In less than two weeks time, Alexander “The Great” Hernandez will be locked inside of the octagon with by far the toughest challenge of his career in Donald Cerrone. Not only will he be facing one of the biggest names in the sport, but he will also be tasked with welcoming Cerrone back to the lightweight division, who has competed as a welterweight since early 2016.
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It has been a fast rise for Hernandez, who is now 10-1. Since the astonishing finish of Beneil Dariush in his debut for the UFC in just 42 seconds, Hernandez competed in July again, facing Olivier Aubin-Mercier, a fight which he came out on top with a unanimous decision.
In terms of confidence, it seems like Hernandez is unmatched by anybody on the card. He has been very open on what he plans to do to his opponent on January 19th, saying that he will ‘completely merk’ Cerrone. Easier said than done, of course, but it is not completely unreasonable for Hernandez to believe in himself the way he does.
Hernandez came in as quite a sizable underdog in his promotional debut against Dariush. It was not unfair by any means, as Dariush was already an established contender in the division, having been competing against the best in the world for years prior. Regardless, it would be a fair statement to say that it was pleasantly shocking to see Hernandez get the job done in less than a minute against Dariush with a thunderous left hand.
Additionally, it would be worth noting that he was also the underdog against Aubin-Mercier, though not as big as he was against Dariush. Hernandez also came out on top against the Canadian as well, as previously mentioned, and now sits at #11 in the official rankings coming into his third fight for the promotion.
For the first time in his short UFC career, Hernandez is coming in as a favorite, which may be a surprise to some considering who he is facing. You may call it disrespectful to the career of Cerrone, but what it does is it simply shows the recognition that Hernandez has gotten in the short amount of time he had to prove it on the biggest stage of the sport.
Hernandez is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the division. We saw his ability to strike with power, and in his most recent bout, we saw his ability to mix it up with wrestling. With a couple of submission victories on the record, it doesn’t seem like Hernandez has any obvious ‘holes’ in his game to be worried about. In fact, there may even be some things that we have not seen yet out of him, which he will surely have the opportunity to show against a seasoned veteran in Cerrone.
Physically, Hernandez matches up well with Cerrone. Though a little shorter in height, he possesses a similar reach and is not majorly outsized in the matchup against a relatively big fighter for the division.
It is certainly no easy test for Hernandez, however, with a sharp game plan, it is very well possible that he can walk out of the octagon on the night with a win against Cerrone, who has been inconsistent at times.
What is at stake?
With the lightweight division arguably the most competitive in the UFC, Cerrone’s return to the division makes it all the more interesting for multiple reasons. Whether it’s for previous rivalries left unattended with Conor McGregor and others, or interesting matchups with multiple fighters, it is hard to imagine that the division will be the scapegoat for not enough entertainment anytime soon.
With all that being said, if Hernandez can prevail against Cerrone, especially in an impressive fashion, the future is nothing but bright for the young American. There will be plenty of great match ups in the future, which is not a worry at lightweight nowadays considering the talents that continue to flow in.
It is likely that with a win here, Hernandez will be entering the top 10 in the official rankings, and should that happen, it will fuel the fire that the division was already on, and possibly add another future contender for the champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who seems unbeatable at the moment.
Jaewon Paik is an MMA writer mainly contributing with editorials and feature articles. He is also a contributor at FanSided and CombatPress, and has formerly contributed over at MMALatestNews. He currently studies over at Ohio University.