UFC 131 fight card: Donald Cerrone vs Vagner Rocha fight for footing in crowded lightweight division

via assets.sbnation.com

There are currently 264 fighters on the UFC roster spread across seven (soon to be eight) different weight classes.

None of these divisions are deeper than lightweight, which houses 53 of the most elite scrappers in the world. With that many animals cruising the jungle, it's difficult enough to get noticed, let alone work your way up the food chain.

That's the position both Donald Cerrone and Vagner Rocha find themselves in heading into their clash tonight, June 11, 2011, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada at UFC 131: "Dos Santos vs. Carwin."

Cerrone, still a spring chicken at 28-years-old, is in the process of introducing himself to UFC fans after moving over from WEC as part of the two promotions merger at the beginning of the year.

He made quite the first impression; "Cowboy" won "Fight of the Night" honors at the stacked UFC 126 event back in Feb. after choking out veteran Paul Kelly.

And while that was his third victory in a row, he remains largely unknown and toiling away in the middle of the pack.

That was all supposed to change tonight, as he was originally booked against Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 6 winner Mac Danzig; however, he was forced off the card with a chest injury and replaced by Rocha.

In the lead-up to this fight, Rocha has been quoted as saying the match-up is especially dangerous for Cerrone as Vagner has everything to gain and nothing to lose.

He's right ... exactly right.

Rocha is being given a unique opportunity, not necessarily by choice but mostly due to a lack of options. When Danzig went down, there were only so many options for a late replacement.

Of course the Brazilian jumped at the chance to make a name for himself in the world's largest fight promotion.

Rocha got his hands dirty competing for Bellator Fighting Championships in addition to a lone appearance under the Strikeforce banner, amassing a 6-1 record with five finishes.

Four of his wins have come by way of submission, which shouldn't come as a surprise considering his association with world-renowned grappler Pablo Popovitch.

If he can effectively implement his grappling game and come away with a win, he could both earn himself the biggest victory of his career and a new contract with UFC.

A loss means he's likely nothing more than a passing thought and a statistic on Cerrone's record.

As he said -- everything to gain, nothing to lose.

A "Cowboy" win would simply solidify his status as a UFC lightweight; nothing more, nothing less. But a loss would put him at the back of the line and it's a long, long line.

That's a lot of pressure for what a lot of folks think is a "gimme" fight.

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