Donald Cerrone is only a matter of hours away from finally getting his hands on Conor McGregor. The former lightweight title challenger will welcome the Irishman back to the Octagon in the main event of UFC 246, which takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Cerrone’s showdown with the Dubliner, which has been over four years in the making, will be a welterweight affair – though both lightweight standouts are no strangers to the division.
Despite being the more active fighter, having fought five times since McGregor last entered the cage, Cerrone enters his showdown with the former two-division champion as a huge underdog.
Back-to-back defeats to Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje have seen the bookies seemingly rule out a win for ‘Cowboy’ – even though this fight is by no means a foregone conclusion.
As has been well discussed in the build-up to this bout, McGregor hasn’t set foot inside the Octagon in over 15 months and will likely be effected by ring rust – even though he looks to be in phenomenal shape for this fight.
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And Cerrone has the tools to cause a huge upset, most notably his elite Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills and his ability to land devastating head kicks.
So make no mistake about it, ‘Cowboy’ can well and truly upset the apple cart and hand McGregor his second consecutive loss.
I took the liberty of breaking down his game and boiled it down to three things he needs to do in order to send McGregor back to the drawing board, which you can read below.
Donald Cerrone’s keys to victory
Don’t engage Conor in boxing range, keep him at kick range
As much as ‘Cowboy’ will say he wants to stand and trade with McGregor in boxing range, doing so – – could have dire consequences for him. As an orthodox fighter going up against a southpaw – who he’s traditionally – Cerrone is already at a disadvantage.
You might ask: Why is he at a disadvantage when the perfect counter for a straight left is a straight right? Because he tends to overextend on his punches – in particular his right hand. The overextension of his right in his last outing against Justin Gaethje proved to be his undoing as he was quickly countered and put away.
And as previously discussed, McGregor – barring the overhand right he took from Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 – is very proficient at reading his opponent’s shots and countering with devastating effect. So Cerrone’s best bet is to stay on the outside and drill McGregor’s legs with kicks before attempting to close the
I’ll admit it’s a lot easier said than done to just close the distance and get double underhooks on your opponent – it’s one of the hardest things to do in the sport. But if Cerrone has his heart set on handing McGregor his second consecutive loss, that’s exactly what he needs to do – though he’ll close the distance and avoid the hellfire coming his way.
If he can get double underhooks, he should do his utmost to make McGregor carry his weight and work to free himself. And if he can do exactly that against the fence, he’d be in a prime position to set up a potential sweep or trip – which Nate Diaz did in the closing moments of his UFC 202 clash with ‘The Notorious’.
And if he can get McGregor to the ground, Cerrone stands a real chance of submitting him – even if he somehow ends up his back.
Should he fail to bring the fight to the canvas and McGregor break free from his clutches, he would’ve at worst fatigued the Irishman and taken some pep out of his left hand.
Now I know I previously criticised Cerrone for being a slow starter and paying the ultimate price for his love of the feeling out process, but that doesn’t mean his route to victory lies in pouring the pressure on.
As we saw in his fight with Alvarez and his unforgettable dethroning of Jose Aldo in December 2015, McGregor is an expert at capitalising on poorly set-up blitzes.
Cerrone is more than capable of executing well-thought-out rushes to close the distance. But pushing forward at pace against a sniper like McGregor – who can close the show with one shot – is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.
UFC 246: McGregor vs Cerrone fight card
Conor McGregor vs Donald Cerrone – welterweight bout
Holly Holm vs Raquel Pennington – men’s bantamweight bout
Maurice Greene vs Aleksei Oleinik – heavyweight bout
Claudia Gadelha vs Alexa Grasso – women’s strawweight bout – FIGHT OFF
(Grasso weighed in at 121.5lbs, three pounds over the maximum allowance)
Diego Ferreira vs Anthony Pettis – lightweight bout
Maycee Barber vs Roxanne Modafferi – women’s flyweight bout
Andre Fili vs Sodiq Yusuff – men’s featherweight bout
Drew Dober vs Nasrat Haqparast – lightweight bout
Fight Pass Prelims
Grant Dawson vs Chas Skelly – men’s featherweight bout – FIGHT OFF
(Dawson pulled from card due to potential USADA violation)
JJ Aldrich vs Sabina Mazo – women’s flyweight bout
Askar Askarov vs Tim Elliott – men’s flyweight bout
Brian Kelleher vs Ode Osbourne – men’s bantamweight bout
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