Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight warriors Donald Cerrone and Alex Oliveira will clash TONIGHT (Feb. 21, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 83 inside CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
After a devastating end to his Lightweight title run, Cerrone decided to look for greener pastures. Just several months after that title loss, Cerrone looks to get back into the win column in his new division.
Meanwhile, Oliveira has proven himself a game fighter with a number of short-notice bouts, but this is far and away the most high-profile. A prospect at both Lightweight and Welterweight, Oliveira had a massive opportunity on his hands here.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each fighter:
Record: 28-7 (1)
Key Wins: Benson Henderson (UFC Fight Night 59), Eddie Alvarez (UFC 178), Myles Jury (UFC 182)
Key Losses: Rafael dos Anjos (UFC on FOX 17), UFC Fight Night 27), Anthony Pettis (UFC on FOX 6)
Keys to Victory: A vicious kickboxer with a slick submission game, Cerrone has been a top contender for many years now. He's both very tough and a dynamic finisher, which makes him a difficult threat for just about anyone.
In this bout, Cerrone needs to do his best to avoid the slow start. His opponent is big, powerful, and loves to throw leather, so Cerrone does not want to let him score with some freely early shots while he gets comfortable.
That could end very badly.
Instead, the American "Cowboy" should look to maintain his distance and slow the pace. Despite his numerous knockouts and general success on the feet so far, Oliveira can get very sloppy.
Therefore, Cerrone is well-equipped to pick his opponent apart, he just needs to avoid the brawl. This will become easier as the fight wears on due to his opponent's inevitable fatigue, so Cerrone just needs to be careful and disciplined early in the fight.
Record: 14-2-1 (1)
Key Wins: Piotr Hallmann (UFC Fight Night 77), KJ Noons (UFC Fight Night 67)
Key Losses: Gilbert Burns (UFC Fight Night 62)
Keys to Victory: Oliveira is a dominant physical fighter with a dangerous stand up attack. Though he's relatively inexperienced overall, Oliveira has already proven capable of rising to the occasion.
In this bout, Oliveira needs to immediately put it on his opponent. There's no benefit to standing around at range and eating low and front kicks from Cerrone, as they'll only slow him down.
Instead, Oliveira needs to take full advantage of his unusual physical gifts of length and power. Cerrone has never been particularly comfortable or adept in boxing exchanges, so that's an area in which Oliveira could do some serious damage.
In addition, Oliveira could look to close the distance fully and clinch with Cerrone. He likely has the strength advantage, so forcing a clinch battle could favor him. Additionally, Oliveira loves to look for the uppercut, and that would be the proper range to land that strike.
Either way, Oliveira needs to throw everything he has at Cerrone Immediately, as his best chance for success is an early knockout win.
Bottom Line: While it doesn't have a major effect on the division, this is a significant fight for both men.
Cerrone's future is far from clear at this point. However, a win keeps the possibility of him as a top Welterweight alive, and it ensure that he'll get a reasonably high-profile match up in his next fight.
Which, knowing Cerrone, will probably be within the next month or so.
However, a loss would raise a lot of questions. Cerrone is the far superior fighter to Oliveira, so for him to lose would be shocking. Frankly, it would force fans to question how much Cerrone has left in the tank.
Meanwhile, this is a huge opportunity for Oliveira. He's obviously very raw as a fighter, but he's nonetheless managed to earn some decent wins. If he follows those victories up with a short-notice win over the recent title challenger, Oliveira will seriously make a name for himself and likely receive a place in the rankings.
Alternatively, a loss is fairly expected. It's the highest level opponent he's ever faced, and he took the fight on very short notice. That's usually not a recipe for success, so it won't be held against him too harshly.
TONIGHT at UFC Fight Night 83, Donald Cerrone and Alex Oliveira will battle in the main event. Which fighter will have his hand raised?