The Complete Guide to UFC on Fox 17: Dos Anjos vs. Cerrone IIDecember 16, 2015
The Complete Guide to UFC on Fox 17: Dos Anjos vs. Cerrone II
More than two years after their first fight, Donald Cerrone and Rafael dos Anjos meet again on Saturday at UFC on Fox 17 with the lightweight title on the line.
Dos Anjos edged Cerrone on points in August 2013 in a clear but competitive fight, and outside of a setback against stifling Dagestani Khabib Nurmagomedov, has looked unstoppable on his four-fight winning streak which culminated in a demolition of Anthony Pettis to win the lightweight title. For his part, Cerrone has won eight in a row since the loss to dos Anjos to set up a highly anticipated rematch.
Their first fight was entertaining, and given both fighters' improvements and the higher stakes on the line, the second should be even better.
The rest of the card is as stacked as a UFC on Fox card gets. Junior dos Santos takes on Alistair Overeem in the co-main event more than three years after the two men were first scheduled to meet at UFC 146; while there's no heavyweight title on the line, this is a matchup that fans have dreamt about for a long time.
Nate Diaz returns to action against the rising Michael Johnson in a matchup of elite lightweights, and in the main-card opener Randa Markos draws Poland's Karolina Kowalkiewicz in a crackling strawweight battle.
The preliminary card is outstanding as well. Charles Oliveira welcomes Myles Jury to 145 pounds in the Fox Sports 1 main event. Josh Samman takes on Tamdan McCrory in a slick middleweight fight and The Ultimate Fighter 21 winner Kamaru Usman draws England's Leon Edwards in a matchup of highly regarded welterweight prospects.
This card is well worth the viewer's time. Let's take a look at each matchup.
The Fight Pass Prelims
Luis Henrique (8-1, 1 N/C; 0-0 UFC) vs. Francis Ngannou (5-1; 0-0 UFC)
Debuting heavyweights meet in a potentially fun curtain-jerker. Henrique is a native of Brazil and boasts a potent but defensively porous striking game along with solid wrestling and grappling skills. Ngannou, one of the UFC's few French fighters, is mostly an athlete at this point but works behind a nice jab and has a solid clinch game.
Henrique is probably more skilled but the Frenchman is a much better athlete, so the pick is Ngannou by knockout in the first round.
Hayder Hassan (6-2; 0-1 UFC) vs. Vicente Luque (7-5-1; 0-1 UFC)
The Ultimate Fighter 21 veterans Hassan and Luque clash in a low-level welterweight bout. Hassan, a member of American Top Team, was a finalist on the show but lost a one-sided bout in the finale to Kamaru Usman. Luque, a Blackzilians product, lost on the same show to Michael Graves.
Hassan is a puncher, pure and simple. He has dynamite in his hands and generally works fast, but he isn't a particularly skilled wrestler. Luque is mostly a striker, and a crisp one with a slick repertoire of punch-kick combinations, though he also has a solid front headlock and chokes in transition.
This should be a banger, and it pits Hassan's power against Luque's clean, high-output combination game. Luque is tough and should be able to take Hassan's punch, so the pick is Luque by decision.
Leon Edwards (10-2; 2-1 UFC) vs. Kamaru Usman (6-1; 1-0 UFC)
TUF 21 winner Usman takes on Britain's Edwards in a meeting of two of the UFC's most promising young welterweights. Usman, a Blackzilians product and one of the most touted prospects in the sport, defeated Hayder Hassan in July. Edwards lost a tight decision to Claudio Henrique da Silva in his debut but then knocked out Seth Baczynski in just eight seconds and took a decision from Pawel Pawlak.
Usman is a freakish athlete with great size, strength and athleticism. A Division II wrestler who came up just short of making the freestyle team at the 2012 Olympic trials, he has added a smooth combination striking arsenal and a brutal, suffocating top game.
