Photo Courtesy of MMA Mania
John Heinis: Both of this exciting lightweight fighters look to rebound after losing decisions to two of the division's top title contenders.
Cerrone looked to surely be the next man to challenge for the UFC lightweight title after winning six in a row, but accepting five fights in one calender year proved to be a costly mistake, as he was picked apart by Nate Diaz at UFC 141.
Meanwhile, Stephens is a guy who can hang with just about anyone at 155 pounds but is still looking for a signature win to take him to the next level.
His loss to former WEC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis at UFC 136 is the type of fight fans are used to seeing when Stephens gets slightly edged by a top contender.
Stephens will have the edge in punching power, but Cerrone has the edge everywhere else.
Cowboy has more precise striking and a far superior submission game, so I don't see Stephens having anything more than a puncher's chance here.
Donald Cerrone via Round 2 submission (rear naked choke)
Scott Harris: The most interesting fight on the card in my opinion. It would be nice to see Cerrone get back to taking care of business in the cage before he started calling for rematches he's not going to get.
That leads this armchair psychologist to wonder if Nate Diaz is still in Cerrone's head.
In the cage, this is a matchup of toolboxes. Cerrone has a lot of different tools in his box. Stephens only has one: that big black hammer he attaches to his right hand before he heads down the aisle.
Cerrone's style is to engage, but he'll also have to move effectively, and he will probably want to get the fight horizontal at some point.
In short, if it's vintage Cerrone, Cerrone wins. If there's a Diaz hangover lingering, he could easily get caught.
Donald Cerrone via unanimous decision
Dwight Wakabayashi: Cerrone will be looking for a bounce back in this matchup against the always game and tough Stephens.
Cerrone was oringinally supposed to fight Yves Edwards in this one, and I see Stephens as a tougher matchup for him.
The power edge has to go to Stephens, and he has a chance to catch and hurt Cerrone. Stephens throws wildly at times, and look for Cerrone to be the more technically sound, straight up the middle puncher.
That brings us to Cerrone's dreaded leg kicks, the only weapon he used to any real success in his loss against Nate Diaz.
Cerrone should be able to mix up his kicks with his hands to keep Stephens guessing and on his heels all night, and that will set up a takedown and submission at some point.
Donald Cerrone via round 3 submission
Matt Juul: While 2011 may have ended on a sour note with his UFC 141 loss to Nate Diaz, Donald Cerrone will look to get his 2012 off on the right foot against Jeremy Stephens.
Cerrone has the edge over Stephens in the stand-up department and will likely frustrate "Lil' Heathen" with his hard hitting Muay Thai.
Stephens should press with take downs if he can't contend standing, but Cerrone's slick submissions will keep Stephens on the defensive.
In the end, Cerrone has the better overall tools and will finish Stephens as soon as he makes a mistake.
Donald Cerrone via round 1 submission