On Aug. 28, 2013, Top 10-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight standouts Donald Cerrone and Rafael dos Anjos will go to war in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 27 from Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The bout holds dire implications, with the winner will receive a much-needed shot up the rankings, keeping them afloat in the stacked UFC Lightweight division. The loser will be forced to reassess his skills and gameplanning, as his next fight will an increased struggle for relevancy.
Cerrone is ranked No. 6 and dos Anjos is ranked No. 10. Both fighters have shown impressive submission skills, and both are well versed in Muay Thai, too. It’s most likely dos Anjos that carries more momentum into this bout because he has won his last four trips to the Octagon.
After getting knocked out by current Lightweight title challenger Anthony Pettis at UFC on FOX: "Johnson vs. Dodson", Cerrone got back on the winning track with a decision victory over Strikeforce import K.J. Noons at UFC 160 last May. Dos Anjos will be a noted step up in competition, and that’s where the highly talented Cerrone has fallen just short in the past.
Let’s take a look at what it’s going to take for each fighter to pick up the crucial win between Donald Cerrone vs. Rafael dos Anjos at UFC Fight Night 27.
Record: 20-5 (1), 7-2 UFC
Key Wins: Melvin Guillard (UFC 150), Denis Siver (UFC 137)
Key Losses: Anthony Pettis (UFC on FOX: Johnson vs. Dodson), Nate Diaz (UFC 141)
How he got here: Cerrone got his start as a kickboxer, amassing a glossy 28-0-1 record. From there, he transitioned into mixed martial arts (MMA). Running up a 7-0 record in Ring of Fire and other regional promotions, Cerrone earned a spot in World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and continued his ascent there.
He compiled three quick victories for WEC from 2007 to 2008, but his submission win over Kenneth Alexander at WEC 30 was turned into a No Contest after Cerrone tested positive for a banned substance. His third win in the WEC, over Rob McCullough, got him a shot at then-WEC Lightweight champion Jamie Varner.
Varner handed Cerrone his first career loss via split decision after "Cowboy" landed an illegal knee in the final frame. The loss didn’t seem to deter Cerrone, who rebounded with a rear naked choke victory over James Krause at WEC 41. Facing current UFC Lightweight titleholder Benson Henderson in two of his next three bouts, Cerrone was defeated via unanimous decision at WEC 43 and then forced to tap out to a guillotine at WEC 48.
Cerrone stayed resilient, winning his last two WEC bouts by avenging a previous loss to Varner and then submitting Chris Horodecki. The WEC was then absorbed by the UFC, and Cerrone began his stint at UFC 126 against Paul Kelly. Cerrone announced his presence with another submission win, and then won his next three bouts over Vagner Rocha, Charles Oliveira, and Denis Siver.
The win streak got him a noticed step up in competition when he signed on to face Nate Diaz at UFC 141. The bout had a ton of pre-fight hype and trash talk, culminating with Diaz shoving Cerrone and flipping his cowboy hat off his head at the weigh-ins.
Unfortunately, Cerrone’s performance didn’t deliver on the hype, as Diaz punished "Cowboy" with his patented style of boxing to earn a unanimous decision.
Cerrone came back to beat Jeremy Stephens by decision, and then he knocked out former training partner Melvin Guillard in a "Knockout of the Night"-winning performance at UFC 150 in Denver, Colorado. Cerrone was noticeably rocked in the first round, but came back to nail "Young Assassin" with a grazing headkick that wobbled him, finishing the bout with a lethal right hand.
The win got him a date with flashy striker Anthony Pettis, and thus began another war of words. It was hype that Cerrone again failed to capitalize on, suffering a bitter defeat after Pettis nailed him with a debilitating liver kick in the first round. The loss was a huge blow to Cerrone’s momentum, but he rebounded well by out striking noted boxer K.J. Noons at May’s UFC 160 to get the bout with dos Anjos.
How he gets it done: On paper, Cerrone has all the tools to be one of the best Lightweights on the planet. His kickboxing is amazing, and he rounds it out well with effective submission skills. The only knock on Cerrone as of late has been his inability to shine in the face of truly elite competition, evident by his one-sided losses to top contenders Nate Diaz and Anthony Pettis.