Edwards is a slick and accurate southpaw striker. He has a potent left kick but mostly circles, feints and waits for his opponent to commit before dropping a vicious straight left, right hook and left uppercut. His defensive wrestling and grappling have generally been solid, and his only real problem has been a lack of volume.
Unless Edwards has drastically improved his takedown defense, which is good but not outstanding, he's in for a long night on his back. The pick is Usman by decision.
The Fox Sports 1 Prelims
Cole Miller (21-9; 10-7 UFC) vs. Jim Alers (13-2; 1-1 UFC)
Veteran featherweight Miller draws fellow Floridian Alers in a good matchup at 145 pounds. Miller has been in the UFC for more than eight years, and he seemed to have found his rhythm at featherweight with a pair of wins before falling to Max Holloway in February. Alers was a touted prospect and won his debut against Alan Omer, but he fell by knockout to Chas Skelly in his last outing.
Miller is tall for the division at 6'1" and uses his height well on the feet with a rangy jab and kicking game, while his right hand has surprising pop. Wrestling isn't his strong suit, but he's venomous on the ground and excels at finding his way to the back.
Alers is well-rounded and athletic. He's hittable on the feet but throws good combinations and packs real power in his hands. He's better as a wrestler and has an excellent choke game in transition.
Miller is tough and uses his length well, so there's a good chance that he can keep Alers on the outside and land shots. It's more likely, however, that Alers eats those punches, works to the inside with combinations, gets Miller down and works him over on the mat. The pick is Alers by decision.
Nik Lentz (25-7-2, 1 N/C; 9-4-1, 1 N/C UFC) vs. Danny Castillo (17-9; 7-6 UFC)
Lightweight veterans meet in a solid matchup. Lentz returns to 155 pounds after a 4-2 run at featherweight, where he most recently lost in a crazy rematch with Charles Oliveira. Castillo has been a staple at lightweight in the UFC and WEC, but he's on a rough run, with losses in four of his last five. Both fighters are aging, and this could well be a loser-leaves-town matchup.
Lentz is durable and relentlessly aggressive. He pushes forward, constantly throwing combinations until he gets into the clinch, where he either grinds against the fence or works takedowns. He's happy to scramble and does great work on the mat.
Castillo is a fairly meat-and-potatoes fighter with a strong combination of wrestling and striking acumen. He defends take-downs well and has pop in his hands, but doesn't work at a particularly quick pace and isn't especially dynamic.
It's entirely possible for Lentz to outwork Castillo at range and in the clinch, but it seems more likely that Castillo's greater size and physicality will come into play. The pick is Castillo by decision.
Josh Samman (12-2; 3-0 UFC) vs. Tamdan McCrory (13-3; 3-3 UFC)
McCrory returns to the UFC after more than six years away and draws the rising Samman in what should be a crackling matchup. Samman appeared on The Ultimate Fighter 17 and came up short, but he has finished all three of his fights in impressive fashion, the most recent a choking of Caio Magalhaes in July. McCrory, who is still only 29 years old, defeated a pair of opponents in Bellator in a combined 1:27.
The real strength of Samman's game is his physicality. He's big for the division, athletic, durable and has outstanding conditioning, which allows him to set a hellacious pace. Defense isn't his strongest suit, but he's aggressive, hits hard and does excellent work in the clinch and from the top.
McCrory is a dangerous combination puncher and has a wicked submission game in transition. Wrestling has traditionally been his weakness, but he seems to have shored that up during his time away; it's difficult to say much with confidence, though, since it has been so long since we've seen him in extended action.
Samman is more comfortable at long distance and in the clinch, while McCrory is the much better puncher. While he will have to overcome some dangerous moments, Samman should be able to keep this all the way outside or all the way inside to take a decision.
Sarah Kaufman (17-3; 1-1, 1 N/C UFC) vs. Valentina Shevchenko (11-1; 0-0 UFC)
Kyrgyzstan's Shevchenko, a decorated striker, steps up on extremely short notice to replace the injured Germaine de Randamie against bantamweight veteran Sarah Kaufman. Canada's Kaufman has been a forgotten fighter since the UFC introduced the division, fighting only three times in the last two years, but she remains a consensus top-10 pick. Shevchenko has elite potential but no experience against the elite.
