in submission attempts, barrel roll after barrel roll, that's how Tony Ferguson handles somebody like Danny Castillo.
It made the fight way closer than it should have been, sure, but it was a really fun scrap.
Tony Ferguson Is Still Not "There" Yet
When a legitimate contender appears, it usually comes at the expense of a solid veteran. Anthony Pettis staked his claim for UFC contendership by practically decapitating Joe Lauzon. TJ Grant jumped into an ill-fated title shot by shattering what was left of Gray Maynard's chin. Michael Johnson vaulted into the top 10 by knocking out Gleison Tibau.
Tony Ferguson was in a position to do the same, and wasn't able to capitalize on the opportunity. "El Cucuy" could be a contender in the future, but he isn't quite there yet.
Judges Don't Always Go for Top Control, Apparently
Our own Jonathan Snowden discussed the so-called "wrestler bias" last week. The phenomenon where judges reflexively label the fighter that isn't on the ground as the one that is winning has been a bane on MMA, but they may be changing their tune.
Castillo had Ferguson on his back for a large portion of the fight and at least once each round. Ferguson, to his credit, attacked with submissions and/or strikes the entire time.
In most fights, that wouldn't have been enough to get him the win. This, apparently, wasn't most fights.
Danny Castillo Did at Least One Memorable Thing Tonight
After Ferguson was announced the winner, Castillo got the chance with the microphone and proceeded to deliver a lengthy, strange, confusing, kind of sad speech where he expressed his belief that he won, and apologized to his mother. The highlight, however, was saying "If we were in jail, he would have been in trouble," referring to his lengthy spans of top control.
While it's easy to question whether or not this was an appropriate thing to say, this likely qualifies as Castillo's most memorable in-cage moment. Granted, that's not a great thing, considering Castillo has 18 fights under the Zuffa umbrella. Still, this is one for the ages, and something that will be regularly quoted in close fights.