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Beneil Dariush dominated Tony Ferguson in all aspects of the game on Saturday in the heavily hyped co-main event of UFC 262 at the Toyota Center in Houston. And Dariush finally broke down the door and is staring at lightweight title contention.

Dariush won his seventh consecutive fight, outmanning Ferguson and sweeping the judges’ scorecards. Dariush won by the score of 30-27 on all judges’ cards and left Ferguson limping with an apparent knee injury. Dariush had Ferguson in a heel hook in the second round and was torquing on it, but Ferguson refused to tap. He winced and seemed to be in agony, but wouldn’t give up.

It didn’t matter much, though, as Dariush just beat up on Ferguson for five-plus additional minutes.

“It popped,” Dariush said of Ferguson’s knee. “I heard a big pop. Man, he’s a zombie, no doubt about it.”

Dariush said “I’m now in the conversation,” after the victory, but Ferguson has never been further away. He lost for the third consecutive time, following a stoppage at the hands of Justin Gaethje and a loss in December to Charles Oliveira.

Ferguson has looked every one of his 37 years recently and looks like he may be at the end of the line of a brilliant career. Gaethje battered and beat him badly at UFC 249 last year, and that’s never a good sign. Gaethje’s opponents are 4-15 in the bout after he fights them.

Even when he was winning 12 in a row and 15 of 16, Ferguson absorbed a lot of punishment. But he had an amazing way of taking it and keeping coming. He’s still taking the punishment, but his offense is withering.

This fight was a tale of fighters going in opposite directions in their careers. Even the vocal support of the crowd chanting his name couldn’t help Ferguson.

Whether he comes back for a final appearance remains to be seen, but this very much had the look of a changing of the guard type of fight.

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