Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone is undoubtedly a legend in the sport of MMA. He holds records for the most wins, finishes, and post-fight bonuses in the UFC. His fight in the co-main event against Niko Price comes at an important point in his career, as he has stumbled across a four-fight losing streak. This may sound worse than it is, as the four fights were all against former/interim UFC champions. Nevertheless, a win is still much-needed as Cowboy enters the twilight of his career. With that being said, what exactly would a win or loss do for Cerrone’s career, and what would each scenario look like in the fight?
With a win:
Path to victory: In order for Cowboy to earn a victory in this match-up, he will need to utilize his footwork early to mitigate Price’s onslaught of offense. Especially since Cerrone is known to be a slow starter, he should be cognizant of wild, swinging blitzes from Price, who is sure bring the fight to opponents every time he steps into the Octagon. However, Price’s aggressive style leaves him vulnerable at times, explaining why every one of his losses has ended in a stoppage. Once the more technical Donald Cerrone can maintain his striking range, he could then open up with his signature front and roundhouse kicks.
Cerrone’s wrestling and jiu-jitsu could play a key factor in a win as well, as 17 of his 27 finishes have come by submission. Of course, he needs to be wary of Price’s unorthodox strikes from any position, as Price owns knockouts via upkick and hammerfists from the bottom. Geoff Neal provided an excellent blueprint for Cowboy to follow in his fight against Price, as he beautifully implemented takedowns and ground-and-pound with his head movement and footwork in the stand-up game. If Cerrone can emulate this in his own fight, we could be seeing a late second or third round finish for him.
Implications: A win will allow Cowboy to hold onto his spot at the bottom of the lightweight rankings. With this and his legend status, he will no doubt continue to be a part of exciting fights. Realistically, he is past the point of making a run at the title, but there are still plenty of fights to be made given his flexibility fighting at both lightweight and welterweight. He can be a part of old school, throwback rematches (much like his fight against Anthony Pettis) with names like Diaz, Lawler, and Krause still out there. Or he could find himself paired up with more exciting up-and-comers (like this weekend’s fight). Regardless of which one, Cerrone will have his hands full if he makes a statement against Price.
With a loss:
Path to a loss: As mentioned earlier, Cowboy’s tendency to start slow is less than ideal when fighting a wild man like Niko Price. 13 out of Price’s 14 wins have come by finish, and a potential Cerrone loss would likely end the same way, especially since his chin has been suspect as of late. Cerrone has shown vulnerabilities when pressured early, and Price has no problems standing right in front of his opponent and swinging for the fences. When Price lands, the results could be devastating for his opponent. Cerrone is no exception, and there is a very real chance that he gets knocked out in the first round.
Implications: A loss on Saturday honestly does not change the outlook of his future matchups in the cage. He would likely fall out of the lightweight rankings, but he has far too much fan support to be relegated to insignificant fights. However, a fifth consecutive loss could call into question his fight career as a whole. Cerrone has long said that he would continue to fight until the UFC told him to stop, and another loss might bring him one step closer to getting the red light. There is little risk that the UFC would release Cerrone due to the promotion’s gratitude for his propensity to accept fights regardless of who, when, or where. The UFC would more likely be in the uncomfortable position of recommending retirement (á la Chuck Liddell) rather than releasing him.
This Saturday marks a chance for Donald Cerrone to turn back the clock and halt impending retirement talks. Hopefully for MMA fans, this is only the beginning of a well-deserved farewell tour.