Donald Cerrone entered the cage last night (Dec. 30, 2011) in the co-main event of UFC 141: Lesnar vs. Overeem against Nate Diaz, looking for his fifth UFC victory in 2011. "Cowboy" had been riding an incredible wave of momentum and was in talks as a potential title contender.
On paper, Cerrone had multiple advantages. He held a wrestling edge, utilized his kicks more, supposedly had better striking defense and was a more technical stand up fighter.
But that's the reason they actually hold the fight, folks.
Diaz came out a man possessed and lit Cerrone up worse than he'd ever been beat before in a tremendous display of boxing proficiency.
So what mistakes plagued Donald Cerrone? And what's next for both fighters?
Cerrone exploded out of his corner, meeting Diaz over three quarters of the way across the cage , but he was met with a series of combinations that had his head snapping backwards like a Pez dispenser.
Diaz absolutely lit Cerrone up in the first round, throwing a high volume of punches as has become custom and Cerrone had no answer. "Cowboy" didn't utilize much head movement, he didn't shoot for takedowns, and he hardly utilized his kicks in the first round. Instead, he was looking to counter but Diaz was throwing so much offense at him that he never found many openings.
He returned to his stool a battered man, but at least came out smarter in round two. Cerrone finally began throwing heavy leg kicks and repeatedly connected heavily, knocking Diaz off balance and even dropping him a few times. Diaz would repeatedly fall to his back and instead of diving into his guard, Cerrone turned his back on his vulnerable opponent and allowed him to get back to his feet.
Why he did this? That's a question you'll have to ask Donald Cerrone. He was clearly losing the stand-up portion, so why not attempt something on the ground? He's an experienced ground fighter and should't have been afraid of Diaz's guard.
In round three, Cerrone went away from the leg attacks again, the one strike that was actually working for him and he proceeded to eat a plethora of punches to the face. The Stockton native outstruck Cerrone badly, 260-104 over the course of three rounds and easily secured a unanimous decision victory to jump firmly into contention.
For Donald Cerrone, there are so many questions. Why didn't he utilize his head movement? Why didn't he keep kicking Diaz's legs? Why didn't he shoot for takedowns or at least dive into Diaz's guard when he was lying on his back in front of him? Did he somehow think he could turn the corner in the Striking department and win the fight? Perhaps his extremely active schedule finally caught up to him. He certainly looked a step slow last night.
For Cerrone's next fight, here's hoping he finally takes a nice, long break. I'd like to see three months minimum and hopefully a bit more. He's got to give his body an opportunity to heal after training camp after training camp after training camp. Once he's rested up, a bout with Jeremy Stephens would make sense, as would someone along the lines of Rafael dos Anjos or perhaps the loser of Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon. First thing's first, get this man some much deserved rest.
For Nate Diaz, he put on a terrific performance and laid the wood to Cerrone from start to finish. It didn't hurt that "Cowboy" played directly into his strengths but it was still a stellar showing for the Stockton native. His offensive output is getting better and better in the stand-up, but there are still plenty of questions Diaz needs to answer about his ability to handle the top wrestlers in the division. Hopefully he gets matched up with one next time around.
Possible next opponents for the Cesar Gracie trained fighter would be Jim Miller if he were to get by Melvin Guillard, the winner of the Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon fight or perhaps Sean Sherk if he ever returns to the Octagon. It's time to see if Diaz is ready to contend.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did Diaz surprise you with his shellacking of Cerrone? Who would you match him up with next if you were Joe Silva?