There’s only one Cowboy in the UFC now

Donald Cerrone made light work of Alex Oliveira at UFC Fight Night 82, but will another title fight be in his future?

From motocross, to wakeboarding, to pounding Budweisers at press conferences, Donald ‘The Cowboy’ Cerrone knows how to have a good time. He can often be seen with a smile on his face as a teasing comment comes out of his mouth, usually aimed at a rival fighter. As far as we know, he’s never openly coveted a UFC belt. He’s talked in interviews about his love for fighting simply as part of his love for the exciting things in life. The rush- the thrill of it all.

Because of this, he seems at home in the octagon in non-title fights and Sunday night’s fight was no exception. He transitioned from kickboxing to grappling seamlessly. To his credit, the other cowboy in the Octagon, Alex Oliveira of Brazil, matched Cerrone on the feet with relative comfort. They both bring the ability to execute killer oxygen-depriving knees to the body and head from the Thai clinch position, and if anything Oliveira actually landed the better knees during the first minute of the fight. Oliveira is becoming known in the sport for what he can do on the feet, and Cerrone must have quickly gained some respect for him while they traded, because he realised in a hurry that it was time to test this guy everywhere.

Unfortunately for Oliveira, we can conclusively say that he failed that test, tapping from a triangle choke exactly 36 seconds after he’d been taken down. Not impressive stuff, by anyone’s estimation. If Oliveira wants to become a contender in his own right, it’s pretty clear what he has to do: work on his wrestling and jiu-jitsu. Anyone who fights Oliveira from now on is going to know full well where his strength is- and more importantly where his weakness is.

As I mentioned earlier, Cerrone looked right at home in this fight. There was certainly a legitimate challenge for him, but he knew how to overcome it. He looked relaxed throughout. The question, then, is why can he not seem to bring this relaxed demeanour to title fights? Against Dos Anjos for the lightweight belt, Cerrone looked like he’d lost before the fight started. And that fight was even quicker than this one!

Before last night’s fight started and Cerrone had entered the ring, and was bouncing around on his feet waiting for Bruce Buffer to announce their names, I realised that the upcoming ‘super fight’ between Dos Anjos and Conor McGregor was being advertised inside the Octagon. I watched Cerrone look right at it. There’s no way that doesn’t hurt- knowing that it would have been his face next to McGregor’s. It could have been him with all the money and fame coming his way that comes the way of anyone who faces McGregor.

So what does the future hold for Donald Cerrone? Everyone in the featherweight and lightweight divisions are eagerly awaiting the outcome of this ‘super fight’, and no-one will be more interested in the outcome than Cerrone. He likes to play life cool, like he doesn’t care, but let’s get one thing straight- it’s far better for Cerrone if McGregor wins.

If Dos Anjos wins, there’s absolutely no chance the UFC are going to try to sell us a third Dos Anjos vs Cerrone fight (they also fought to a decision back in 2013) which means that Cerrone can forget the belt once again. But if McGregor wins, then there is a fight to be made by the UFC that many fans would love to see. Two exciting strikers going at it! Of course, there’s talk that if McGregor wins then he wants to immediately move up in weight class AGAIN, to fight for the welterweight belt.

Whether that’s really a possibility, is a discussion for another time. What we know for now, though, is that Cerrone looks to be more than a match for almost any fighter, but when he faces the elite of the elite competition, he has faltered mentally. It’s his mental game that we need to see improve, not his physical skills.

Laurie Williams

Catch Cerrone’s stunning success over Oliveira and other fights from ‘UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs Oliveira’ for FREE on FOX Sports Play. Available in selected territories only.