Donald Cerrone has compiled a 7-3 record in the UFC. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Has it really been 20 years since that lanky Brazilian kid jumped into an eight-sided cage and changed everything?
The Ultimate Fighting Championship may not legally be able to celebrate the occasion with a beer, but that does not mean the Human Cockfighting Super Show is going to simply hide in its room alone and play “Bad Dudes” while its 20th birthday comes and goes. On the contrary, UFC officials have planned quite a night the violence addicts, many of whom will flock to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday to catch UFC 167 in person.
Though not promoted as heavily as December’s UFC 168, this pay-per-view is nevertheless an offering worthy of its historic significance. Headlined by a welterweight title showdown between Georges St. Pierre and Johny Hendricks, the roster is filled with good stuff from top to bottom. Prior to the main card broadcast, the show’s preliminary draw airs live on Fox Sports 1 and Facebook.
Here are five reasons to scope the undercard:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC 167 Free Fan Pick’Em
How can you not love Donald Cerrone? Simply put, the guy is one of the UFC’s most entertaining competitors, through both the peaks and valleys.
Cerrone dramatically improved his takedown defense in 2010 and used the upgraded skill to begin his UFC run with four straight wins. “Cowboy” even looked like a title shot might be in his future until Nate Diaz busted him up in his fifth and final fight of 2011. Cerrone then aggravated an old motocross injury, in which the lightweight “kind of spilled [his] guts out” after wrecking his bike. Two weeks before his fight with Jeremy Stephens, “Cowboy” was taken to the ER, and doctors flushed him full of water in an effort to get his intestines to unspin from around his stomach, prompting coach Greg Jackson to -- quite sanely -- ask him to drop out of the bout. Cerrone not only fought but dismantled Stephens over 15 dominant minutes.
A come-from-behind knockout of former teammate Melvin Guillard came next, but Cerrone then suffered two losses in his next three fights, sustaining a knockout to future champion Anthony Pettis before dropping a unanimous decision to Rafael dos Anjos in August. Though Cerrone came alive in the third round against dos Anjos, his slow-starting tendencies cost him the first two rounds and, ultimately, a victory.
“Cowboy” will now do battle with another fan favorite in Evan Dunham. This one has “Fight of the Night” written all over it, and the implications for both men are serious. You would be wise to watch.
Dunham Not Done
In Dunham, Cerrone faces a man cut from a similar cloth.
I do not recall ever seeing Dunham in a bad fight, even in defeat. Were it not for a pair of lousy judges’ verdicts against Sean Sherk and dos Anjos, the Oregon native would own a 9-2 Octagon record. As it stands, a promotional ledger of 7-4 -- especially given the competition Dunham has faced -- is nothing at which to sneeze.
Dunham may possess the same type of grit as his upcoming opponent, but the southpaw rarely has difficulty with starting slowly. Much like former foe T.J. Grant, the 31-year-old is not the most athletic horse in the lightweight race, but his well-roundedness and conditioning are both top-notch, empowering Dunham to put forth consistently riveting performances.
A victory over a fighter the caliber of Cerrone would prove to be a boon for Dunham, who hopes to avoid a third loss in his last four fights. Will he get the job done?
The younger brother of UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, the 20-year-old has never been beaten and rides a nine-fight winning streak into his promotional debut. While the hype surrounding Pettis is difficult to ignore, it did not come about by accident and is certainly not just the result of his last name; far from it, actually.
Pettis may own five first-round stoppages, but he has also seen his heart and desire tested. For instance, Pettis struggled against the length of Jimmy Jones last year and ate more than a few crisp shots over the course of 15 minutes. However, the Milwaukee native stayed focused and managed to gut out a unanimous decision to keep his perfect record intact. Dominant wins on the local scene are great, but I am even more encouraged by such a gritty performance, because Pettis will surely face that type of adversity at some point in the big leagues.
Originally scheduled to face injured British competitor Vaughan Lee, Pettis will instead battle the returning Will Campuzano. Can Pettis kick off his UFC career impressively or will the veteran hand him something he has never seen before?
Get Back, ‘Goyito’
Erik Perez has been through some stuff this year.
A bantamweight prospect as promising as they come, “El Goyito” saw his rise in the UFC derailed by a serious staph infection that put him in the hospital in April. Depressed by the major setback, Perez reportedly turned to food for comfort before his mother set him straight with a stern pep talk and put him back on track.
The 23-year-old returned to the Octagon in August but was outpointed by the always-game Takeya Mizugaki, who edged the native Mexican in a hard-fought split decision at UFC Fight Night 27; the defeat snapped an eight-fight winning streak for the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts rep.
“El Goyito” will now meet the hard-swinging Edwin Figueroa. Can Perez get back into the win column or will “El Feroz” halt a two-fight skid at Perez’s expense?
Rick Story has been caught in a quagmire.
After beginning his Octagon career with six wins in his first seven fights, including decision wins over former title contender Thiago Alves and current No. 1 contender Johny Hendricks, Story has lost four of his last six bouts.
Although the southpaw’s losses have by no means come against subpar competition, this is hardly the fate I envisioned for the Washingtonian when he was riding high three years ago. “The Horror” last competed in May, stepping up on six weeks’ notice to replace an injured Gunnar Nelson against Mike Pyle. Despite Story flooring the veteran in the opening frame of their UFC 160 contest, Pyle managed to survive and drag his fatigued foe into the third round, where he did enough to earn a split decision on the judges’ scorecards.
Now paired with another veteran competitor in Brian Ebersole, Story hopes to right his ship and avoid his third loss in his last four fights. Can he halt his slide and regain a measure of consistency?