After his Fight of the Night performance at UFC Fight Night 91, Lando Vannata is likely looking at a long future inside the Octagon. But should things not work out inside the cage, Vannata may want to consider a career as an MMA analyst; he's already a perfect one for one when sizing up the competition.
Just days ago, Vannata (8-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC), the JacksonWink natural featherweight who jumped up a class to take on third-ranked Tony Ferguson (21-3 MMA, 11-1 UFC) on two-weeks notice, made headlines for calling Ferguson, one of the UFC's most dynamic fighters, "predictable" and "easy to read." And while Vannata's sleight sounded ludicrous at first, Ferguson's game actually played right into the underdog's analysis.
Unfortunately for Vannata, the only thing predictable about Ferguson, aside from his wild and dangerous style, penchant for rolling into danger, and delivering entertaining fights, is his modified d'arce choke -- the m'arce -- a unique finishing move that has claimed two straight victims, and three overall, setting a UFC record.
A winner of eight straight contests dating back to October 2013, predictable Tony Ferguson is a natural-born finisher, having ended 81-percent of his professional wins before the final horn; his finishing rate inside the Octagon sits at 73-percent. So while Vannata's comments about the lightweight division's hottest fighter were initially taken as dismissive, the remarks, in retrospect, were likely more of an understanding that the only thing predictable about Ferguson is his innovation, which includes taking a lot of risks.
Ferguson was certainly not perfect in his back-and-forth affair with Vannata, who dropped Ferguson on multiple occasions, with both a kick and punches. But the win has Ferguson looking down the double barrel of a title shot, and there's no reason the predictable fighter shouldn't be foreseeing the first crack at the brand new belt Eddie Alvarez claimed from Rafael dos Anjos last week.
Since his lone UFC loss, a unanimous decision defeat at the hands of Michael Johnson in 2012, Ferguson has been unstoppable inside the Octagon, not only rattling off eight consecutive victories, but also recording five submissions and one blistering KO of Katsunori Kikuno. Oh, he's also collected six fight night bonuses along the way.
Now consider the popular alternative: Khabib Nurmagomedov. While Nurmagomedov is riding a seven fight win streak inside the Octagon and holds a perfect 23-0 professional record, the Dagestani has recorded just two victories during Ferguson's streak. Nurmagomedov has also yet to earn a single performance of the night bonus, and two of his UFC wins actually came in catchweight bouts.
Prior to last week, Nurmagomedov did hold a trump card in the race to the next lightweight title shot. His signature win, a dominant, takedown-heavy decision over former champion Rafael dos Anjos in April 2014, kept Nurmagomedov relevant. But with dos Anjos losing the belt, that credential almost becomes moot, and even the former champion thinks Ferguson has done enough to be the next contender.
So while Lando Vannata did not score the upset of the year and skyrocket up the lightweight ranks, the JacksonWink fighter did make some accurate predictions: he did "put on a show for the crowd" using his "creativity, explosiveness, [and] a lot of gracefulness," and Vannata did "make an impression in this fight," allowing those who watched to "witness something special."
Now if Vannata could only look into his crystal ball and predict the next lightweight title challenger.