UFC: It’s Time for Cowboy Cerrone to Hit the Dusty Trail Back to Lightweight

UFC Gdansk Donald Cerrone - off UFC 213
Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Donald Cerrone’s recent career trajectory has been an interesting one to say the least. Never one to back down from a fight, Cowboy Cerrone went on a four fight run upon moving up to welterweight, then hit a wall in the upper echelon of the division. The only answer? Cut back down to lightweight. Here’s why.

Cowboy Cerrone is a fan favorite in the UFC, and for good reason. He’ll fight anyone, anywhere, and often on a moment’s notice. Yet after finding success in his initial outings at welterweight, Cerrone has fallen on hard times. For the first time in his career, he not only has back-to-back losses, but has lost three in a row. For Cowboy (32–10 (1)), that’s almost unthinkable.

There’s a simple solution to Cowboy’s woes, however: hit the dusty trail back to lightweight. It would be a no-brainer if it weren’t for the fact that weight cutting is such a hot button issue these days.

Yet Cowboy himself has said at times that he could get back down to 155lbs without issue. If you take the man at his word (and who in their right mind would ever question the word of Donald Cerrone), then it’s an attainable goal. In the past, Cowboy said he’d only go back down for an immediate title shot, but right now, going back down could rejuvenate his career.


Rafael dos Anjos is Gone

There was a reason Cowboy Cerrone headed north from the lightweight ranks in the first place. That reason was RDA. Rafael dos Anjos scored not one but two victories over Cerrone in the UFC’s lightweight division. The second was a title shot, and Cowboy’s final fight to date at 155lbs.

Given that dos Anjos finished him in their second fight, a third fight wasn’t in the cards. With no title shot forthcoming, Cerrone stepped up to welterweight. Against names like Patrick Cote and Rick Story, he held his own, and there was talk of a title run.

However, against the likes of Robbie Lawler and Jorge Masvidal, Cerrone has been outclassed. While he might have lost to RDA, at lightweight, Cerrone holds wins over former UFC lightweight champions Eddie Alvarez and Benson Henderson. Lightweight is clearly the division he performs best in.

The Benson Henderson Effect

Like Cerrone, Benson Henderson moved up in weight after a rough spell at lightweight in the UFC. And like Cerrone, he initially found success at 170lbs. In fact, it was a loss to Cerrone that sent him packing originally, after which he scored wins over Brandon Thatch and Jorge Masvidal.

Then came the move to Bellator MMA, and the brick wall that was Andre Koreshkov. “Smooth” had nothing to offer the Bellator champ in his promotional debut at Bellator 153. Bigger and stronger, Koreshkov out-muscled the former UFC star. That’s exactly the spot Cerrone finds himself in at 170lbs.

Of course, Benson Henderson dropped back down to lightweight and continued to struggle, but that’s not to say that his old WEC running mate Cerrone will experience the same result.

But Weight Cutting’s Bad, Right?

Well, yes and no. Extreme weight cutting is a serious health risk and needs to be curtailed in the sport of mixed martial arts. Without question, MMA has a serious weight cutting problem, from which people have died. You don’t need an advanced understand of human physiology to know that extreme dehydration is bad for the body.

And so most of us who care about the sport want to see athletes fight closer to their natural weight. Then everything is fixed, right?

The only problem is, this scenario only works if a promotion’s fighters are on board as a whole. When fighters move north and fight closer to their natural weight, they’re not just fighting other fighters close to them on the scale. They’re also fighting guys and girls who are cutting massive amounts of weight. Donald Cerrone didn’t simply jump up to welterweight from lightweight and start fighting natural 170lb’ers. He’s fighting guys that likely walk around at 200lbs or more, and cut weight to make the welterweight limit.

That’s why weight cutting is similar to an arms race; everyone is trying to outdo each other, and the advantage is not small in some cases. Ergo, fighters are willing to take the risk.

If weight classes were properly policed, it might be worthwhile for Cowboy Cerrone to stick around 170lbs a while longer. Right now? Lightweight might be a better fit.

The Money Fight

We all know Donald Cerrone burns through money like a kid in a candy store. So a big payday would probably do him good. Enter the money fight, otherwise known as the McGregor fight.

Since a brief feud a couple of years back, the possibility of Cerrone vs. McGregor has been an intriguing one. Cerrone is a hero to hardcore MMA fans, but isn’t the draw he probably should be. McGregor is the biggest star the sport has ever seen. Both are unique, distinct personalities. Both are quotable, comfortable in front of the cameras, and bring it on fight night.

Cerrone would likely only need a win or two to jump back into the title picture with RDA gone. If McGregor gets past Tony Ferguson and Nate Diaz continues to sit out, depending on what happens with Khabib Nurmagomedov, even a single win could put Cowboy in contention at lightweight.

That’s really all the reason he should need to consider a return to his old stomping grounds.