A pivotal matchup in the lightweight division is part of a stacked main card at UFC on FOX 11. In what could easily be the co-main event on any card, and possibly the headlining event as well, Donald Cerrone meets Edson Barboza in a clash that will send one of these guys towards the very top of the division. Cerrone last disposed of Adriano Martins with a headkick KO in the first round, while Barboza won a tough decision over Danny Castillo.
Edson Barboza (13-1 overall, UFC)
Strengths: Leg. Kicks.
Weaknesses: Relatively untested
Donald Cerrone (22-6 overall, UFC)
Strengths: Elite striker, sneaky subs, crafty fighter
Weaknesses: Striking defense, financial management
Fight Breakdown – This one has fireworks written all over it. Donald Cerrone has never been one to shy away from a fight, sometimes to his detriment. When he’s able to beat the guy to the punch, it serves him well, but against guys like Anthony Pettis and Nate Diaz, it was disastrous. Cerrone is skilled enough to beat 80-90% of the guys in the division. If he fought with the same level of tactics as he does with his machismo, he probably would have earned a title shot by now. Barboza is one an entertaining, dynamic striker with absolutely vicious kicks. Put these two together and you have a hell of a clash.
Barboza has some of the nastiest leg kicks in the business, if not the most damaging period. He must have some kind of record for fights stopped by leg kicks. Yes, you read that right. Not headkick KO’s or a kick to the liver. Leg kicks. He has kicked his opponent’s legs and damaged them so badly that they are unable to continue fighting and the ref had to step in. So what’s he going to do against a fellow kickboxer who likes to stand and trade? Bet the farm he’s going to utilize leg kicks to the fullest extent possible.
Cerrone has to make that priority number one and do whatever, whatever it takes to avoid eating too many of them. If that means locking up, clinching, slowing things down and turning it into a grappling match, so be it. Cerrone is capable of winning a fight in that way, but his striking will be completely neutralized if Barboza gets to tee off on those quads, knees and thighs whenever he wants. In fact, not only does Cowboy have to check and avoid the leg kicks, he has to avoid all kicks period. Barboza lays claim to one of the single greatest KO finishes in MMA history with that wheel kick knockout of Terry Etim. Cerrone does not want to be another addition to Barboza’s highlight reel.
While Barboza is dangerous with his legs, Cowboy is also no slouch when it comes to the leg work. He’s a savvy striker and sets up big shots well. He’s not the most explosive or dangerous guy, but he can more than hold his own. Cerrone is very well rounded though and goes for submissions more than pounding guys out. If he tags Barboza and gets him in defensive mode, Barboza has to be very wary of keeping his guard and not getting caught in a bad spot. Cerrone will pounce and sink in a choke from any angle, be it a simple rear naked or a leg triangle. Barboza will have to worry about Cerrone’s strikes as well as submission attempts, while Cerrone will have to contend with Barboza mainly on the feet.
Key to Victory: Can Cerrone keep his pride in check?
Make no mistake about it. Cowboy is a proud fighter and doesn’t want to show fear or back down from anyone. Again, against most guys it’s enough, but truly elite fighters will exploit that and use it against him. He tried to outbox Nate Diaz, a guy who was clearly a better boxer. Anthony Pettis has devastating body kicks, and standing in front of him is just asking for trouble.
Barboza has proven power in his striking and his leg kicks are really something to behold. Crazy as it sounds, Cerrone could pull a Van Damme a la Bloodsport semi-finals and stand and trade with Barboza to see who can give and take more. Cerrone has a ton of talent and skill, but if his head isn’t in the right place, Barboza is going to own him. Checking those leg kicks will take a lot of Barboza’s effectiveness away and give him that much more of an edge. Continuing to ignore the damage those kicks cause will spell his doom.
Why It Matters – The title picture at Lightweight isn’t as crowded as it seems. Now that Pettis is champion, everything is open, but there isn’t a clear pecking order as to who gets next dibs. We saw a reshuffling of fights until it was finally settled that Melendez and Pettis would coach TUF against each other, but with Pettis constantly getting hurt, we may inevitably see an interim title created. Cerrone and Barboza are both a win or two away from being thrown right into the mix. Barboza is looking for that marquee, big name win and Cerrone is it. A win over him and he gets into that top 6-7 category and makes a case to compete with guys for a title shot.
Cerrone has always been there. He’s like the Michael Bisping of the lightweight division, always hanging around, beating lesser competition and many times spectacularly. But he can’t quite get that last fight or two that earns him a title shot. He’s also got a ton of charisma and the fans like him, which helps to sell fights and cards, but he has to string together that win streak that just can’t be ignored. He has to keep his momentum rolling and show that he’s not just a good fighter, but one of the best. He’s on a great streak now and if he brings his A-game come Saturday, it should keep on rolling.
Prediction – Cerrone
Tags: Donald Cerrone, Edson Barboza, UFC on Fox 11