Kaufman is a striker by trade. She sets a ridiculous pace on the feet, slinging a high volume of punching combinations in the pocket and kicks at range. Power isn't her strong suit, but she will literally bury her opponents with her offensive output. Her defensive wrestling is outstanding, but she offers little on the mat and rarely looks for takedowns.
Shevchenko is a southpaw striker with legitimate credentials in Muay Thai and kickboxing. She's exceptionally accurate with her strikes and packs some pop in her left kick and straight left, and she has the clinch game you would expect from someone on her level. She seems to have decent takedown defense and is a competent grappler, but it's hard to say definitively.
The difference here should be output. Shevchenko isn't a devastating striker and doesn't set a particularly quick pace; unless she lands something big, Kaufman will simply outwork her. The pick is Kaufman by decision.
CB Dollaway (15-7; 9-7 UFC) vs. Nate Marquardt (33-15-2; 11-8 UFC)
This is the veteran Marquardt's last chance to prove he belongs in the UFC. His last loss to Kelvin Gastelum wasn't competitive, and it dropped him to 1-4 in his current run with the promotion. He draws the veteran Dollaway, who is coming off a pair of losses to elite middleweights in Lyoto Machida and Michael Bisping. Dollaway probably wouldn't be cut with a loss, but he still needs a win here to stay relevant.
Marquardt is well onto the wrong side of the aging curve. He can still hit like a truck and most of his skills are still present, especially on the ground, but he can't take shots and his speed has disappeared.
Dollaway has developed into a powerful and increasingly technical striker. He has a nice jab and tosses out solid low kicks, but the left hook is his most dangerous weapon, and he throws it early and often. Wrestling is still his strongest suit, and he has a slick front headlock series.
The younger man should take this handily, likely inside the distance. The pick is Dollaway by knockout in the first round.
Charles Oliveira (20-5, 1 N/C; 8-5, 1 N/C UFC) vs. Myles Jury (15-1; 6-1 UFC)
The talented Jury drops to 145 pounds for the first time and draws featherweight staple Oliveira in a crackling matchup. Both fighters look to be coming into their own despite recent setbacks, with Oliveira suffering a bizarre esophagus injury against Max Holloway and Jury falling to top lightweight contender Donald Cerrone.
The winner will have dibs on an elite featherweight in his next outing in a white-hot division, while the loser will have a long road back to anything resembling contention.
Jury is a pure out-fighter. He likes to circle and move at range, picking his spots to leap in with one or two punches or a kick. He isn't especially powerful, but he's hard to hit and is dangerous when he finds a rhythm. The best part of his game is his ability to cover takedowns with strikes, and once on the mat he has a clean, technical top game.
Oliveira is all violence, all the time. He walks his opponent down with sharp kicks and punching combinations at range and then slides into the clinch, where he mixes hard knees, slashing elbows and slick takedowns. On the mat he constantly hunts for the finish with an active guard and great instincts in transition.
This is a close matchup. The question is whether Oliveira can get this into the clinch, where he can outwork Jury and find his way into his preferred transitions. He should be able to, and the pick is Oliveira by decision.
Randa Markos vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Randa Markos (5-2; 1-1 UFC) vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (7-0; 0-0 UFC)
Canada's Markos, a veteran of The Ultimate Fighter 20, takes on the debuting Kowalkiewicz in an outstanding strawweight battle. Kowalkiewicz, a native of Poland, is one of the most touted prospects in the division and a veteran of excellent opposition on the regional scene. Markos has split a pair of fights in the UFC, losing a tight decision to Jessica Penne and then winning a three-round scrap over Aisling Daly.
In a developing division, the stakes here are high. Kowalkiewicz could be a big-money opponent for Joanna Jedrzejczyk in their native Poland, while Markos is charismatic and talented. As a result, neither is more than a few fights away from a title shot with a win here.
