UFC Ottawa: Major Implications for Cowboy and Al Iaquinta

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

At UFC Ottawa, Al Iaquinta and Donald Cerrone will collide with a chance to break into the title picture and secure a high profile bout in their next outing.

The logjam in the UFC lightweight division is finally moving along. Khabib Nurmagomedov has a date and opponent set.  Justin Gaethje is on their heels. On Saturday, one more player will be added to the title mix as perennial contender Donald Cerrone looks to continue his resurgence against the dangerous Al Iaquinta in the main event of UFC Ottawa.

To put it bluntly, it would feel like a travesty if “Ragin” Al Iaquinta were to take a leave of absence again to focus on real estate. The perennial contender is currently enjoying the best success of his entire UFC run and Saturday could bring the biggest victory of his career. Considering that he resumed his fighting career recently in 2017, to have made it up to fourth in arguably the most competitive division in MMA is nothing short of impressive. With a win on Saturday, he would be at the forefront of the title conversation once Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier handle their business in September.

His five-round effort against Nurmagomedov is viewed through a positive lens when considering that he agreed to a change of opponent on 24 hours notice and performed far better than Conor McGregor did on a full camp. Secondly, he bested surging contender Kevin Lee in his last outing in December. When looking at the division, neither McGregor nor Tony Ferguson appear prepared to get back into action anytime soon. This opens the door for Iaquinta, with the possible angle of a rematch with Nurmagomedov, to get a title shot.

On the other side of the cage, one of the UFC’s most exciting contenders is attempting to carve his way to a title shot as Donald Cerrone looks to make it three straight at UFC Ottawa. In contrast to Iaquinta, there was talk that Cerrone might be approaching the end of the wick after burning the candle at both ends with a ridiculous schedule for the past several years. Recent stoppages raised questions about his durability, and more losses would have left many wondering if he was still capable of competing at the elite level.

Cowboy was 1-4 before his latest run, and the idea of getting back to the title seemed improbable. Instead, his last two performances have been reminiscent of the fighter who powered his way through the competition to become the all-time leader in victories and finishes in the UFC. In the past, Cerrone has been open about simply wanting to compete for the enjoyment of fighting. As he has become a father, he has changed his stance to say he is looking to make smarter decisions to get him to the big fights that will secure him financially and help his legacy.

Stylistically, you have the versatile attack of Cerrone taking on the gritty approach of Iaquinta. For Iaquinta, the key will be to use feints and volume to close the distance. For all of his prowess, Cerrone has struggled against fighters who have pressured him and that is exactly what Iaquinta should exploit. The Long Island native should force Cerrone to fight with his back to the fence as it will take away the space he uses to set-up his powerful kicks. Furthermore, he can elect to initiate the clinch and get the fight to the ground where he can smother Cerrone with ground-and-pound.

Donald Cerrone does his best work when he’s able to use his kickboxing attack at mid-range in the center of the Octagon. The key to his strategy is to be the aggressor and get going early. To his advantage, he also has a dangerous game off of his back so he should feel comfortable throwing kicks freely without fear of going to the ground.

The winner of the UFC Ottawa main event would be in title contention and likely compete again in the third quarter of 2019. The real question is what will the UFC choose to do in the interim? Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson are also in the championship conversation and Saturday’s winner could end up being matched up with either man if a title shot doesn’t materialize.

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