Donald Cerrone (19-5 1 NC, 6-2 UFC) vs. K.J. Noons (11-6, 0-0 UFC)
Cerrone and Noons meet in the opening bout of the main card as Cerrone welcomes Noons to the UFC for his debut. Cerrone is looking to get back into the title hunt after suffering a loss to Anthony Pettis at UFC On FOX 6 in January. Cerrone is 3-2 over his last five fights. Noons makes his debut in the Octagon after moving over from the Strikeforce promotion. Noons is on the hot seat as he moves over as he has gone just 1-4 over his last five fights, though his last loss was a highly-contested loss, to Ryan Couture in January.
Fight Breakdown: Cerrone has been on the cusp of challenging for the UFC Lightweight Championship on a couple of occasions, but losses have set him back a bit. He lost a decision to Nate Diaz in December 2011 to end a six-fight win streak, and after getting back into the title hunt with two wins, he suffered his very first knockout loss to Pettis in January. Noons, meanwhile, has fought better than his recent record shows. He bounced around between the EliteXC and Strikeforce promotions, winning the lightweight title in EliteXC and challenging Nick Diaz for the Strikeforce Welterweight Championship. He lost to Diaz convincingly, but his last two losses, to Couture and Josh Thomson, were close fights and he was very competitive in those bouts. Unlike many who are on a losing skid similar to Noons, he does debut in the UFC on a pay-per-view main card, and this is a solid piece of matchmaking as Cerrone and Noons are sure to bring fireworks to the Octagon.
There is no doubt that both men like to stand and exchange, and this will be a big battle on the feet. Cerrone has kickboxing experience, and he mixes his striking attack well, using punches, kicks and knees. He is a former muay Thai world champion, and his leg kicks are brutal and designed to wear down opponents. Noons has professional boxing experience and prefers to trade with his hands, and he does not have the overall striking attack that Cerrone does. He has tons of power, though, and if he can check the leg kicks that Cerrone will certainly be looking to land, he can possibly get on the inside of the pocket and land big punches from close range. Noons’ boxing technique is among the best in the sport, and he uses good footwork and feints to set up his striking attacks. Cerrone will be looking to counter Noons with his kicks, and he will mix it up and land those kicks to all parts of the body. Noons needs to be careful in getting in close range as well as Cerrone will make him pay with the knees.
Cerrone could look to mix it up and take the fight to the mat where he will have an extreme advantage over Noons. Cerrone is good with working from the top, and he can create transitions to move in for chokes, and he has some good submissions. However, Cerrone does tend to fight like he does not have a gameplan, and with a willing opponent to stand-and-bang, this one will be decided on the feet. Cerrone will be needing to utilize some sound footwork and keep Noons on the outside with leg kicks. Noons tends to wail and miss on uppercuts when he is outside of range, and Cerrone knows how to keep good distance. Cerrone has some power in his hands as well, shown in his knockout win over Melvin Guillard, and he can recover good when it trouble. Noons being primarily a puncher while Cerrone having a more versatile attack will prove to make the difference. Both men should be able to go the full distance with no problems, and it will likely come down to the judges. Cerrone will pick his spots, and perhaps mix in some takedowns and ground work, and he will take home the decision.
Why It Matters: Cerrone is all about fighting for money, and there is no more money to be made than fighting for and winning the championship. He needs a win to get back into that title picture, and his popularity among fans both for his personality and for his fighting style will keep him among the top of the lightweight division. He needs to win, though, and Noons is a worthy opponent to get Cerrone back on track.
Noons could be one-and-done in the UFC with a loss, and that would be a real shame if it were to happen as Noons is a very solid fighter despite his recent record. Noons could always score the upset, and certainly has the ability to do so, and a win would shoot him right up the ladder and show fans he is here to stay. A loss would hurt him, but he should get another fight if he were to lose. His last two losses were close, and a loss here could be close, but Noons has what it takes to have a sustained run in the UFC.
Tags: Donald Cerrone, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC, UFC 160