Kowalkiewicz is a striker by trade. While she mixes in the occasional kick, she's mostly a boxer, and a good one. Power isn't her strong suit; volume and combination work is. She buries her opponents under a steady stream of punches, often throwing 20 or even 30 strikes per minute.
The jab is the foundation of Kowalkiewicz's game. It's sharp, consistent and she times it nicely to disrupt her opponent's timing and range. She often follows with a long cross and likes to step forward into the southpaw stance and then follow with another right hand. She has great flow once she gets going and uses a tricky rhythm, throwing one or two punches at half speed before looking for a clean shot.
While not particularly fleet of foot, constant movement and angles make Kowalkiewicz difficult to pin against the fence, and she excels at walking her opponents onto her counter shots. She's hittable despite solid head movement, and her pace essentially ensures that she'll take damage.
The Pole offers little on the mat, but she has excellent takedown defense, particularly against the cage, and a strong clinch game. She excels at grabbing a quick double-collar tie and firing a knee before breaking off, and she has a nasty arsenal of short punches and elbows as well.
Markos is a great athlete with excellent speed, explosiveness and power. She's a bit raw in terms of her skills, however, and her athleticism has disguised some of those gaps. The right hand is the basis of her approach on the feet, and she fires it early and often. Her combination work is inconsistent, though, and her volume drops as the fight wears on.
The Canadian has a background in wrestling, and that's still the best part of her game, at least offensively. She has an excellent arsenal of trips and throws in the clinch and hits good shot takedowns, but she has struggled to defend takedowns.
Markos is outstanding in scrambles. She excels at staying moving on the mat, looking for submissions and back-takes in transition and landing strikes in the openings. On the downside, she's not great at maintaining control.
Markos -175, Kowalkiewicz +155
Markos is the better athlete, but Kowalkiewicz is a tough matchup by virtue of her volume-based approach on the feet and strong clinch game. While Markos will land her fair share of shots and might get this to the ground, the Pole will bury her in combinations if this is anything other than a grappling match. The pick is Kowalkiewicz by decision.
Michael Johnson vs. Nate Diaz
Nate Diaz (17-10; 12-8 UFC) vs. Michael Johnson (16-9; 8-5 UFC)
More than a year after taking a brutal beating at the hands of current lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, Stockton, California's Nate Diaz finally returns to action. He draws rising lightweight Michael Johnson, who saw his impressive four-fight winning streak snapped in a questionable decision against Beneil Dariush in August.
The fan favorite Diaz has been on a rough run of late. His only win in the last three years came over a past-prime Gray Maynard in their rematch; on the other side of the ledger, Benson Henderson dominated him in one of the more one-sided UFC title fights in recent memory, and Josh Thomson knocked him out. Johnson defeated Joe Lauzon, Gleison Tibau, Melvin Guillard and Edson Barboza before falling to Dariush.
Diaz is a long way from title contention, but a win would give him access to fights with big names, which is what he wants. Johnson could conceivably find himself fighting for the belt with two impressive wins.
The Californian remains mostly a boxer on the feet, although he flicks out the occasional kick for the sake of variety. He does his best work moving forward and pressing toward the fence, using his southpaw jab and surprisingly potent straight left to stick his opponent on the end of his lengthy reach.
Diaz almost always throws in combination, digs to the body regularly and works at an exceptional pace. He doesn't get enough credit for his craftiness on the feet. His shot selection is perceptive and he has good timing, but more than anything he excels at setting a tap-tap-tapping rhythm before loading up on a full-power, full-speed shot.
Those are Diaz's strengths. On the other hand, he's exceptionally hittable, particularly with low kicks, and his footwork isn't great. He tends to plod forward without much lateral movement, which makes him vulnerable to quicker opponents who can stick, move, kick him and then get out of the way.
While he rarely gets credit for it, Diaz is a strong clinch fighter who delivers a steady diet of knees, elbows and short punches and mixes in slick hip tosses and trips. His takedown defense is better than one might expect as well.
