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Cowboy’s Last Stand? Donald Cerrone fights for his career in Poland



UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping has the distinction of the most wins is UFC history with twenty. Before he can go for his twenty-first in the biggest fight of his career against Georges St. Pierre next month, one fighter will attempt to tie Bisping’s record for a third straight fight.

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone has won nineteen fights in just six years with the UFC and with his entrance to Kid Rock’s “Cowboy”, electrifying fighting style, and hard-drinking, hard living lifestyle outside of the cage—he has emerged as one of the most popular fighters never to win a major title in MMA history. After two failed attempts to get that record tying twentieth win, Cerrone may be fighting for much more when he faces Darren Till this Saturday in the UFC’s second show in Poland. He may be fighting for his career.

After his last attempt to win a title ended with him crumpled on the mat at the hands and feet of then UFC lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos in December 2015, Cerrone rebuilt his career at welterweight with a monster 2016 that saw him win three straight Performance of the Night Awards in four fights.

First, in the Battle of the Cowboy’s, he choked out Alex Oliveira in the first round with a triangle in February. Then, he went to Canada where he’d outwrestled and outclass Patrick Cote in his home country in June, and followed that up with the most GIF’able knockout of 2016, destroying Rick Story with an incredible combination in August.

He closed out the year in December by engaging in a three-round war with Matt Brown, before finishing him off with a single head kick in the third round. A title shot looked to be right around the corner.

In the part of the world where myself and Cerrone both hail, one of the worst things you can do is be “Out Cowboy’ed.” It happened to former President George W. Bush when he ran for congress in West Texas in the early 1980’s. Painted as a Yankee by a more homegrown candidate, Bush vowed to never be Out Cowboy’ed again, and he rode that attitude all the way to the Presidency. So when the unheralded yet excellent Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal called Cowboy out, Cerrone wasn’t about to back down, especially if the fight happened in his hometown of Denver, Colorado.

But in the interviews leading up to the fight, Cerrone seemed unconcerned about the tough South Floridian, and instead seemed to be looking forward to a fight with welterweight champion Tyron Woodley or his then upcoming challenger, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. At the same time, the streetwise Masvidal  said on the “UFC Unfiltered” podcast of Cerrone, “I smell the bitch in him, I smell the ho in him.” Whatever Masvidal saw in Cerrone, the reality was that he was going into the fight without everything to gain, and Cowboy had everything to lose, being one or two wins away from the title shot and fighting in his hometown.

That night in January in Denver, Masvidal exploited Cerrone’s two main weaknesses—boxing on the inside and body shots. Masvidal outboxed the former US Muay Thai Champion, nearly finishing him at the end of the first. But the bell and Herb Dean could only save Cowboy for so long, and Masvidal finished Cerrone with a battery of body blows at the beginning of the second round, basking in the massive boos of a near riotous Mile High crowd. The reality of the situation is that Cowboy took a fight that he never should have taken, especially a mere seven weeks after his life or death war with Brown. To be frank, Cowboy out Cowboy’ed himself.

UFC President Dana White would do Cerrone some favors; first by sitting him down for the next six months, and then postponing his fight with former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler for a month so Cerrone could recover from a staph infection and a groin injury. Lawler and Cerrone finally threw down over three excellent rounds at UFC 214 in late July and while some (including myself) thought Cowboy did enough to win the fight, the decision went to the former champion.

Now, Cerrone will main event this week’s UFC Fight Pass card in Gdansk, Poland against undefeated British kickboxer Darren Till. Till will be in the main event for the first time in what is by far the most high-profile fight of his career. Till is (15-0-1, 3-0-1 in the UFC), but mostly unknown to American fight fans. That can all change with a win over Cowboy this Saturday. These two might actually be friends in another life, given they have similar fighting styles and Till, like Cowboy, has a history of getting into scraps outside the cage as well. Also like Cowboy, Till has shined in the dark, fighting only in Brazil and Europe. Cowboy has the second most wins in UFC history sure, but all his losses seem to come when the most is on the line.

