UFC Vancouver will get one of the best lightweight matchups of the year as perennial contender Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone takes on the always exciting Justin Gaethje.
— UFC (@ufc) September 10, 2019
Should Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone feel slighted? The man has a whole training facility called “The BMF Ranch” for crying out loud. But while the welterweight clash at MSG will have honor of the “BMF Belt” on the line, Cerrone will be looking to add to his already ridiculous resume when he meets Gaethje on Saturday. After breaking the record for most victories and finishes in the company, he’s been direct that he wants only to fight for the championship or in the most lucrative matches possible. Saturday is another showcase of high octane MMA action, but a victory puts him on the path to the big fights he’s seeking.
Coming off a loss to top contender Tony Ferguson in June, Cerrone has not fallen far down the lightweight ladder. In fact, the fight in Vancouver is arguably scheduled at the perfect time. Should anything prevent Ferguson versus Khabib Nurmagomedov from coming to fruition, as it has four times before, then Saturday’s winner could quickly find themselves filling in. It’s been four years since Cerrone’s last shot at the title and he’s had 13 fights to develop into the fighter who is up to the task.
While he has not logged the UFC mileage that Cerrone has, Justin Gaethje in two years has gained a devoted following himself. “The Highlight” arrived in 2017 as advertised, and most of the MMA world now expects a Fight of the Year candidate every time he’s booked. His fight with Michael Johnson took honors in 2017, while his fight with Dustin Poirier was nominated in 2018. Following a knockout victory over Edson Barboza earlier this year, most expect the battle with the durable and game Cerrone to be his candidate for 2019.
🗣 "Have you ever seen anything like @Justin_Gaethje!?"
— UFC (@ufc) September 12, 2019
A very interesting aspect of the match-up is that while the lightweight title picture is locked, both Cerrone and Gaethje have been mentioned in possible match-ups with Conor McGregor over the past year. Khabib Nurmagomedov seems steadfast that only Tony Ferguson or Georges St-Pierre will be next for him, but a match-up with pay-per-view lightning rod McGregor is arguably an even bigger fight with the financial windfall one can expect from the event. With “The Notorious” currently without an opponent, the Cerrone vs Gaethje winner would be the perfect foe in a pay-per-view headliner early in 2020.
Footwork and volume will be the key to Cerrone slowing down Gaethje. The former WSOF champion is at his most dangerous when pressuring forward and ripping into opponents with heavy shots. To counteract this, Cerrone must initiate the action and use his diversified striking attack to wear him down over the course of the 25 minute fight. By varying his attack, it will throw off Gaethje and create more openings to deliver damage.
To Gaethje’s advantage, Cerrone has greatly struggled in the past with opponents who come forward. “The Highlight” should look to get Cerrone to the fence and chop away with kicks to hamper his mobility. Another factor in this fight, his wrestling. While the two are expected to engage in a firefight on the feet, Gaethje’s ability to get the fight to the ground and land heavy shots could be the difference if the match is close on the scorecards.