Diaz is lethal on the mat. He has an active, attacking guard that has caught even high-level grapplers with a slick triangle-armbar chain. When he gets on top, he's even better, with smooth passes and a gift for finding the back. Transitions are also a specialty: Diaz has a great guillotine and a slick back-take game.
Johnson has developed into a skilled and athletic sprawl-and-brawler since moving to the Blackzilians camp. He works out of the southpaw stance and flicks a hard, consistent right jab to the head and body. He follows with a crisp, potent straight left and mixes in a strong right hook from time to time. Pace is a strong suit, and he consistently throws a high volume of strikes.
The beauty of Johnson's approach on the feet is its diversity. He's aggressive and likes to pressure, but he can also stick, move and counter effectively at range, picking his spots to drop hard punching combinations on pursuing opponents. A strong left kick occasionally follows, but most of his strikes are punches. While not a defensive wizard, he pulls his head off the center line as he throws and is rarely there to be hit.
Excellent takedown defense enables Johnson's striking game. He excels at controlling the distance, which makes it hard to get a clean shot at his hips, and he usually stays well away from the fence, making it easy for him to quickly sprawl in open space. The occasional takedown provides a change of pace.
He offers little on the mat, however, and relies heavily on that first line of defensive wrestling to stay safe. Scrambles are a dangerous place for him: He often gives up his back as he tries to get back to his feet.
Johnson -470, Diaz +375
This is Johnson's fight to lose, assuming he can keep it on the feet and avoid scrambling with the Stockton native. He's much faster, more athletic and hits harder, and his excellent footwork will make it nearly impossible for Diaz to pin him against the cage and go to work. While he has made limited use of them, Johnson is also a vicious kicker, and that's a huge weakness for Diaz.
There is also the possibility that Diaz is past his prime. He has always been hittable, but he seems not to be taking those shots as well as he did in the past, and Johnson is a potent puncher. Still, it seems more likely that Diaz will eat a great many shots on the way to the final bell. The pick is Johnson by clear decision.
Junior Dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem
Junior dos Santos (17-3; 11-2 UFC) vs. Alistair Overeem (39-14, 1 N/C; 4-3 UFC)
Former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Overeem meets former UFC heavyweight champion dos Santos in a long-awaited bout. The two men were first scheduled to meet in May 2012 with dos Santos' title on the line, but a random drug test failure by Overeem led to the cancellation of the fight. Instead, dos Santos knocked out Frank Mir in a one-sided fight.
Ironically enough, that canceled bout would have come at the pinnacle of both fighters' careers, and nothing has been the same since. Dos Santos suffered two brutal defeats to Cain Velasquez, which he offset with wins over Mark Hunt and most recently Stipe Miocic.
Overeem lost a pair of fights to Antonio Silva and Travis Browne, came back with a lopsided win over Mir and then lost to Ben Rothwell before getting back on track with a pair of wins over Stefan Struve and Roy Nelson.
The winner will be in good shape to stake his claim to challenge for the heavyweight title. Only the winner of the Andrei Arlovski-Stipe Miocic matchup in January would have a better resume.
Dos Santos is almost entirely a striker, and a boxer at that. He's exceptionally quick and works behind a punishing, consistent jab that he mixes up to the head and body. While the overhand right is his most devastating and well-known punch, he often overextends and leaves himself vulnerable after throwing it. His right straight, left hook and right uppercut are far more dangerous for precisely that reason.
The former champion does his best work moving forward. He has exceptional straight-line speed, serious power and a fantastic work rate, and he relies on those things to gain his opponent's respect. If he doesn't receive that measure of fear, and his opponents commit to walking through his single counter shots, dos Santos is in serious trouble.
His footwork and movement aren't particularly precise, and he has a bad habit of moving backward in straight lines, which often leaves him pinned against the fence. Once there, he's extremely hittable and has trouble generating the kind of power necessary to make his opponent think twice about walking him down.
