Heading into the co-main event of UFC 141 between Donald Cerrone and Nate Diaz, much has been made of the trash talk and mind games that might be taking place between the two lightweight standouts. That might not be as much of a factor as people think, and the skills of both competitors will come into play more than anything later tonight on the pay-per-view event.
Cerrone (17-3) is primarily known as a stand-up fighter, but he does have an active guard if he ends up on his back. This helps him execute his stand-up better because of his ability to throw kicks without the fear of ending up on his back and not having an answer. His muay-thai skills can be backed up with a 28-0-1 kickboxing record.
With Greg Jackson in his corner, the "Cowboy" will have a gameplan that keeps him fighting smart and not letting emotions get the better of him. He can't let his concentration slip for a moment in this fight, and it may cost him a victory if he does.
Diaz brings an overall 14-7 record to the Octagon, with all five of his UFC losses having come by decision. Of his nine UFC wins, eight have come by knockout or submission. Most of his fights have been closely-contested and fan-friendly, and this one promises to be more of the same. Several of his losses have been controversial, with the Cesar Gracie Team fighter spending the majority of his bouts on bottom and working for submissions. With no favorable impression left in the judges' eyes, many of the decisions went to his opponent.
Cerrone's last defeat saw him get submitted with a guillotine choke by Benson Henderson in the very first round. That loss was followed with six consecutive victories, including four in the UFC. Diaz's best way of winning this bout will come by submission, and that is one of the biggest questions fan have heading into the bout for Cerrone.
Standing, both know how to use their distance, but Diaz isn't a stranger to leaving his chin out in the open. He often taunts his opponents by sticking his chin out and dropping his hands. If he does this against Cerrone, expect to see quick counters and possibly a couple knockdowns. This might be where Diaz is the most dangerous, and an anxious Cerrone may leave himself open for submission if he follows his opponent to the mat looking for the finish.
When Cerrone wants to, he should be able to get the fight to the mat, and that's where he will be at his best, and possibly, the most threatened. As long as he can defend the dangerous guard of Diaz, he should be able to win a decision with top control and utilizing his counter-punching ability when the fight is standing.
Diaz will be looking for submissions from the bottom, but the clock has always been his biggest enemy, and it most likely will be again here.
If Diaz is to emerge as the loser in this bout, it probably won't seem like it when the fight is all said and done.