Donald Cerrone is riding one of the hottest streaks in mixed martial arts (MMA) today, winning four straight in the UFC's stacked lightweight division. Perhaps even more impressive is that "Cowboy" has done it all in a span of only eight months.
And there's no rest for the wicked.
Cerrone already has another fight lined up against Nate Diaz at UFC 141 on Dec. 30, 2011, which will bring his total to five fights inside the Octagon in 2011.
His former stablemate at Jackson Winkeljohn MMA, one-time UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, has taken notice, gushing about his rapid rise in the sport. As "Suga" tells ESPN.co.uk, the former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) standout has a history of putting in hard work with few breaks between.
He also happens to possess all the tools to become UFC champion:
"I definitely think Cerrone can win the title. I love to watch the way he's grown in the sport. I remember when he first came to Jackson's gym; he had absolutely no wrestling at all, like zero wrestling. And his ground was just kind of so-so. He was just all stand-up; he was one of Duane Ludwig's protégés. To watch his growth is ridiculous and every single time I and watch how good he's got and I get chills. He used to come to the gym and he'd live in that gym and those guys would practice all day long, literally. He'd practice with the team, get something to eat, take a nap, and then practice all day for the rest of the day. Donald's a leader too, he had all these guys and he was the leader of the crew and everyone wanted to be like Donald. The work he put in paid off."
With the upcoming fight between Ben Henderson vs. Clay Guida at UFC on FOX 1 likely to determine the division's next number one contender to challenge lightweight champion Frankie Edgar next, Cerrone can move into the next position with another convincing performance over Diaz on New Year's Eve weekend.
Indeed, the title aspirations of Jim Miller and Melvin Guillard recently took major blows after their most recent losses to Ben Henderson and Joe Lauzon, respectively. Cerrone is in a great position to stake his own contender claim ... all he has to do is keep winning.
However, title fights have not been kind to Cerrone in the past. He previoulsy failed to capture lightweight gold in his three attempts in the now defunct WEC, losing once to Jamie Varner and twice to the aforementioned Henderson.
Does "Cowboy" now have the goods to defeat the upper echelon of the UFC lightweight roster and hold the UFC title one day or will he continue to struggle when it matters most?