UFC Austin: A Career Crossroads in Texas

UFC Austin Donald Cerrone Yancy Medeiros
Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

It will be a high stakes shoot-out in Texas when UFC Austin hits center stage, but will Donald Cerrone or Yancy Medeiros prevail?

The winding career of Donald Cerrone has seen him partake in numerous battles with some of the biggest stars in the sport. Yancy Medeiros has turned a corner in popularity with one of the most exciting battles of 2017. When the two collide at UFC Austin, one will take a step forward in the division while the other will be left to answer questions about their potential.

For “Cowboy” Cerrone, he has reached the point where his reputation precedes him. He is a fighter’s fighter, willing to step up and battle any opponent on short notice. It reached the point that the running gag in the world of mixed martial arts that any time a lightweight fighter pulled out of a bout, the UFC called Cerrone before they called matchmaker Sean Shelby.

Cowboy entered the UFC in February of 2011, but is already in second place for most victories in the UFC with 19. Only Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre are ahead of him with 20, but they also entered the UFC in 2006 and 2004 respectively. The fact that Cerrone has reached this point with seven years less time in the organization is a testament to his ridiculous level of activity. Furthermore, he’s reached the benchmark with style. He’s among the most exciting fighters in the world for his tendency to meet his opponents in the center of the Octagon and exchange with the best in the world in two weight classes.

Despite his willingness to battle so often, Cerrone has never won UFC gold and has challenged for the title only once during his run.  Now for the first time, Cerrone is coming off three consecutive losses.  Up until last year, he had never even lost back-to-back fights in a career that has lasted more than a decade.  Most recently, he lost to promising upstart Darren Till in a shocking first-round TKO. This has led many to speculate that he may already be hitting a plateau at 34 after having burned the candle at both ends with both his style and workload.

Yancy Medeiros has always had a penchant for exciting fights, with nearly half his bouts in the UFC earning performance bonuses. Unfortunately, his success hasn’t frequently matched the action he brings. He only put together back-to-back victories once in 2014 and did not record an official victory in his first three bouts in the UFC. The fact was, while he was a game competitor, he appeared destined for perennial journeyman status in the UFC.

In 2016, Medeiros appeared to turn the corner. He’s currently riding a three fight win-streak that consists of consecutive finishes.  He submitted Sean Spencer and knocked out the dynamic Erick Silva. But obviously, it was his battle with Alex Oliveira that put him on the map. The two battled in arguably the most back-and-forth contest of the year before Medeiros was able to finish the bout in the third round. In a testament to their grit, the bout stole some of the thunder from the anticipated fight between Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje that took place a half hour later.

Cerrone is looking to turn things around, and Medeiros is looking to push the UFC to get to Hawaii with Max Holloway. Both men are strikers who love to exchange in the center of the Octagon which makes this a near-guaranteed shootout in Texas. Stylistically, Cerrone does his best work at mid-range where he can string together combinations that mix his punches and kicks. The key for Cowboy will be to use footwork to avoid getting backed into the fence. From there, he should look to use volume to keep the Hawaiian from settling into a rhythm.

Medeiros comes into his first UFC main event officially battle-tested and will look to apply forward pressure to take away the space Cerrone needs to get off his combinations. Similar to Robbie Lawler’s fight against Cowboy, Medeiros should look to stay in his face and initiate more of a brawl. Cerrone struggles with fighters who are able to stay in his face and Medeiros should take confidence from that.

With a victory at UFC Austin, Donald Cerrone staves off questions of his career longevity for the time being. A loss, depending on how severe, would lead to speculation of whether or not he has already burned through the durability needed to compete at the top level. For Yancy Medeiros, a loss would halt the momentum he has worked so hard to build. A victory, however, would put him next to Max Holloway in helping to make UFC Hawaii a reality. Medeiros has already vanquished one Cowboy in spectacular fashion, but perhaps a Texas shoot-out is exactly what Cerrone needs to get back on-track.