UFC 141: 7 Reasons Nate Diaz Will Stop the Donald Cerrone Hype Train
In the co-main event at the UFC's year-end celebration pay-per-view, fast-rising lightweight contender Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone will take on the always dangerous Nate Diaz.
This UFC 141 matchup has the potential to be the Fight of the Year with both expected to excite the fans and bring the action to their opponent.
If Cerrone is to escape this trap game with little to no damage to his reputation, he is going to need to overcome these seven obstacles.
Cerrone's Lack of Big Fight Success
Over his career of 21 professional fights, Cerrone has been one of the headlines on five different occasions with a record of 2-3.
Though many of those fights have been razor close, Cerrone has yet to show that he can rise to the occasion and take control.
This will be his first true test with high expectations in the UFC. By contrast, this will be Diaz's fifth time headlining a UFC card; his record is 2-2.
Both fighters have given UFC lightweight contenders a run for their money. Cerrone took on Benson Henderson twice, and Diaz fought Gray Maynard, Clay Guida and Melvin Guillard.
The final and most important factor is that we have never seen Diaz come out and lay an egg in a big fight like Cerrone did in his rematch against Henderson.
Some say that loss can be attributed to Cerrone's style of taking every fight, which led to him being worn out. And that leads me to my next point...
This Will Be Cerrone's Fifth Fight of 2011
To his credit, Cowboy has always been the type of fighter who is willing to step in and fight anyone on short notice, and take the fight to them.
This leads not only to happiness among his bosses, but also the opportunity to rise quickly through the ranks.
However, the most obvious downside to being active and taking every fight offer is that it can wear down a fighter's body and keep him from allowing his body to properly heal.
When Cerrone enters the octagon for UFC 141, it will be his fifth fight of 2011 and sixth fight in the last 55 weeks. It will also be his shortest gap between fights, 62 days, since his 13-day gap between his first and second pro MMA fights.
Diaz has also piled up the fights, totaling over 51 pro fights (kickboxing and MMA combined) in under 10 years of being a pro. Even at 28 years old, the toll of the battles has got to be adding up.
One of the first things to go when you are tired and/or over-trained is my next reason Diaz will stop Cerrone.
Cerrone's Striking Won't Be a Significant Advantage
Standing six-feet tall, Cerrone is often the taller of the two fighters in the cage and uses his superior skill and reach to batter his opponents.
However, at UFC 141 he will be facing a foe who stands just as tall, has an even longer reach and possesses striking skills among the best in the 155-pound division.
When looking at Cerrone's MMA record, you see that he has only faced two fighters with striking skills as great as his own, Anthony Njokuani and Dennis Siver.
However, when you look more closely, Cerrone used other aspects of his game to defeat them.
Against fellow MMA newcomer Njokuani, Cerrone used his superior wrestling to control the action, and against pint-sized Siver, he used his superior reach to batter the German from distance.
In Diaz you have one of the most skilled boxers in the world, a man who has yet to lose a striking battle.
His losses can be attributed to his opponent either being a better takedown artist, inexperience or just losing a razor-thin decision.
I expect Diaz to keep the fight standing, using his boxing to slowly batter Cerrone while taking his best shots, thanks to his very solid chin.
Cerrone's next course of action will be to get in some ground and pound, but only if he can overcome the next reason he's doomed.
Cerrone Has Never Taken Down a Fighter Like Diaz
For all of his well-roundedness, Cerrone has never taken down a fighter with the level of takedown defense that Diaz has.
In fact, Diaz has never been prone to takedowns by anyone, except the top takedown artists in the division.
Cerrone has fought two high-level fighters with wrestling backgrounds, going a combined 1-3 in two fights against both Benson Henderson and Jamie Varner.
He was not dominated in either fight, but rather controlled, because he could not dictate where the fight took place, which took away his aggressiveness.
Diaz is a fighter who naturally possesses great takedown defense, falling only to the best of the best.
Only double-leg takedown experts Joe Stevenson, Guida and Maynard as well as hip-tossers Dong Hyun Kim and Rory MacDonald have controlled where Diaz fought.
In this battle of wills, there could possibly be a time where Cerrone gets Diaz down on on his back only to find out yet another dangerous reason he'll lose.
Nate Diaz and His Always Dangerous Back Attack
If the UFC 141 co-main event does hit the ground, both fighters will feel that they are at an advantage.
But at a closer look, UFC veteran Diaz will be the most comfortable having fought at victory from both on top as well as from his back.
By contrast, Cerrone does possess great ground and pound, but lacks high-level experience when placed on his back.
Underdog Diaz is one of the highest level BJJ brown belts in MMA today, having trained under Cesar Gracie and rolled with fellow BJJ experts Nick Diaz and Jake Shields.
Diaz has also shown in all his fights that when he is taken down, he will not go on the defensive, but just the opposite.
Diaz's guard is one of the most active in the 155-pound division, often punching his opponent just as much to try to create openings for a submission victory.
On the other hand, Cerrone does possess finishing skills on the ground with a surprising 12 of his 17 victories coming by way of submission. However, he has never rolled on the ground with someone as skilled as Diaz and won from his back.
Cerrone has often used his striking and wrestling to control the action and keep himself out of harm's way.
He will need to be careful while in Diaz's guard to not be too active; Cerrone is an aggressive ground and pounder, leaving himself open to attack from BJJ ace Diaz.
Some will argue that Diaz has fought from his back often because he has failed against powerful 155-pound division wrestlers, which leads me to the next reason that Cerrone will fall.
Nate Diaz Is a Great Fighter at 155
People forget that before Diaz's run of four fights in the welterweight division (a division he was way too small for), he had developed himself into a legit contender in the lightweight division.
On paper, his 1-3 record before jumping to 170 is proof that he can't handle the best. But, in fact, it proves quite the opposite—that Diaz is one of the best 155ers in the UFC.
For Diaz, this is yet another opportunity to delay a fighter's rise to a title shot and, instead, kick start his own yet again.
In his last fight before the jump to 170, Diaz fought then-projected No. 1 contender Maynard (with Maynard being told a win meant a title shot against then UFC lightweight champ BJ Penn).
While Maynard did win the fight, it was such an ugly and close split decision that Maynard was pushed aside for little known Frankie Edgar, a man that Maynard had defeated not long before.
The rest, as they say, is history. Diaz went 2-2 at 170, Edgar won the lightweight title from Penn and defended it against Maynard twice in an epic trilogy.
While Diaz has shown to always fight close, competitive fights, if a couple decisions had fallen his way, we may be talking about Diaz as a young man who got a title shot.
Instead, we are talking about his rightful return to 155 to face up-and-comer Cerrone.
Cerrone has defeated fellow contender Siver, though his rise was not built on solid ground, while falling to current UFC lightweight title challenger Henderson twice.
This leads to my final and most damning point predicting the end of the Cerrone hype train.
The Curse of the Lightweight No. 1 Contender
First it was Evan Dunham, then George Sotiropoulos, followed by Anthony Pettis, Jim Miller, Guillard, Siver and ending with Guida.
In the last calendar year, each of these men have been on the cusp of getting a title shot against UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar.
However, each has fallen to an undervalued foe, looking to kick-start his own candidacy.
But put quite simply, Cerrone has shown that when he fights a fighter as well-rounded as himself, he cannot find a way to victory.
The lack of an obvious weakness and flaw in Diaz will mean that the usually aggressive Cowboy will be more calculated, which will lead to the always attacking Diaz taking the three-round decision victory and climbing toward the top of the UFC's 155-pound division.