Then, he came up lame against Nate Diaz at UFC 141.
"Cowboy," who fights Strikeforce import K.J. Noons at UFC 160 later this month at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, knows he's got the skills to be one of the best 155-pound fighters in the world. He just has to figure out what happens to them once the pressure is on.
Cerrone breaks it down for MMA Fighting:
"It's like, I don't know if it's the camera or the pressure, but I've got to figure that out. Whatever makes me fight hard to get there, and then I seem to, like, fold under pressure. I don't know. I'm tryin' to [figure it out]. I got a new sports psychologist tryin' to work those kinks out. I'm tryin' to take a different approach, a different angle, and work on my weight. I think my weight might be a problem, comin' in so heavy. Right now I'm 174, so I feel great. Staying light. When you lose, everything's wrong. But really, I just got to get back to what I used to do. Just start grindin' again."
The former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) standout was able to rebound from the Diaz loss and win his next two, including a sensational knockout win over former teammate Melvin Guillard last August. However, after calling out Anthony Pettis, "Showtime" sent him tumbling back down the rankings earlier this year.
It's now or never.
Noons, who like "Cowboy" was one of the top ranked lightweights just a few years ago, has been to a decision in his last five fights and only came out the winner in one of them. The stakes are high for this Memorial Day Weekend bangfest.
Will Cerrone rise to the occasion? Or fold under pressure?