As promised, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Tony Ferguson delivered unrelenting action in the people’s main event at last weekend’s UFC 238. The bout earned fight of the night honors, though it ended in a controversial way that left nobody involved very happy.
The two lightweight vets stood and banged for 10 minutes, with Cowboy out-jabbing Ferguson in a close first round before Ferguson woke up in the second as he usually does, piecing Cowboy up with power shots and pushing the sort of ludicrous pace only he can at 155 pounds. Ferguson’s pressure eventually wore down Cerrone—who fought a five-round main event against Al Iaquinta 34 days prior—and he was able to land some trademark spinning elbows at close range, as well as big, meaty punches on Cowboy’s head.
Unfortunately, one of those punches in question clearly came after the bell at the close of the second round. Referee Dan Miragliotta was late to separate the two men at the horn, and Ferguson plunked Cowboy with an uncontested right hand.
Cowboy would not be allowed to step back into the octagon, as a ringside doctor examined his broken face and determined he was too busted up to keep fighting. It was not a hard decision, as Cowboy’s right eye was completely shut and his obviously broken nose was swollen up and puffy.
However, because of Ferguson’s late shot, there was a chance the fight could have been ruled a no-contest instead of a TKO win for Ferguson. Miragliotta would have to have ruled that Ferguson’s controversial punch was the cause of Cowboy’s injuries, and since it clearly didn’t even hit his right eye, Ferguson got the win. “The punch had nothing to do with it,” Cerrone said after the fight.
Cerrone was visibly hurt after the second round, but his injuries only became truly grotesque between rounds. As he tells it, he cost himself the chance to keep fighting with what would be later ruled as a broken orbital bone when he blew his nose and inflated his face. Because his nose was broken, the air he tried to blow out was instead trapped in his sinus cavity.
“Man, I just wanted to keep fighting,” Cerrone told Joe Rogan in the octagon. “I was just asking, ‘Can you just push the air back down?’ You’re right, I shouldn’t have blown my nose. I’m a veteran, I’m old school, and I should’ve known that. But I did, and I humbly couldn’t finish the fight, and I apologize.” Cerrone is one of the toughest people on the UFC roster, and he really would have continued to fight, but his face got all Frankenstein-looking.
Ferguson, who was fighting for the first time since his wife filed a restraining order against him in March due to erratic behavior, has now won 12 straight, though he wasn’t happy with the way things shook out at the end of this fight. When Rogan approached him in the octagon after the fight, he deferred to Cerrone and let him speak first.
“It’s not how I wanted the fight to go,” Ferguson said after encouraging the crowd to boo him. “It’s really emotional in here.” He explained that he was too “amped up” to stop right at the bell. “I’m an emotional fighter. I don’t like to try to do that shit,” he said. “I don’t aim to do that shit. Like I said, there’s been a lot going on this past year. We’re in a fight, man. There was a lot of drama and shit going on.”
It was a disappointing end to the fight, though I hope we can all agree that it’s fine that Cowboy was not allowed to step back in for five minutes with Ferguson while sporting a broken eye socket that was already bad enough to put him in the hospital.