Cerrone went 7-3 in the old WEC, and all his losses were in title fights, including two to Benson Henderson. Twice, against Nate Diaz and Anthony Pettis, Cerrone lost in fights that might have gotten him a title shot if he won. Cerrone won eight fights in eighteen months after his first loss to Dos Anjos, but when he finally got that rematch for the title on FOX, he didn’t even last a round. And then with everything on the line against Masvidal, he failed again. Is this what the crafty Masvidal saw in Cowboy? Can he only shine when the lights are a little dim?

Given this fight is in Poland and on Fight Pass, this might be just what Cowboy needs. But Till is younger, fresher, a little bigger, and undefeated. It could indeed be the final stand for this Cowboy.

Yet despite his two recent losses, Cowboy has become a more technical, more diverse fighter in the last two years, and he showed all of that in his close loss to Lawler. If Cerrone can apply all his skills, he might get that elusive twentieth win after all, and who knows how many after. Whatever happens, all eyes should be on Poland this Saturday.


UFC 249 has a long and adventurous story



UFC 249 was originally planned to take place on April 18th in New York but, due to the ongoing pandemic, governor Cuomo restricted mass gatherings and sports events, confining everyone to their homes, leaving them with little more to watch than reruns of old fights and perhaps Game Changers. UFC president Dana White then announced that the event was still on but the location will change. Later, it was announced that it will take place at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, California. ESPN and its parent company Disney didn’t like this, though, pressuring White to suspend the event for the time being – which he did. Finally, the event was rescheduled for May 9

Meanwhile, interesting news started circulating about a potential location for future UFC fight nights that, if it becomes a reality, might put an interesting spin on the world of mixed martial arts.

UFC Fight Island

Even before the issues with the event, White planned to arrange a brand new location where fight nights could be organized: a private island where athletes could train and fight.

“All the infrastructure is being built right now and getting put in place,” he told the press back in April. “As we get closer to that, then I’ll start figuring out booking fights, getting guys ready. Plus, I can ship guys over there earlier, and they can start training over there, on the island. So, once that’s all in place – we’re looking at like a month – I’ll have that all put together, and guys can start training and can go there.”

The UFC is serious about it: it has already registered several trademarks around the “UFC Fight Island” brand, covering several types of goods, services, even jewelry. 

When, and Where?

The “where” is still a mystery. Although he spoke repeatedly about the arrangements being made for athletes to be able to train and stay on the island, White has not revealed its location yet. Some theorize that it may be somewhere in international waters so it could serve as a place where international athletes could stay without restrictions, perhaps off the coast of California. But this is just a theory – all will probably be revealed in due time.

The “when” is a bit less vague: White told the press that UFC Fight Island will be operational by June. It will have amenities like an Octagon on the beach, and hotels for the fighters to be lodged at. And most importantly, it will allow international fighters to participate in fights, even with the pandemic-related travel restrictions still in place.

The idea of an island dedicated to fighting may sound familiar – it was the topic of the 2006 martial arts movie “DOA – Dead or Alive” and 2007’s “The Condemned”, among others. Let’s hope this one will have a happier ending.

As for UFC 249 ‘Ferguson vs. Gaethje’, that event will now take place at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. 

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What Justin Gaethje’s past fights tell us about his chances at UFC 249



It’s fair to say that Justin Gaethje has firmly taken up the role of underdog ahead of his clash with Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 on May 9th. The latest Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje betting offers present Ferguson as the clear favourite, after his opponent was drafted in at the last minute to replace Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is on lockdown in his home country of Russia. 

Gaethje is relatively inexperienced in the world of UFC, having fought just six times in the competition in the past. But his calibre from prior ventures in MMA, notably the World Series of Fighting, means that he is a fighter not to be trifled with, and while he won’t represent as formidable a challenge for Ferguson as Khabib would have, there is much to admire about the 31-year-old.

To understand fully Gaethje’s chances ahead of UFC 249, it’s important to analyse his performances in recent fights. Indeed, his past three bouts have resulted in impressive victories, with Gaethje winning Performance of the Night awards in two of those fights — against James Vick and Donald Cerrone respectively. 

