This Saturday night (Jan. 25, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweights Donald Cerrone and Adriano Martins will do battle on the main card of UFC on FOX 10 from United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
Cerrone recently got back in the win column with a slick triangle submission over Evan Dunham at UFC 167 last November. The "Submission of the Night"-winning effort was a huge boost for Cerrone, who had lost two out of his previous three fights to Anthony Pettis and Rafael dos Anjos. His only win in that span was a decision victory over plummeting Strikeforce import K.J. Noons, so Cerrone had much to prove.
"Cowboy" recently attributed his lackluster performances to getting comfortable and simply going through the motions. Now, however, he's apparently broke from his "out of control" spending habits. Cerrone said he's looking to fight six times this year, but he can't afford to look past the dangerous Martins at UFC on FOX 10.
Martins just made his Octagon debut at UFC Fight Night 32 in November 2013, but he's already made a splash in doing so. Finishing Daron Cruickshank with a "Submission of the Night"-winning armbar, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt extended his impressive winning streak to six. The former two-time Jungle Fight interim lightweight champion will face a huge step up in competition.
If he can pull off the upset, Martins will instantly establish himself as a player in one of the toughest divisions in all of mixed martial arts (MMA). He's been vicious as of late, finishing four out of his last six wins, but now he's swimming with the sharks. This fight is going to tell us if Martins is ready to fight the elite at 155 pounds.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Cerrone and Martins:
Record: 21-6 (1), 8-3 UFC
Key Wins: Melvin Guillard (UFC 150), Evan Dunham (UFC 167), Dennis Siver (UFC 137)
Key Losses: Anthony Pettis (UFC on FOX 6), Nate Diaz (UFC 141), Rafael dos Anjos (UFC Fight Night 27)
Keys to Victory: There's no question that Cerrone's kickboxing is his best skill set. He's a former United States Muay Thai champion who mixes up his kicks, punches, elbows, and knees very well. Cerrone has largely been able to pick apart the vast majority of his opponents by outstriking them. That hasn't translated into a ton of knockouts, however, as Cerrone has only put two foes to sleep throughout his entire career.
With 11 knockouts to his name, Martins is no slouch on the feet. The Brazilian slugger has a decided power advantage, so this could turn into a dogfight. Cerrone needs to use his range to keep Martins at bay and pepper him with jabs, low kicks, and follow-up combinations. The only time Cerrone has ever been finished by strikes was against Pettis, meaning that "Cowboy" should have utmost confidence in his ability to take a shot.
If this fight does hit the ground, Cerrone will be able to contend with Martins despite his illustrious grappling credentials. Cerrone has submitted an alarming 14 opponents inside the cage to Martins' three, and could look to end this fight with a quick choke or armbar.
All signs point to this bout being largely contested on the feet, however, so Cerrone will need to be razor sharp in the striking department. He can't show up like he did against dos Anjos and eat a ton of kicks and punches. This time he has to be the aggressor, but in a controlled manner. He claims that he's regained his love for fighting; it's time to prove that against a game opponent.
Record: 25-6 overall, 1-0 UFC
Key Wins: Daron Cruickshank (UFC Fight Night 32),
Key Losses: Francisco Trinaldo (Jungle Fight 30)
Keys to Victory: Martins has been making noise on the Brazilian MMA scene since 2004. He obtained lightweight title belts in two different promotions, and he's also a two-time world champion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He brings a very well-rounded skill set to the Octagon, but he's focused on finishing his opponents on the feet rather than submitting them.
Martins has proved he can dominate his rivals on the ground or on the feet, but he's never fought a fighter the caliber of Cerrone. This is Martins' opportunity to truly arrive on the global MMA scene. To accomplish that, he's going to have to keep very active. Utilizing angles and checking leg kicks will be paramount to stopping Cerrone's kickboxing, so Martins needs to have a calculated gameplan.
Staying one step ahead of "Cowboy" and not allowing him to get in any sort of rhythm will pay big dividends this weekend.
Emotions will be running high in Chicago and he needs to keep that in check. Rushing in to look for a big knockout finish isn't likely to end well for Martins, so he needs to adapt to the situation. If Martins surprises Cerrone with a takedown, he can't get careless from top position. While he'll have an opportunity to score via ground-and-pound, Martins needs to be on the lookout for Cerrone's dangerous chokes from the guard.
This bout is far and away the biggest contest of Martins' lengthy MMA career. He's going to have to fight like he knows that.
Bottom Line from Chicago: The bottom line for this fight is that it's a position we've seen Cerrone in before. He's destroyed mid-level competition and wilted in the face of top five-caliber opponents, his losses to Pettis and Diaz being glaring examples.
History would suggest that this will be a rather easy win for Cerrone, but you can't count out Martins. He's an experienced and crafty veteran who is very dangerous despite not being well known in UFC as of yet.
UFC on FOX 10 could be the night when he is firmly entrenched as a star.
Whether he does that or not is going to rest on the shoulders of Cerrone. If "Cowboy" shows up hungry and motivated like he once was, then it's his fight to lose (albeit by a slim margin). On the other hand, if the "Cowboy" that wants to focus more on wakeboarding and bull riding shows up in Chicago, then we definitely have the makings of an upset on our hands.
Once thought to be an eventual title contender, No. 8-ranked Cerrone could find himself getting close to that discussion once again if he can finish Martins. He just can't overlook him. Martins is hungry to prove himself to the world, and he can do just that in only his second UFC fight.
The dynamics present here make this a potentially scintillating bout. If "Cowboy" is intent on proving that he is still one of the best lightweights in UFC, this bout could easily end up winning "Fight of the Night."
Donald Cerrone is intent on paying some bills against Adriano Martins this Saturday night at UFC on FOX 10. Is "Cowboy's" head in the right place, or will the surging newcomer knock it off?