UFC 202 Primer: Donald Cerrone vs. Rick Story Head-to-Toe Breakdown
UFC 202 on Saturday will put Donald Cerrone's (30-7, 1 NC) rise as a welterweight contender to the test, as he'll square off against Rick Story (19-8).
Cerrone finished 2015 with a disappointing result against then-lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos. Cowboy jumped right back into the cage in early 2016 by moving to 170 pounds against Alex Oliveira. A victory in Pittsburgh gave him a shot against Patrick Cote in June.
Now with back-to-back wins, Cerrone has put himself into the fray at 170.
Story has silently put together an impressive three-fight win streak. It is silent because of a nearly two-year absence between victories against Gunnar Nelson (October 2014) and Tarec Saffiedine (May 2016).
This is a meaningful welterweight clash between two known commodities. The winner will enter serious contention at welterweight as the new Tyron Woodley era begins.
Who has the edge between Cerrone and Story? What will the result of UFC 202 be?
Let's take a look at the head-to-toe breakdown between these two UFC veterans.
For many, this appears to be the quintessential "striker vs. grappler" matchup. Yet the statistics suggest you should pump the brakes on that notion.
Story has surprisingly high output, which is a good sign for a solid technical striker.
According to FightMetric, Story averages 3.84 significant strikes landed per minute to Cerrone's 4.04. Story won't wow anyone with flashy technique, but he will be solid with his boxing. This could allow him to stand and trade with Cerrone without being caught cleanly.
That's the good news for Story. The bad news? This is where Cerrone eats.
If Story wants to stand and exchange, Cerrone will welcome that fight and win it more often than not. Cowboy has a more diverse attack, better range and crisper technique. Cerrone can chip away much like he did against Cote should Story chose to engage in that type of fight.
It's a clear edge but one that is closer than most believe.
Cerrone isn't known for his takedowns, but he has some good ones in his toolbox when he chooses to bring them out. It may be smart to threaten a wrestler with his own takedowns at UFC 202.
But Story still has the edge.
He is simply the better grappler. Story has a strong background in wrestling and is also physically strong. He can outmuscle Cerrone if they battle for position in the clinch. This gives him a nice advantage when in tight.
Story's path to victory is also more dependent on successful grappling. He needs to wear on Cerrone, score takedowns and rough him up. Cerrone's game plan will be more varied with a larger emphasis on striking. That sets them apart and lets everyone know who is better at which style of fighting.
If the fight hits the mat, Story also has a strong top game to continue to grind on Cerrone. In order to win, Story has to force an ugly grind all the way through.
While Story may want to, or even possibly need to, take this fight to the floor, his defense will need to be on point.
Cerrone has had an underrated submission game for years, but at 170 pounds, he has been more aggressive in utilizing that particular skill set.
He finished Oliveira quickly and went for a choke against Cote. He could use his active guard to threaten Story with submissions to keep the wrestler off balance if the fight hits the mat. It works just as well defensively as it would offensively in this matchup.
Story isn't a slouch with his defense, but it is not the tightest in the division. Cerrone will have openings to attack if he has enough time to exploit them.
Cerrone's X-Factor: Body Shots
If Cerrone has an Achilles' heel, it's taking body shots. It's not that he has a weak body, but that his style leaves him open to eating brutal strikes to the midsection. Dos Anjos exploited it in their quick title fight last December.
Story loves ripping punches to the body. And he brings the hammer when throwing them.
Cerrone needs to tighten up his defense when throwing in the exchanges, as Story will look to land a left hook to the liver.
Story's X-Factor: Being Unpredictable
Story is not a flashy fighter who will throw a variety of techniques. He's just a tough, gritty veteran who works hard.
That's fine, but he needs to mix up his game to keep Cerrone guessing. Going after takedowns repeatedly will result in a big loss on his record. Cerrone will be able to stuff his shots time and again should Story become predictable.
Story has to mix up his striking just enough to get Cerrone's mind off constantly defending the takedown. He doesn't need to throw head kicks or spinning backfists, but he needs to display more variety in his game Saturday.
Cerrone's performance at 170 so far is not a fluke. A strong showing against Story at UFC 202 will prove that.
Story will be a tough out, but the stylistic matchup favors Cerrone. He can manage the distance, prevent Story from taking him down and eat him up with knees from the clinch. Will Cerrone earn the finish?
No. He has all the ability to do so, but Story's toughness will keep him in the fight for 15 minutes.
Ultimately, Cerrone will show that he is a true contender who can compete with the top end of the 170-pound division. His frame suits the division well, and without cutting much weight, he has the gas tank to push the fight. It drains his opposition.
Cerrone will win a lopsided decision to announce his presence to the upper echelon of the welterweight division.
Prediction: Cerrone defeats Story by unanimous decision.