But his UFC started off in disappointing fashion, with just one win from his first three fights. That victory came against Michael Johnson in the reality show The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption Finale, but from there he failed to gain a strong foothold in the championship. He suffered back-to-back defeats against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, including a knockout at the hands of the former, as he struggled to adapt to the competitive nature of the UFC.

Those defeats obviously shook Gaethje into life, because he has come roaring back in his last three fights, mustering up a trio of impressive performances to bring him to the level he finds himself at today, where UFC chief Dana White is drafting him to replace someone of the calibre of Khabib. 

The first of this trio of victories was a win over James Vick in August 2018, where Gaethje produced a fine display which silenced some of the doubters who had perhaps questioned his ability at the highest level. He won Performance of the Night for that one, and was then involved in the Fight of the Night the following March as he defeated Edson Barboza by knockout in Philadelphia. His most recent victory was a TKO triumph over UFC veteran Donald Cerrone in October last year, where Gaethje once again walked away with the Performance of the Night accolade. 

All three of his most recent wins have come via first round knockout or technical knockout, proof that Gaethje has the ability to overpower opponents in the opening stages of a fight. Of course, to do this against Ferguson will be a whole different ball game, as he is the most high-profile fighter Gaethje has faced so far, but perhaps the key lies in ensuring he comes out all guns blazing early on.

Gaethje’s Performance of the Night wins indicate that he is capable of producing a show-stopping performance on any given night. He is undoubtedly the underdog going into the fight against Ferguson, but with a few good wins now under his belt, who’s to say he can’t spring a surprise on May 9th and truly announce himself in the UFC. 

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UFC to provide a welcome sports fix for hungry fans



UFC 249 had promised to be a rare occasion of a sports event going ahead, but the April 18th showpiece ultimately fell victim to the coronavirus outbreak, and was cancelled. However, UFC chief Dana White is not one to be put out, and so came the recent announcement that there would be a series of UFC fight nights in May.

It’s a great chance for fans to see some sporting action, for fighters to keep in shape and perhaps make a name for themselves in these strange circumstances, and for people stuck in lockdown to have some alternative entertainment, something a bit different from Joe Wicks workouts or Zoom quizzes! Here, we look at why these UFC fight nights will be welcomed by so many people.

Live action

The sporting world has basically been at a standstill since the coronavirus pandemic has swept across the globe. It feels like an eternity ago that we were watching horse racing’s Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool’s exit from the Champions League, but the measures put in place by the government to protect the public meant that most events had to be cancelled. 

And so, the news that there will be some live sporting entertainment in the form of several UFC fight nights will give sports fans that much needed fix of live action. Sports nuts all over the world have been forced to make do with virtual championships and races, or with trawling the archives to reminisce on past sporting occasions, but now White and co. have brought some welcome live sporting action back to our screens.

Mouth-watering match-ups

Of course, these are not just any old fighters going head to head. Some of the best in the business will be battling it out, not least Tony Ferguson who takes on Justin Gaethje on May 9th. The Tony Ferguson odds have him as hot favourite for the bout, but Gaethje will be a man on a mission on fight night to prove he has what it takes to cause a stir at the highest level of the sport. 

May 9th sees two other interesting clashes, as Henry Cejudo takes on Dominick Cruz for the Bantamweight Championship, and Francis Ngannou meets Jairzinho Rozenstruik. The Cejudo vs Cruz fight features two men with similar records, and will therefore be an intriguing clash as both try and prove themselves on the big stage. Meanwhile, Rozenstruik will be trying to defend his 10-fight unbeaten record as he takes on Ngannou, and so there will be plenty on the line in that one.

A welcome distraction

Perhaps one of the key benefits of these fight nights is that they will provide a welcome distraction from the sad news and gloomy headlines we’ve all been reading in recent weeks. Sport has the power to unite people and spark a feel-good factor among the public.

Although the UFC may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s a chance for a lot of people to get to know a sport they perhaps wouldn’t have considered watching before, and few sports have to power to grip and entertain like mixed martial arts. Many people are craving a dose of live sporting action, and thanks to the UFC, that sporting fix is not too far away.

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