|"Zobified" Chan Sung Jung applying the rare twister submission to punching bag Leonard Garcia.|
UFC on Fuel has finally gone a bridge too far. It was bad enough I had to miss the Brian Stann fight and Alex Gustaffson dominate in Sweden last time around, but now I have to miss Donald Cerrone and the Korean Zombie? Preposterous. I guess when you have every cable channel plus the sports package on Xfinity, that's still not enough.
In fairness to Cerrone, I was not a fan of his in his WEC days. Perhaps one of the greatest weaknesses of the WEC was their lack of ability (which I'm sure was driven by lack of funds and airtime) to build up the personality of their fighters. Anything you would learn about Urijah Faber or Anthony Pettis or Cub Swanson or Jose Aldo (I'm going to go ahead and refuse to acknowledge Jamie Varner in that group) at the time you had to figure out on your own. On fight night there would be the standard fight montage leading up to it, but again, this was only showing the in-ring abilities. Good for catching up the causal fan as to why one should care, but poor from dissuading the avid fan of one's preconceived notions.
The UFC does a great job of making their fighters marketable by showing their personalities, not just let their ring personas speak for themselves (something Rashad Evans should be thrilled about). While in WEC all I could think about Cerrone was, you're a cowboy, you wear a hat, we get it. But with UFC allowing Cerrone's personality to show you realize he's a daredevil crazy guy that is a big time thrill seeker. He's always out to fight the guy put in front of him, and I can get behind that. While things like a UFC title and winning are important to him, he admits he'd rather just fight so he can buy some jet skis. Even going so far as to say his lifestyle doesn't lend itself to longevity. Thinking you're immortal is one thing, but recognizing your mortality and not caring is another.
Aside from his weird ranch he owns with Leonard Garcia, everything I learned about the guy I liked. Along with his improved Muay Thai striking game at Greg Jackson's camp he's turned into not a favorite of mine, but a guy I always want to watch.What I look for out of a Cerrone fight is aggression and a need to finish things by KO or submission. Those bonus fight checks Dana White dishes out are pretty nifty.
He is must see fighting because he's exciting and, well, it's hard to avoid him. From December 16, 2010 the last WEC event to Tuesday night he has fought 7 times. He was 5-1 in 2011, losing his last fight in an odd performance where Cerrone was sluggish and out boxed by Nate Diaz. Some say injuries were involved, others that the continuous training and fighting just wore him down. Whatever the reason, Cerrone wasn't the same guy he was the previous 5 fights.
Assuming he gets back to his swashbuckling, bike flipping, and base jumping ways in the ring, he'll have a tough guy to bounce those strikes off of in Jeremy Stephens. Lil' Heathen stepped in to fight Cerrone after Yves Edwards had to pull out due to an injury. Stephens is no stranger to exciting fights. While only one of his previous four fights have ended in a finish (a 3rd Rd KO of Marcus Davis at UFC 125) he is constantly pressuring fighters and has a solid chin so he's not afraid to bang inside the Octagon.
While Cerrone was literally fast-tracking himself to a title shot before losing to Diaz, Stephens had a #1 contender contender match with poor Anthony Pettis. Pettis who was the actual WEC lightweight title holder when the company folded, and through a maze of injuries and rematches and draws finds himself injured and on the shelf until September with at least one more guy ahead of him in the pecking order should current LW champ Benson Henderson (whom Pettis beat and who also beat Cerrone twice) and former LW champ Frankie Edgar settle their business this Summer. Please, please no more lightweight rematches for a while.
Stephens lost a split-decision to Showtime and clearly has ideas of using Cerrone to get back up the LW ladder sooner rather than later.
I'd really look for Cerrone and Stephens to set a high speed pace for the duration of the fight. While Cerrone has a stand-up advantage, there's no reason for Stephens to feel incredibly comfortable taking him to the mat either. Cerrone is quick on the ground with subs and also possesses violent up-kicks. Cerrone can definitely take Stephens out of his comfort zone and control how the fight goes down. My prediction is that this fight ends on the mat and Cerrone bails on a sub for a ground n' pound TKO in round 3.