With both Lightweights weighed in tomorrow nights main event is officially set. Ottawa, Ontario is fixed to see a great one as #4 ranked Al Iaquinta will take on #8 Donald Cerrone in a main event with a potential championship opportunity in the balance. With champion Khabib Nurmagomedov suspended, Dustin Poirier holding an interim title, and other top ranked competitors Tony Ferguson and Connor McGregor’s futures both in question, a lot of eyes will be on tomorrow nights match up with Iaquinta and Cerrone as potential suitors for another title shot. With that being said Iaquinta nor Cowboy are ones to look past the opponent in front of them in what has the makings to be a classic.
Cowboy Cerrone’s story is an interesting one. A fan favorite, well known and respected. He comes in as the UFC’s all time win leader with 22 victories. Known for being tough and gritty, holding victories over some of UFC’s biggest names. Yet he’s faltered of late. Although he won his last fight moving back to Lightweight, he previously lost 4 of his last 5 including a 3 fight losing streak. Iaquinta enters the contest winning 6 of his last 7, becoming a fan favorite in his own right living up to the “Raging” Al name. Iaquinta has several notable victories on his resume as well. He comes to fight, comes as advertised and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. His fight against Khabib on a days notice showed fans as well as UFC brass just how tough of a competitor he is. Now past any injuries he continues to improve and is in the prime of his career.
When you take a closer look into this matchup you can find a lot of similarities between Iaquinta and Cowboy. The clear cut similarity between the two is no secret. Both fighters can take punches just as well as they give them out, landing similar strikers per minute as well as absorbing a significant amount of strikes per. That formula sets up for a suspenseful and somewhat unpredictable contest.
Cowboy has been well known for mixing up his striking to try and expose defensive holes. The 36 year old will utilize his kicks and look for take down opportunities. Where he’s shown his strengths on the ground we’ve also seen he can quickly abandon that plan to stand toe to toe with another striker. That fault has gotten Cowboy into trouble at times and even knocked out in some of those exchanges. Iaquinta told reporters early today although he’s seen the fight going different ways he expects Cerrone will look to take him down. Iaquinta told MMA Weekly “He’s been wrestling more in his fights so I think he’ll use his kicks, try to wrestle if it gets to that.”
Important to keep an eye on the pace of Round 1. Iaquinta has generally shown to be strong out of the gate while his opponent Cowboy is notoriously a slow starter. The early exchanges between the two will prove to be very telling. The first round could be a window that Iaquinta may look to capitalize on. Knowing Cowboy to be a slow starter look for Iaquinta to come out firing early. If both fighters weather the early storm the longer the fight goes works to Iaquinta’s advantage as well. Raging Al showed in his most recent win over Kevin Lee that the later rounds belong to him, a testament to his strong cardio.
Iaquinta knows that taking on the man they call Cowboy is no easy task. He’s expressed a level of respect, holding the veteran fighter in high regard. Iaquinta told ESPN “It’s a tough task, but not a task I cant handle.” He went on “I want it to be quick and easy but I’ll be more than prepared to go five rounds.” Iaquinta continued “Cowboy is in for a tough fight. He hasn’t fought anyone like me. I’m going in for the KO, the submission, for the early finish. It would be a huge statement.” Look for Iaquinta to make that statement tomorrow night in what has the makings to be fight of the year.