Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone fighting is probably the greatest World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) mixed martial arts (MMA) match up that never happened because it carries the potential to be an instant classic.
Now that both men are under the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) umbrella, "Showtime" and "Cowboy" will collide on the UFC on FOX 6 main card tonight (Jan. 26, 2013) from the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
Their styles are proof that winning at the world-class level isn't just code-speak for playing it safe, as both guys risk themselves as opposed to playing a points-first game. Pettis' long-elusive title shot could very well materialize if he notches a definitive win, while Cerrone's active schedule and willingness to fight anyone, anytime and anywhere have made him a fan favorite since he and his WEC peers were folded into the UFC.
Style-wise, this has all the marks of an extended standup match, with multiple dimensions of attack coming into play. While neither has the takedown and ground-and-pound chops to ostensibly plant the other guy and dominate him (a la vintage Matt Hughes) Pettis' takedown defense is probably a hair better given the extensive work he's done with training partner Ben Askren.
Check out a complete breakdown of the UFC on FOX 6 main card firecracker between Anthony Pettis vs. Donald Cerrone below:
Cerrone's granite chin makes him willing to exchange with anyone, and his ability to mix in technically sound punch-kick combinations make him dangerous, especially for a 6' Lightweight. Pettis' knack for explosive, dynamic attacks make him a bit more of a stylistic gambler, and how the pair match up in the kicking element of the stand up phase will probably be as important as punching -- both use kicks to change up on opponents and establish range.
Pettis hasn't fought since February -- nearly one year -- because of various injuries and hiccups in his schedule. And you have to wonder if Cerrone will look to jump on him early to knock off any rust.
As in any fight likely to go three rounds, takedowns, especially late in the stanza, could play a huge factor in swaying the judges, and that's likely a tactic available to Pettis. On the ground, both are exceptionally gifted jiu-jitsu stylists with a defensive guard that negates attacks from the top. The action on the mat is almost sure to be a stalemate if it goes there.
This should be a violent, entertaining affair. If there's one recurring thread you see through Pettis' fights, it's that he almost always seems to explode at some point and land an insanely effective strike. He's constantly looking for openings and is willing to mortgage everything on techniques that come from odd angles yet yield big results.
Stylistically, Cerrone is probably the more traditionally-steeped Muay Thai guy, but Pettis has an edge in speed, and seems to thrive off a standing bout. Look for a subtle feeling-out opening in the first couple minutes, with Pettis obliging Cerrone's aggression as he moves, counters and looks for angles to detonate.
When he does -- and he surely will, as Cerrone has huge confidence in his chin -- Pettis will pounce, looking to finish "Cowboy" with a big-time flurry. However, Cerrone's gameness and ability to fire back while under attack will get enough respect to prompt Pettis to return to his gameplan of sticking, moving, scoring and outworking his man.
Down the stretch, the pair will trade in breathtaking exchanges, with Pettis' speed the definitive edge, as he hammers his way to a crowd-pleasing, unanimous decision.
Pettis via decision
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the UFC on FOX 6 main card action, which is slated to start promptly at 8 p.m. ET. Up-to-the-minute updates and fight-by-fight coverage will begin to flow earlier than that, however, around 4:30 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst.