clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UFC on ESPN+ 9 preview, predictions: Breaking down ‘Iaquinta vs Cowboy’ in Ottawa

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to ESPN+ this weekend, with little fanfare, for the “Iaquinta vs. Cowboy” mixed martial arts (MMA) event, scheduled for this Sat. night (May 4, 2019) from inside Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

So for all those jaded combat sports fans who were foolishly optimistically expecting a fresh approach to non pay-per-view (PPV) fight cards, I’m sorry to report that ESPN+ has become the new FOX Sports 1, in both quality and execution.

That said, I am expecting a very good fight in the five-round main event, where Al Iaquinta will look to justify his No. 4 ranking against lightweight fan favorite, Donald Cerrone. In the UFC on ESPN+ 9 co-main event, Derek Brunson tries to keep his spot in the middleweight Top 10 at the expense of Elias Theodorou.

Before we break down the UFC Fight Night 151 main and co-main events, have a look at the “Prelims” predictions here and here. All the odds and betting lines for this weekend’s action can be found here.

155 lbs.: Al Iaquinta vs. Donald Cerrone

“Ragin’” Al Iaquinta

Record: 14-4-1 | Age: 32 | Betting line: -115
Wins: 7 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’10“ | Reach: 70” | Stance: Orthodox
Striking accuracy: 637 of 1540 (41%) | Takedown attempts: 8 of 35 (23%)
Current Ranking: No. 4 | Last fight: Decision win over Kevin Lee

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone

Record: 35-11, 1 NC | Age: 36 | Betting line: -105
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 17 SUB, 8 DEC | Losses: 4 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 6 DEC
Height: 6’1“ | Reach: 73” | Stance: Orthodox
Striking accuracy: 1610 of 3347 (48%) | Takedown attempts: 20 of 93 (35%)
Current Ranking: No. 8 | Last fight: TKO win over Alex Hernandez

It’s hard to get a read on where Donald Cerrone stands, at least in terms of contendership, because he was too busy playing welterweight for the last couple of years. I was kind of surprised he left in the first place, considering “Cowboy” had won eight straight fights at 155 pounds before coming up short against Rafael dos Anjos at UFC on FOX 17. The move appeared to pay off, at least initially, evidenced by four straight wins with four violent finishes. Then the 170-pound competition got harder and things started to fall apart, which is not a knock on Cerrone’s ability, but if we’re being honest here, the former WEC standout turned 36 back in March and there is a reason we have weight classes. Cutting weight sucks, I get it, but you know what else sucks? Getting your head pounded into the canvas against welterweight killers like Jorge Masvidal.

That’s probably why Cerrone is back at lightweight, picking up right where he left off at UFC Fight Night 143, humbling the mouthy Alexander Hernandez by way of second-round technical knockout. “Cowboy” remains one of the division’s deadliest kickboxers and his submission game ... well, 17 wins by tap, nap, or snap should tell you what happens when opponents get careless. Cerrone is a complete fighter in every sense of the word and the only real X-factor is his confidence, something he’s openly struggled with since the early days of competing for Reed Harris and Co. I would not be surprised if that was once again an issue against a Long Island meathead like Al Iaquinta.

What’s amazing about “Ragin’ Al” is how he’s somehow managed to slug his way into the Top 5 of the division with nothing more than a pair of wins over Kevin Lee and Diego Sanchez over the last four years. His five-round decision loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 was earned in the same way Jack Hermansson earned his spot against Ronaldo Souza at UFC Ft. Lauderdale: be in the right place at the right time and wait for someone else to stumble and fall. That he survived 25 minutes against “The Eagle” had more to do with the Sambo specialist turning his bout into a jab-a-thon and less to do with Iaquinta’s ability to neutralize the ground assault. Still, it’s a fight many pundits (present company included) thought Iaquinta gave away, considering the disparity in boxing skill. To be honest, I’m not sure the former Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 runner-up knew what to do in there and was just making it up as he went along. Compare that performance to his dismantling of “The Motown Phenom” and you’ll see a tale of two different fighters.

As far as his match up with Cerrone, I gotta say, this is outstanding matchmaking. Which begs the question, what the fuck took so long? Iaquinta is proficient in everything Cerrone hates; namely, forward pressure, body shots, and Octagon control. Conversely, “Cowboy” can easily expose “Ragin’ Al’s” surprisingly inept submission defense if he can use his wresting to disrupt his opponent’s timing, or catch Iaquinta getting greedy with that overhand right. When you look over the course of their respective careers, it’s hard to bet against Cerrone when — at least at lightweight — he consistently fires on all cylinders. Expect an early firefight that leads to a cage scramble and eventually, a “Cowboy” submission.

Prediction: Cerrone def. Iaquinta by submission

185 lbs.: Derek Brunson vs. Elias Theodorou

Derek Brunson

Record: 18-7 | Age: 35 | Betting line: -110
Wins: 11 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 5 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’1“ | Reach: 77” | Stance: Southpaw
Striking accuracy: 259 of 609 (43%) | Takedown attempts: 13 of 54 (24%)
Current Ranking: No. 9 | Last fight: TKO loss to Israel Adesanya

Elias “The Spartan” Theodorou

Record: 16-2 | Age: 30 | Betting line: -110
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 9 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’1“ | Reach: 75” | Stance: Orthodox
Striking accuracy: 579 of 1354 (43%) | Takedown attempts: 13 of 45 (29%)
Current Ranking: No. 13 | Last fight: Decision win over Eryk Anders

It’s hard to be critical of a fighter without sounding like an asshole, but we have to be real here. Derek Brunson is not as good as he thinks he is. Sure, he looked great against ex-champions Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida, but the former has fallen all the way to No. 15 in the official rankings while the latter was sent to the Bellator retirement home alongside Chael Sonnen. And Brunson has been stopped — quite violently — against the top of the food chain. Robert Whittaker, Israel Adesanya, Ronaldo Souza, and Yoel Romero have all finished the Strikeforce import by way of knockout. There’s just no way to justify a spot in the middleweight title chase and considering he’s just 2-4 dating back to 2015, a place in the Top 10 feels generous.

Especially when compared to Elias Theodorou, who clocks in at No. 13 despite winning three straight. I guess the counter to that is “The Spartan” doesn’t hold a win over anyone in the Top 15 and hasn’t finished a fight in over four years. He managed to squeak by Eryk Anders with a split decision at UFC 231, not long after taking Trevor Smith and Daniel Kelly to the scorecards in what can only be described as wholly unspectacular performances. Like Brunson, Theodorou is good — but not great — in just about every area. He’s proven to be a little more durable than Brunson but again, it’s easy to avoid the knockout when you don’t have to face middleweight’s murderer’s row, comprised of Whittaker, Romero, and Adesanya, among others. Outside of 2016, the Canadian ring boy has yet to compete less than twice a year, so he’s certainly done his part to keep the assembly line moving.

We know that Brunson is not championship material. But we also know he’s got the kind of big-game experience that Theodorou has only watched on television. At 35, the clock is definitely ticking on his timing and explosiveness, but I like Brunson here because of his wrestling, as well as his power. “The Spartan” will surely live up to his nickname, but without one-punch knockout power, he’s likely to get outworked across three rounds of back-and-forth action.

Prediction: Brunson def. Theodorou by unanimous decision

There you have it. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 151 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 5 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time of 8 p.m. ET.

To see who else is fighting at UFC Fight Night 151 click here.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania