Donald Cerrone again proved all the doubters wrong when he defeated Al Iaquinta at UFC Fight Night 151 on Saturday night. Now experiencing a career resurgence at the age of 36, a couple of clear trends are emerging for “Cowboy.”
Cerrone has won all three of his last fights despite entering the cage as an underdog. He’s also undefeated since becoming a father on June 29, 2018. In the UFC Fight Night 151 post-fight broadcast, Michael Bisping shared some insight into how becoming a father may have increased Cerrone’s motivation and fueled these inspired performances.
“It’s all well and good when you’re out there trying to please yourself, but when you have something else to fight for, it’s a very powerful motivator. I have three children, that’s what fueled me. He has a son, he wants to set a legacy. He wants to stack as much money, leave a legacy and leave some money for his family.”
Plugging the holes
It’s amazing to think that one of Donald Cerrone’s best-ever performances came at the age of 36 and in his 47th fight. Cerrone’s strengths and weaknesses are well documented; he’s superb when fighting at medium-to-long range, where he can utilize his kicking techniques and mix combinations of strikes to the head and body. However, one of Cerrone’s greatest downfalls has always been when he is pressured, trapped, and forced to fight at close range.
Rafael dos Anjos expertly pressured Donald Cerrone after hurting him with a body kick in the opening minute of their bout in December 2015. After closing the distance, dos Anjos launched a seemingly never-ending combination of strikes and smothered Cerrone with punches before eventually finishing him with ground and pound.
Darren Till stalked Cerrone from the opening seconds and overloaded him with feints before eventually picking him apart with strikes right down the middle of Cerrone’s wide guard.
However, we’re now starting to see a ton of small, but significant changes in Cerrone’s game. Firstly, he’s becoming all the more aware of the importance of managing distance. Knowing that it’s near-impossible to add agile footwork and evasive ability to his game at this point of his career, Cerrone has focused on developing techniques that can help to reset distance or, even better, punish his opponent for stepping in.
— UFC (@ufc) May 5, 2019
One example is when Iaquinta managed to step inside and close the distance early in the fight on Saturday night, “Cowboy” reached out with both hands and shoved him with force, effectively removing himself from the ever-dangerous boxing range. We also saw Cerrone’s remarkable intercepting knee on occasion against Iaquinta. Cerrone used this technique to great effect against Alexander Hernandez in January, damaging him with hard knees to the body every time he stepped in to pressure Cerrone.
But one of the most noticeable changes on Saturday night was Cerrone’s jab and his willingness to let it fly. Rather than merely submitting to a defensive approach that relies on resets and reactions, Cerrone took the lead and flicked out his surprisingly fast jab over and over again. His constant work to Iaquinta’s face had him bloodied and bruised only a few minutes into the contest.
Leg kicks were another important factor in this main event bout. “Cowboy” repeatedly tagged the inside lead leg of Iaquinta and had tallied up 34 leg strikes by the end of five rounds.
— UFC (@ufc) May 5, 2019
Who’s next for Donald Cerrone?
After his impressive victory over Alexander Hernandez to start the year, Donald Cerrone was immediately linked to a bout with Conor McGregor – a fight that many fans would have loved to see. Although Cerrone vs. McGregor didn’t eventuate, Cerrone jumped at the opportunity to call out “The Notorious” again after defeating Al Iaquinta. In his post-fight interview with Michael Bisping, Cerrone declared:
“I want the title. Whatever that means, man. Unless, Conor McGregor, you want to fight me in July. Fourth of July, let’s do it.”
Cerrone’s win over Iaquinta should see him slide into the top #5 of the UFC’s lightweight rankings, fitting him in directly behind Conor McGregor and further back than Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier and current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
As for the chances of a fight with McGregor, UFC executive David Shaw weighed-in by saying “all bets are off.”
UFC Fight Night 151 Results
- Donald Cerrone def. Al Iaquinta via unanimous decision
- Derek Brunson def. Elias Theodorou via unanimous decision
- Shane Burgos def. Cub Swanson via split decision
- Merab Dvalishvili def. Brad Katona unanimous decision
- Walt Harris def. Sergey Spivak via KO/TKO (knees and punches) – R1, 0:50
- Andrew Sanchez def. Marc-André Barriault via unanimous decision
- Macy Chiasson def. Sarah Moras via KO/TKO (ground and pound) – R2, 2:22
- Vince Morales def. Aiemann Zahabi via unanimous decision
- Nordine Taleb def. Kyle Prepolec via unanimous decision
- Matt Sayles def. Kyle Nelson via submission (arm-triangle choke) – R3, 3:16
- Arjan Bhullar def. Juan Adams via unanimous decision
- Cole Smith def. Mitch Gagnon via unanimous decision
Jake Nichols is The Body Lock's Editor in Chief. Previously, he was the MMA Editor at RealSport.