Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson went to war on Saturday night in what proved to be a brutal main event at UFC 249.
When a fight is so intense, words of encouragement and tactical advice from a fighter's cornermen can be crucial.
Social distancing guidelines meant a unique look to the corners of fighters at UFC 249, with just one cornerman allowed in the Octagon per combatant. The rules also stipulated that each coach must wear a protective face mask at all times.
The BT Sport YouTube channel has posted a full breakdown of what was said to both Gaethje and Ferguson by their respective coaches on the night. The difference in terms of the quality and depth of advice offered to each fighter is surprisingly noticeable.
Even though he clearly lost the first round of the contest, Ferguson is praised by his boxing coach Rashad Holloway for his showing when he first returns to his corner.
"Looking beautiful Tony... Man, that was some beautiful boxing," exclaims Holloway. His praise might have boosted Ferguson's confidence, but does little to aid the interim champ in terms of the rounds ahead.
By contrast, Gaethje's head coach Trevor Wittman uses the break in between rounds to actively coach his man. In particular, Wittman advises Gaethje to make use of his leg kicks - a strategy that would pay significant dividends later in the fight.
Wittman would again offer some key advice at the end of the second round, when critiquing Gaethje's striking.
"Take 10% off your shots... You're trying to kill him!" Wittman declares. "Pop him with good, clean shots ok?"
From that point on, Gaethje was far more precise in the timing of his strikes, ensuring that each shot he landed hurt Ferguson. Overall, Gaethje landed 100 of his 143 strikes to the head. The advice from Wittman to make this adjustment was inspired.
The video next cuts to Ferguson's corner at the end of round three. By this point, Team Ferguson is worried. Their man is cut and likely three rounds down on the scorecards. So desperate is Ferguson's situation, he is advised by his corner to look for an Imanari Roll to try and set up a submission.
Ferguson had used the move - which is a rolling leg lock - in the past. However, at this point, Ferguson is tired. Both men are also sweating, meaning that it would be tough for Ferguson to use the suggested tactic.
The quality of the advice on offer to Ferguson does not even improve as the fight heads into its final round. Granted, Ferguson needed a miracle to turn the bout around by this point, but his corner still could have offered him more than a few vague comments about head movement.
On the other side of the Octagon, Gaethje and Wittman remain focused on the job at hand, even with Gaethje clearly in control.
"The last time you got too comfortable, you got stopped. You be sharp as a m*****f*****. He's gonna roll at your legs," warns Wittman. "Keep chopping the legs and keep doing damage. Be sharp!"
Gaethje did, indeed, stay sharp and stopped Ferguson towards the end of the final round to become the interim UFC lightweight champion.
Every fighter is, of course, an individual. It may well be that Ferguson does not respond well to being heavily coached during fights. From an outside perspective, though, it did appear that Gaethje received significantly better coaching on the night.
How heavily this played into the result is up for individual interpretation, but Team Gaethje certainly had a winning formula on Saturday night.
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