confronts every challenge with the same approach:
genuine and utter contempt for his opponents. No one can argue with
the results.

Whenever the
Ultimate Fighting Championship
resumes its schedule, Ferguson
figures to be front and center in its plans—either through
challenging Khabib
for the undisputed lightweight crown or through a
guaranteed barnburner with former
World Series of Fighting
champion Justin
. The 36-year-old Californian has rattled off 12
consecutive victories since being outpointed by Michael
in their UFC on Fox 3 encounter on May 5, 2012. Those
wins have come against increasingly stout opposition, including
, Rafael dos
and Kevin Lee.

As Ferguson awaits his latest marching orders, a look at three of
the rivalries that have numbered his steps along the way:

Ferguson tapped Barboza in the second round. (Photo:

“El Cucuy” submitted Barboza with a second-round brabo choke in a
memorable lightweight pairing at “The Ultimate Fighter 22” Finale
on Dec. 11, 2015 in Las Vegas. In a battled that showed up on all
reputable “Fight of the Year” lists, Barboza conceded defeat 2:54
into Round 2. Two of the UFC’s premier lightweights emptied their
respective tool boxes, and it was spellbinding. Ferguson weathered
a point deduction for an illegal upkick in a remarkable first round
in which the action never stopped. A replacement for the injured
, Barboza countered beautifully, fired a number of
his lightning-bolt kicks and dodged three rolling kneebar attempts
from the Californian. They picked up where they left off in Round
2. There, Ferguson continued to press forward in the face of
serious artillery and opened a cut on the Brazilian’s forehead with
a standing elbow. Blood poured down Barboza’s face and onto his
chest. The onetime Ring of
champion shot for an ill-advised takedown and wandered
into the choke during the scramble that followed. Once Ferguson’s
arms were in place, there was no escape.

Ferguson made Pettis’ corner say no mas. (Photo:

Six months after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery, “El Cucuy”
threw all his frustrations and focus into his showdown with Pettis
in the UFC 229 co-main event on Oct. 6, 2018 in Las Vegas. A broken
hand proved to be Pettis’ undoing following 10 incredible minutes
of violence in its purest form, which left both men bathed in
blood. Ferguson overwhelmed “Showtime” with crushing pressure,
forcing him backward and far away from his comfort zone. Pettis
connected with a few leg kicks and buckled his counterpart with an
overhand right in the second round, but the success was fleeting.
Ferguson opened a cut near the Milwaukee native’s hairline with a
sneaky elbow strike that began to paint the canvas and both men
red. He later opened another cut next to Pettis’ right eye, pinned
him to the fence and unleashed a hellacious barrage of
offense—standing elbows, knees, punches and hammerfists all found
the mark—that had the Duke Roufus disciple reeling at the base of
the fence by the end of Round 2. During the one-minute
intermission, Pettis informed his corner that he believed his right
hand was broken. Soon after, Roufus made the call to end the fight.
Pettis had absorbed 114 significant strikes, more than half of them
directed at his head, and Ferguson had climbed yet another rung on
the lightweight ladder.

”Cowboy” was no match for Ferguson’s relentless pace. (Photo:

Ferguson forged a second-round stoppage against Cerrone in their
highly anticipated lightweight showdown at UFC 238, where “The
Ultimate Fighter” Season 13 winner cemented himself as the No. 1
contender at 155 pounds on June 8, 2019 in Chicago. Referee Dan
Miraglioitta waved it off between the second and third rounds after
Cerrone’s damaged right eye had swollen shut. “El Cucuy” was
merciless. After a back-and-forth first round, he pushed a pace
Cerrone could not keep. Ferguson slammed home one ferocious jab
after another in Round 2, clipped “Cowboy” with spinning back
elbows and attacked the body with kicks. However, he brought
controversy into the equation when he landed a punch after the bell
that seemed to stun Cerrone, who absorbed the impact and returned
to his corner for the one-minute respite. Unfortunately for all
involved, he blew his nose as he prepared for the third round—an
ill-advised action that caused his eye to immediately expand to
grotesque proportions and necessitated the stoppage. It was
Ferguson’s 12th straight win, an all-time record for the UFC
lightweight division.