For him to win against dos Anjos, he’s going to have to avoid underestimating his opponent. Dos Anjos is a talented Lightweight on a four-fight win streak, but not many people know much about him. This could help Cerrone, as there’s not as much pressure for him to win as there was against Pettis, but it could also hurt him if he doesn’t give his Brazilian counterpart enough credit.
Dos Anjos is notoriously tough to finish off, but even if a knockout or submission opportunity doesn’t present itself, Cerrone will still be in a spot that he’s comfortable in.
"Cowboy" knows how to win a kickboxing match on the feet, and that experience will pay off should this become a drawn-out war. Dos Anjos’ last three wins have come by way of decision, so it appears that he’s fighting a bit on the safe side to secure wins and inch up the rankings.
That may backfire against Cerrone, who won’t be easily dominated on the ground and should hold a clear advantage on the feet. It’s going to come down how focused he is against the lesser-known dos Anjos.
Rafael dos Anjos
Record: 19-6 overall, 8-4 UFC
Key Wins: Evan Dunham (UFC on FX: Belfort vs. Rockhold), Mark Bocek (UFC 154)
Key Losses: Jeremy Stephens (UFC 91), Clay Guida (UFC 117)
How he got here: The Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt began by fighting in regional shows throughout Brazil, compiling an 11-2 record before finding a spot in the UFC. He made his debut against vaunted striker Jeremy Stephens at UFC 91 and lost courtesy of a vicious uppercut. His second fight was closer, but he ultimately dropped a decision to Tyson Griffin.
It wasn’t a good start in the UFC for dos Anjos, but he proved he could hang with the big boys by winning his next three over Rob Emerson, Kyle Bradley, and Terry Etim, whom he finished with an impressive armbar.
The win streak got him a big name fight against Clay Guida at UFC 117, but dos Anjos squandered the opportunity when he injured his jaw and was forced to tap out. Alternating a win and loss in his next two by knocking out George Sotiropoulos and dropping a decision to Gleison Tibau, dos Anjos needed to make a run to prove himself relevant in a tough division.
He did just that by winning his next four over Kamal Shalorus, Anthony Njokuani, Mark Bocek, and Evan Dunham. The Dunham decision was a close fight that many felt could have gone the other way, but ultimately it got dos Anjos the Cerrone fight.
How he gets it done: Dos Anjos is facing arguably his toughest test when he steps into the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 27. He’s earned the bout with a four-fight win streak, but many still believe it was Dunham who should have won their fight.
Because of this, and also partly due to a small degree of inconsistency within the Octagon, dos Anjos has much to prove.
His last three wins were decisions, so if he wants to prove that he’s a true force at Lightweight, he’ll need to start putting a stamp on his wins. A finish is going to be a hard sell against Cerrone, who’s only been stopped twice in his career.
Despite that, dos Anjos has the ground pedigree to hang with or perhaps even surpass his Greg Jackson-trained opponent on the mat. Problems may arise when the fight starts out on the feet.
Dos Anjos is no slouch in the striking department, possessing an ever-evolving Muay Thai game, but Cerrone was a highly decorated kickboxer with way more overall experience. The Brazilian’s best bet may be to try and drag the fight to the ground and look for a submission. While that submission may never materialize, dos Anjos has a solid chance of using his skills to control Cerrone on the ground. It’s definitely a better course of action than standing and trading with the accomplished kickboxer.
If he can get the fight to the canvas and utilize some good position shifts, he’ll be in his world. Another decision may not look too impressive to the UFC matchmakers, but if he can pull off a victory against the highly ranked Cerrone, another Top-10 opponent should come his way.
Bottom Line: This fight is going to be a proving ground for both Cerrone and dos Anjos. There’s no room for error in the current UFC Lightweight picture, so this will be a defining bout for either fighter. While both are well rounded, it’s safe to say that Cerrone possesses an edge on the feet while dos Anjos holds a slight advantage when the fight hits the ground.
Look for Cerrone to pick his opponent apart on the feet, using his range to snap sharp jabs and leg kicks while avoiding being taken down. While he could surprise a few with his standup, dos Anjos, should look to close the gap and take Cerrone down.
It won’t be easy to submit "Cowboy," but controlling the fight from that point is dos Anjos’ best chance to win.
The loser of this bout may be labeled as a fighter who disappears against top-flight competition, so it’s do-or-die time for both here.
Whose skills will rise to the top and prevail in this pivotal showdown of Top-10 Lightweights? Tell us your picks below!