Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje predictions: Top UFC 249 expert picks, best bets from main card specialist

Justin Gaethje received an unexpected opportunity and plans on taking full advantage of it. Just over a month after being chosen as a replacement, Gaethje will battle Tony Ferguson for the interim lightweight title in the main event of UFC 249 on Saturday, May 9. The main card from VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET. Gaethje (21-2) owns a 6-0 career record in title fights, all of which took place from 2014 to 2016 during his tenure with the World Series of Fighting.

Gaethje presents a unique challenge for Ferguson (26-3), who had been preparing to face Khabib Nurmagomedov before the current UFC lightweight champion was replaced in early April because of travel restrictions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Ferguson is a -180 favorite (risk $180 to win $100), while Gaethje is a +155 underdog in the latest Ferguson vs. Gaethje odds from William Hill. In the co-main event, Henry Cejudo (-240) defends his bantamweight title against two-time former champion Dominick Cruz (+200). Before making any UFC 249 picks, make sure you see the UFC predictions from SportsLine MMA analyst Brandon Wise.

A CBS Sports editor specializing in MMA, Wise has been dissecting the sport for five years. He specializes in picking main-card fights for UFC, which has enabled him to be profitable every year. Wise went a perfect 5-0 at UFC 239 and 4-1 at UFC 245. He also nailed Khabib Nurmagomedov’s destruction of Conor McGregor in 2018, Stipe Miocic’s upset of Daniel Cormier and Max Holloway’s downfall in 2019. Across UFC 247 and UFC 248, Wise went 7-3 with his main-card picks, returning healthy profits for anyone following them.

Wise also nailed the main event of UFC 248 in March, telling SportsLine members to expect middleweight champion Israel Adesanya (-275) to retain his title against Yoel Romero (+235) by unanimous decision. He argued that Adesanya would keep the action on the feet and was proven correct as the champ landed numerous leg kicks en route to victory. Anyone who has consistently followed Wise is way up.

Now, with UFC 249 fast approaching, Wise carefully has studied every matchup on the main card, identified the best value in the UFC odds and released his MMA picks for each fight. He’s only sharing those selections here.

Ferguson vs. Gaethje expert preview

Wise knows Ferguson had been preparing to fight Nurmagomedov, who currently is stuck in Russia. It marks the fifth time a matchup between the two has failed to take place after being booked.

Ferguson is in the midst of the longest winning streak in UFC lightweight history. The 36-year-old Californian has won 12 consecutive fights, the last being a second-round TKO against Donald Cerrone on June 8. 

A former collegiate wrestling champion, Ferguson has not lost since dropping a unanimous decision to Michael Johnson on May 5, 2012. He captured the interim lightweight championship with a submission win over Kevin Lee in October 2017, but was stripped of the title after withdrawing from a fight with Nuragomedov in April 2018 due to a torn knee ligament.

Ferguson’s winning streak could come to an end against the fourth-ranked Gaethje, who has recorded three straight victories after suffering back-to-back losses. The 31-year-old from Arizona’s most recent win also came against Cerrone, as he scored a TKO in the first round on Sept. 14. Get Wise’s predictions for Ferguson vs. Reyes and every main card fight here.

Top UFC 249 main card predictions

One of Wise’s UFC 249 predictions: He is backing Francis Ngannou (-260) to defeat Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+210) in a heavyweight bout.

A trained boxer, Ngannou (14-3) has rebounded from back-to-back unanimous-decision losses to record three consecutive victories, the last two coming against former champions Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. The 33-year-old from Cameroon’s last seven wins have ended in the first round, six by knockout.

Ngannou will need to avoid the power punches of Rozenstruik, who is looking to improve to 11-0 since switching to Mixed Martial Arts. The 32-year-old former kickboxer from Suriname has scored nine of his victories via knockout, with seven coming in the opening round.

How to make Ferguson vs. Gaethje picks

Wise also has strong picks for Ferguson vs. Gaethje and every other bout on the main UFC 249 fight card. He’s also backing a fighter whose “explosiveness” will propel him to a decisive victory. Get every pick for every fight on the UFC 249 main card at SportsLine.

Who wins Ferguson vs. Gaethje? And how exactly does each fight end? See the latest UFC 249 odds below and then visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight on the UFC 249 main card, all from the accomplished expert who has been profitable for five straight years.

UFC 249 main card odds (via William Hill)

Tony Ferguson (-180) vs. Justin Gaethje (+155)
Henry Cejudo (-240) vs. Dominick Cruz (+200)
Francis Ngannou (-260) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+210)
Calvin Kattar (-240) vs. Jeremy Stephens (+200)
Greg Hardy (-175) vs. Yorgan De Castro (+150)

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