Evidence of Donald Cerrone’s handiwork was written all over the mangled face of Al Iaquinta, the latest victim of MMA’s Jack the Ripper.
The merciless Cerrone sharpened his blades for two rounds and then slashed away with sadistic aplomb, as he re-established himself as one of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s premier lightweights and blew past Iaquinta to a unanimous decision in the UFC Fight Night 151 main event on Saturday at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario. Scores were 49-45, 49-45 and 49-46.
Cerrone knocked down the Serra-Longo Fight Team standout twice, denied all five of his takedown attempts and overwhelmed him with a toxic blend of volume and skill. According to preliminary FightMetric data, “Cowboy” outperformed Iaquinta in terms of significant strikes by a 97-46 margin over the final three rounds and attacked the legs, body and head with ill intent. “Raging Al” bent but did not break, though there was no doubt as to who was the superior fighter when their 25 minutes together were up.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Iaquinta vs. Cowboy,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Donald Cerrone vs. Justin Gaethje: Whenever talk turns to matchmaking involving Cerrone, there are no wrong answers. “Cowboy” took direct aim at a certain former lightweight champion after he sent Iaquinta back to New York to convalesce and regroup, and while a showdown between them would be an undeniable blockbuster, it has grown increasingly difficult to get a read on exactly where Conor McGregor’s relationship with the UFC stands. The same cannot be said about Gaethje, a onetime World Series of Fighting titleholder who has cemented himself as one of the sport’s most violent competitors. If McGregor-Cerrone fails to materialize, “The Highlight” would serve as a nice consolation prize. Gaethje authored his second consecutive first-round knockout in the UFC on ESPN 2 main event, where he laid waste to Edson Barboza on March 30. His record now sits at 20-2.
Derek Brunson vs. Jared Cannonier-Anderson Silva winner: Brunson appears to have finally adopted some semblance of strategy, a biproduct perhaps of his recent decision to link arms with the Hard Knocks 365 camp. A three-time NCAA All-American wrestler, the 35-year-old North Carolinian largely neutralized Elias Theodorou with takedowns and clinches, as he took a unanimous decision from “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” winner in their three-round co-headliner at 185 pounds. Brunson swept the scorecards with 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 marks from the judges and closed the book on an irritating two-fight losing streak. Cannonier will lock horns with Silva in the UFC 237 co-main event on May 11 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Shane Burgos vs. Josh Emmett: In what can best be described as a passing-the-torch moment, Burgos laid claim to a unanimous decision over longtime contender Cub Swanson in their three-round featherweight feature. The Team Tiger Schulmann representative outlanded Swanson by narrow margins -- 134-129 in significant strikes and 147-132 in total strikes -- but appeared to connect with far more authority than the World Extreme Cagefighting veteran. Burgos now owns a 5-1 record in the UFC, a technical knockout loss to Calvin Kattar in January 2018 his only misstep. Emmett, 34, re-established his footing in the featherweight division with a stunning one-punch knockout of Michael Johnson at UFC on ESPN 2 in March.
Merab Dvalishvili vs. Eddie Wineland-Grigory Popov winner: His tenure having grown somewhat tenuous, Dvalishvili likely strengthened his position on the UFC roster with a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Brad Katona. All three cageside judges scored it 30-27. Dvalishvili surprised “The Ultimate Fighter 27” winner with takedowns, positional control and modest but effective ground-and-pound. While his performance may not have done much to move the needle at 135 pounds, it allowed the Serra-Longo Fight Team export to even his record at 2-2 inside the Octagon. Wineland will try to halt a two-fight losing streak when the former World Extreme Cagefighting champion meets Grigory Popov at UFC 238 on June 8 in Chicago.
Walt Harris vs. Greg Hardy: Hardy could not have scripted it any better. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound heavyweight needed less than a minute to do away with promotional newcomer Sergey Spivak, as he stopped the Moldovan prospect with knees and punches just 50 seconds into the first round. It was the third sub-minute finish of Harris’ career, and though he has yet to make significant waves in a heavyweight division starved for new blood, “The Big Ticket” remains an intriguing talent at 35 years of age. A disgraced former NFL All-Pro who has become one of the most polarizing figures in MMA, Hardy improved to 4-1 at UFC Fight Night 150, where he dispatched the woefully overmatched Dmitry Smoliakov with first-round punches. His degree of difficulty has to increase at some point.