Defensive wrestling has traditionally been a strength of dos Santos' game, particularly in open space. He has a few takedowns of his own, namely a footsweep in the clinch and a strong double, but he rarely uses them. While he rarely uses it by choice, he's strong on top and lands good shots, while he offers little from his back aside from the ability to get back to his feet.
Overeem has reinvented himself as a stick-and-move out-fighter since coming under the tutelage of Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, which makes good use of his still-prodigious speed and athleticism while minimizing the effects of his decreased ability to take a punch.
He still gets aggressive in spots but spends less time marching his opponents down and more moving, circling and then leaping in with a powerful flying or stepping knee or kick. He mostly stays out of punching range, though he can still land a potent shot with either hand when the mood strikes.
The former Strikeforce champion is a monster in the clinch, even as he carries 20 or 30 pounds less on his frame than he used to. He throws some of the sharpest knees in the sport and has a slick repertoire of body-lock throws and trips that he uses to great effect. His defensive wrestling is on point: Overeem has conceded only one takedown in his UFC career.
As good as the former K-1 champion is on the feet and in the clinch, he's also a smooth and technically skilled grappler. He maintains a heavy base on top and likes half guard, where he has exceptional posture and power in his ground strikes. The guillotine is his go-to submission, and he has a number of set-ups for it in transition.
Dos Santos -360, Overeem +300
Those odds seem quite wide, particularly considering the amount of damage dos Santos has taken in the last several years and how rejuvenated Overeem has looked since moving to Albuquerque to work with Jackson and Winkeljohn.
On the other hand, it isn't possible for Overeem to use the game plan that Cain Velasquez wrote on how to beat dos Santos. He can't march through the former champion's shots with abandon and doesn't push the kind of pace necessary to wear dos Santos down over the course of the fight.
Overeem will either want to be all the way outside, circling and moving at distance, where dos Santos has few offensive tools, or all the way into the clinch in order to avoid dos Santos' lethal punching range. The Dutchman will probably be able to do that for a while, but eventually the Brazilian will land something substantial. The pick is dos Santos by knockout in the second round.
Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Donald Cerrone
Rafael dos Anjos (24-7; 13-5 UFC) vs. Donald Cerrone (28-6, 1 N/C; 15-3 UFC)
Twenty-seven months after they first clashed, dos Anjos and Cerrone meet again, and this time the UFC lightweight title is at stake. Dos Anjos won that fight in a close but clear decision, and while he lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov in his next outing, the four one-sided wins that followed made him the top 155-pounder on the face of the planet.
Jason High fell to punches in the second round, and former lightweight champion Benson Henderson ate a flying knee and a sequence of fists in the opening frame. Dos Anjos brutalized an overmatched Nate Diaz for 15 minutes and then beat down Anthony Pettis in one of the more lopsided title fights of all time.
Cerrone has won eight in a row since that loss to dos Anjos. Many thought Henderson defeated Cerrone when they fought in January in their third meeting, but "Cowboy" left no doubt in his May head-kick knockout of John Makdessi or lopsided decisions over Myles Jury and Eddie Alvarez.
The rematch has been a long time coming, and it has all the makings of one of the year's best fights.
Dos Anjos has transformed into one of the best pressure fighters in the sport. He's quick, athletic and packs real power in his strikes, and he combines his sneaky physical gifts with skilled technique in every phase. He isn't the most technical at anything, but his skill sets complement each other perfectly and are united around the central concept of aggressive forward movement.
The southpaw excels at cutting off the cage, and two tools enable him to do that. First, he has excellent cage-cutting footwork and rarely lets his opponent get his lead foot outside dos Anjos' for the outside angle.
This means that dos Anjos only needs to worry about his opponent moving in one direction, and the champion's powerful left kick to the legs and body generally makes his opponent think twice about going that way. That's dos Anjos' second tool, and it serves to wear down his opponent while forcing him to move straight backward.
The Brazilian is a brutally powerful kicker. He kicks like a Thai, with extreme force and no regard for whether his opponent might check, block or counter the shot, and he's willing to eat a punch in return for landing the kick to the body.
