Donald Cerrone will shoot for his fifth win of 2011 at UFC 141. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Lightweights Donald Cerrone (17-3, 4-0 UFC) vs. Nate Diaz (14-7, 9-5 UFC)
The Matchup: With 10 “Fight of the Night” bonuses between these two, this has all the makings of a crowd-pleasing classic. Cerrone has had one of the best years of anyone in mixed martial arts, and a win over Diaz -- potentially his fifth of 2011 -- would launch him to the forefront of any lightweight title discussion. One of the most entertaining fighters to come from the WEC, “Cowboy” seems to have corrected the tendency to start slow, which had previously plagued him in losses. In victories over Charles Oliveira and Dennis Siver, the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts product was the clear aggressor in earning a pair of first-round finishes.
Diaz is one of the sport’s “tweeners,” a talented fighter who cannot seem to decide if he is better suited for welterweight or lightweight. In the past, Diaz has been a game competitor at lightweight, dropping hard-fought split decisions to top contenders like Gray Maynard and Clay Guida. If his performance against Takanori Gomi at UFC 135 was any indication, Diaz should try to stick it out at 155 pounds. In that bout, the Stockton, Calif., native badly outclassed his opponent on the feet before finishing the contest with an armbar inside of a round.
As his career has progressed, Diaz’s standup has become more and more like that of his brother, Nick Diaz -- a high volume attack that allows him to land multiple combinations while somehow remaining at a safe distance. Cerrone figures to be more than willing to oblige when it comes to trading in the pocket, which should lead to some entertaining exchanges. Neither man has been finished by strikes, and that type of toughness can only increase the sense of daring in a high-octane slugfest. Cerrone, a former muay Thai national champion, hits harder and has the more varied offense, however. The Colorado native can mix head kicks and knees to keep Diaz off balance, while his low kicks have slowed many an opponent.
In the past, Diaz has been most vulnerable to the stylings of dominant wrestlers who could control the Cesar Gracie pupil from the top without exposing themselves to his crafty jiu-jitsu game. In Cerrone, Diaz finds himself with an adversary with a similarly dangerous ground game and distaste for wrestling. It should be noted that Cerrone’s wrestling has greatly improved in recent bouts, however, and being able to score a few takedowns could give him a slight edge in what could be an extended battle.
The Pick: Diaz will give Cerrone his money’s worth, but Cowboy should have enough answers both on the feet and on the mat to answer the challenge. Cerrone wins by unanimous decision.
Continue Reading » Next Fight: Jon Fitch vs. Johny Hendricks