This Saturday Night: Donald Cerrone vs Anthony Pettis

Photo Credit: Esther Lin.

Photo Credit: Esther Lin.

On December 16th, 2010, the cage door for the little blue cage closed for the final time.

From top to bottom, the show was filled with current UFC stars including Renan Barao (current UFC interim bantamweight champion), Chris Cariaso (flyweight division), Ricardo Lamas (who is fighting this Saturday night against Erik Koch for a potential title shot against the winner of Aldo vs Edgar), Danny Castillo, Eddie Wineland (current top five bantamweight), Brad Pickett (current top ten bantamweight), Ivan Menjivar (is fighting Urijah Faber this month), Jamie Varner (the comeback fighter of 2012 with wins over Melvin Guillard and Edson Barboza), Bart Palaszewski, Donald Cerrone (current top ten lightweight), Dominick Cruz (UFC world bantamweight champion), Scott Jorgensen (top ten bantamweight), Anthony Pettis (top ten lightweight), and Benson Henderson (UFC world lightweight champion).

Looking back, that show was stacked with relevant, high-caliber, MMA fighters. Two of the fighters on that final WEC card will do battle in front of a national audience on FOX. Those two are Donald Cerrone and Anthony “Showtime” Pettis.

Anthony Pettis came to the UFC with an immediate title shot after ninja kicking Benson Henderson to take the fifth round in their epic, fight of the year contender. Pettis won the WEC title and a fight against the winner of Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard. Some online fans were livid, upset that George Sotiropoulos, Evan Dunham, and Jim Miller were being passed over for a WEC guy. In the upcoming year, Sotiropoulos would be defeated by Dennis Siver, Dunhan would be KO’d by Melvin Guillard, and the rugged and awesome Jim Miller would be beatdown badly by Benson Henderson. But Pettis didn’t get his immediate title shot after all, a draw between Edgar and Maynard forced a rematch. So Pettis choose to fight someone else in the mean time.

Sadly for Pettis fans, he fell in his first UFC fight on June 2011. Was it as bad as some had made it out to be? I don’t think so. I thought Pettis won one round, one round was probably a 10-10, and Guida clearly took the last round. I personally would have scored it a draw. I know Sherdog editor Jordan Breen scored the fight for Anthony Pettis, his argument being that Pettis was doing way more work off his back, with his submission attempts than Guida was doing on top. It was a bad stylistic match for Pettis, and Guida walked away with the win. Another thing people are critical about are Anthony Pettis vs Jeremy Stephens on October 2011. This one is even sillier. I was there in person, and I thought Pettis clearly beat Stephens. It was a more tactical performance but Pettis wanted to be sure he would win. When I saw it on DVD later, it was even more obvious Pettis won the fight. However, a portion of online folks act like Pettis got lucky with the decision because the fight could have gone either way. No, it couldn’t have. If it did, it would have been a bad decision.

Finally, Anthony Pettis fought Joe Lauzon on February 2012. He didn’t give me much to write about since he violently head kicked the always entertaining Joe Lauzon for the KO win in the first 81 seconds of the fight.

While Pettis has only had three UFC fights, Donald Cerrone has had a whopping seven UFC fights. The reason being that Cerrone was a late replacement on several occasions and Pettis battled some injuries so he couldn’t fight as often as Cerrone. His first appearance inside the octagon was against Paul Kelly on February 2011. After a competitive first round, Cerrone finished Kelly via rear-naked choke. On June 2011, Cerrone fought and defeated Vagner Rocha via decision in a fight where Rocha came to just survive (which means, it wasn’t a very fun fight, sadly).

But Cerrone’s first big win was against Charles Oliveira on August 2011. While Jim Miller but a halt to Oliveira’s hype train via knee bar, it was Cerrone that threw it off its tracks permanently by overwhelming him with punches for a TKO win at 3:01 of the first frame.

The win that cemented Cerrone as a true title contender was his dismantling of Dennis Siver on October 2011. Incredible headkick put Siver on spaghetti legs, and Cerrone sealed the deal with a vicious rear-naked choke. Unfortunately for Cerrone fans, he ran into Nate Diaz on December 2011, and he was the victim of a one-sided boxing assault. Cerrone walked away with his first UFC loss.

Cerrone came back on May 2012, beat Jeremy Stephens badly for fifteen minutes to win a clear-cut, unanimous decision. Ironically, the biggest moment of offense Stephens had was when Cerrone took him down and Stephens landed some good elbows off his back. Then, on August 2012, former team mates Donald Cerrone and Melvin Guillard gave us one of the best short fights of the year. Guillard badly hurt Cerrone, with a hook and with a knee to the body. Cerrone, has had the reputation in the past of being, as Memphis wrestling commentator Lance Russell would say, “a slow starter, but a fast finisher”. This fight was another example of that, as Cerrone was able to survive Guillard’s early flurry to land a glancing head kick and a running punch straight out of Memphis. Time of the stoppage was 1:16 of the first frame.

Pettis and Cerrone are two great strikers, easily two of the best MMA strikers today. They also both have an underrated grappling game, both have incredibly active guards and great submissions from different positions. I honestly wouldn’t know who to favor in such a fight. Whoever wins will likely fight the winner of Benson Henderson vs Gilbert Melendez, and I’m excited for that. We’ll either see Henderson vs Cerrone III, Henderson vs Pettis II, Melendez vs Cerrone, or Melendez vs Pettis. All of those four fights sound awesome. This fight on Saturday night should also be a spectacular one, and a reminder of how great the lightweight (155 lbs) weightclass is.

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