Over the last several years, dos Anjos has become a much more active striker. Most of that has to do with his footwork. He's much more efficient and thus much closer to his opponent, which gives him more opportunities to land. Slick head-body combinations now come regularly, his jab is constant and he's more willing to exchange in the pocket as well.
Dos Anjos' wrestling game is basic but highly effective. His pressure forces his opponent toward the cage, and once there the champion excels at using strikes to cover his level change and then sucking his opponent's hips away with a clean double. He generally defends takedowns well, though power wrestlers have caused him problems in the past.
If the champion has a world-class skill set, it's his top game. He has an unshakable base and fantastic posture, which allows him to create space to land vicious punches and elbows even against talented guard players like Anthony Pettis and Cerrone. He passes smoothly, and while he isn't much of a submission threat, the danger is still there.
Dos Anjos is aggressive everywhere, pushes a fantastic pace and, most importantly, he fights mean. No matter what phase the fight might be in, he's constantly looking to do damage and hurt his opponent.
Cerrone is a pure out-fighter. Long range is the distance where he feels comfortable, and if his opponent allows him to stay there, the American will chew him up with jabs, front kicks, punching combinations and vicious round kicks at all levels.
He does an excellent job of using his rangy strikes to maintain distance, and once he has the space he wants, he steps forward with a punch or two that he follows with a brutal low kick. After he establishes the threat of the leg kick, he brings it up to the body and to the head with devastating effect.
The high kick is his main finisher. He has a number of setups, including flashed punches, staggered timing and literally grabbing his opponent's hand to pull it down and then throwing the kick over the top.
If Cerrone has the necessary space, this is a devastating approach. He wears his opponents down with constant volume to the body and legs and builds big leads as the fight goes on.
There are weaknesses, though. Cerrone relies on opponents respecting his kicking game, and if they simply walk him down, the only real tool he has to counter is a stepping knee to the body and a retreating jab. His escape footwork isn't particularly precise, and his head is almost always on the center line, which makes him vulnerable as he retreats.
The rest of Cerrone's game is excellent, and it's what enables him to be such a devastating range striker. His takedown defense is outstanding, particularly in open space where he can sprawl at will. A slick array of takedowns, particularly well-timed knee-taps and doubles, add an additional threat to his striking game.
Grappling is another strength of Cerrone's game. He excels in transitions and is one of the best in the sport at jumping to the back of a hurt opponent and finishing. His guard is lethal, with slick triangle-armbar-omoplata-sweep chains, but he's savvy enough not to stick around if the submission isn't there. On top, he passes smoothly and has a knack for getting to the back.
Dos Anjos -220, Cerrone +180
Dos Anjos has developed from a sneaky-tough stylistic matchup into a nightmare for Cerrone in the time between their two meetings. He pressured regularly but was still a bit tentative in their first matchup; in the interim, he has lost every hesitant impulse he once displayed. The champion is more confident, more willing to walk through his opponent's shots, more defensively sound and much, much more dangerous.
This presents serious problems for Cerrone. As a defined out-fighter, he's allergic to pressure, and even more so as one with such a strong preference for kicking. It's difficult to kick effectively off your back foot and impossible with your back to the fence. That's where dos Anjos will want the fight.
The champion's combination of pressure footwork and kicks makes it nearly impossible to stay out in the middle of the cage, where Cerrone is most comfortable. The challenger just doesn't have many tools that force opponents to stay away. Moreover, where in their first fight dos Anjos might have backed off to reset after a Cerrone combination, he's much more likely now to hang in the pocket and immediately counter.
If their last several fights are anything to go by, this should be more one-sided than their first matchup. The pick is dos Anjos by wide decision.
Patrick Wyman is the Senior MMA Analyst for Bleacher Report and the co-host of the Heavy Hands Podcast, your source for the finer points of face-punching. He can be found on Twitter.
All betting odds via Odds Shark.