In late 2011, Donald Cerrone had a six-fight win streak snapped as he was pummeled by Nate Diaz for three rounds. It was a fight that saw him outworked by the Stockton, Calif., slugger, who simply threw and landed more punches.
After the bout, Cerrone talked on Pro MMA Radio (via Adam Guillen Jr. at MMA Mania), declaring that he had an “off night” and wasn’t fighting the way he normally fights.
Now, after winning three of his last four fights, Cerrone looks like he’s back in prime form. His kicks are better than ever and he’s imposing his will just like he did when he was at the top of his game in 2010-2011.
Despite all of this, I can’t help but wonder if he’s improved enough to win a rematch against Diaz. Cerrone was in top form the last time they fought and his style proved to match up poorly against Diaz.
That night at UFC 141, Cerrone got beat up by straight punches in volume. He kicked the legs out from Diaz many times, but he was the fighter taking most of the damage and it showed on his face.
Going into the fight, it seemed like Cerrone had more ways to win a stand-up fight. He was good with his hands and his kicks were a cut above most, including Diaz.
Now, over two years removed from their last fight, Diaz is in a bit of a slump and Cerrone looks to be on the upswing.
Could now be a good time for him to call out Diaz and try to settle the score?
The answer is probably “no.” Even with Cerrone looking as good as he does now, there are still some fundamental advantages Diaz holds over him.
In their last bout, Cerrone kicked the legs out of Diaz several times, yet not once did he try to press the advantage by following Diaz to the ground. That in itself is a clear indicator of where a rematch would take place.
Part two would likely be a continuation of part one—both men standing up, trying to bomb each other into unconsciousness.
It’s hard to reconcile why Cerrone didn’t do better in their last fight, given that other fighters who have been able to land kicks to the legs of Diaz have done well against him. In fact, there has really been no one before or after Cerrone that has been as successful in this regard against Diaz.
And he still couldn’t do anything with it. It was like kicks were all he had; given that Diaz never had to defend himself on the ground, he was able to pop back up and put the pressure on Cerrone, winning the fight with a limited arsenal of punches alone.
Granted, there was speculation that Cerrone suffered a jaw injury prior to the fight, which would explain why he was so reluctant to slug it out. However, Diaz landed his significant strikes at a staggering 66 percent connect rate; that kind of pressure is going to put anyone on their heels.
Unless Cerrone is willing to come at Diaz with a mixed bag that includes a ground attack and punches, he’s going to be in another fire-fight with a high-volume puncher who knows how to string his shots together very well.
There has always been a brave, gritty bravado about Cerrone that is incredibly entertaining and admirable. He wants to be “the boss” in the cage, pure and simple—attacking his opponents where they are weakest or looking for easy points via anything that could even be remotely construed as lay-and-pray goes against his grain in a painful manner.
With that kind of attitude, it seems a given that his loss to Diaz still eats at him. He was talking about calling out Diaz for a rematch in 2012 but nothing really came of it.
Now, he’s got some momentum once again, and another run at the title is not out of the question. Both men are healthy and need a fight; considering that their last bout won Fight of the Night honors, a rematch may happen this year.
If it does, Cerrone will get a chance to settle the score, but he’s going to have to bring more than just his kicks into the cage with him.
Otherwise, he’s going to have to deal with the fact that the style and punches of Diaz were the cause of his second “off night.”
And probably many sleepless nights thereafter.