Donald Cerrone needs to crush KJ Noons at UFC 160 if he wishes to stay relevant in the ever-deepening lightweight division.
For "Cowboy," this matchup is potentially disastrous—Noons is a sensational striker with relatively little fan following outside hardcore MMA circles—and a loss would completely eliminate him from the upper echelon of the 155-pound ranks.
Previously a premier fighter in one of the promotion's most stacked divisions, Cerrone's momentum is at an all-time low. After some serious tough talk before his bout with Anthony Pettis at UFC on Fox 6, Cerrone collapsed in a heap of liver-kick-induced paralysis after just two-and-a-half minutes of action.
Such is the story of Donald Cerrone.
Every time he puts himself in a position to fight for the title, to seize his loftiest ambitions, he falters...badly.
Before Pettis, there was a horrendous, lopsided unanimous-decision loss to Nate Diaz at UFC 141 in a bout to determine the next lightweight title challenger. Even earlier, Cerrone suffered a trio of losses inside the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) cage—two to current UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson and one to Jamie Varner.
Three title bouts, three losses.
Now, Cerrone's UFC 160 matchup against Noons is not a title fight (and not even a title eliminator), but it is every bit as important as a championship bout to him at this point in his career.
"Cowboy" needs to rehab his image; he needs to recapture his former glory as one of the division's most fearsome strikers.
Pettis and Diaz each marred this reputation, and Noons is exactly the stylistic matchup that could completely detach Cerrone from the "excellent kickboxer" descriptor he so proudly carries.
On the flip side, a dominant win against Noons would re-establish Cerrone as the terrifying striker of old.
Commentators Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg will undoubtedly heap praise upon Noons' striking expertise, and rightly so. For his faults as a mixed martial artist, Noons packs serious power and technique in his punches and kicks, and if Cerrone can best his foe on the feet, he will make a serious statement that he is back, and he is every bit as scary as previously thought.
Should he fail to deliver on the big stage again, however, Cerrone will tumble to the bottom of a loaded division—a division which may no longer provide a job for a "Cowboy."
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