Al Iaquinta and Donald Cerrone will clash in UFC Ottawa’s pivotal lightweight headliner that should establish one among the weight-class’ elite-tier.
Both men’s names still carry quite a bit of pull within the 155lb roster and each can easily be considered as one of the division’s most popular fighters.
And while the in’s and out’s of their respective personalities have played a big role in this being the case, their fighting styles inside the octagon have solidified their statuses as fan favourites.
Al Iaquinta’s run in the UFC has been stunted somewhat by a string of issues that he has had with those in the driving seat. He has only fought three times in the last four years – a time that included a two-year hiatus from competition but from the sound of things, it does appear as though he has patched things up with Dana and co. to a certain extent.
‘Ragin’ Al’s form has certainly been good since rediscovering his consistency though.
One hard-fought defeat to the seemingly unbeatable Khabib Nurmagomedov aside, Iaquinta – who performed admirably in that short-notice bout – has proven his ability to hang at the highest levels.
Beating Diego Sanchez and Kevin Lee is no easy feat by any stretch and while the former was a win against an opponent who has admittedly seen better days (even with his current run of form in mind), the latter showcased exactly how deserving Al is of his spot in the rankings.
Donald Cerrone, on the other hand, has had no shortage of activity in recent years, making good on his billing as the most active fighter in the UFC.
And while he has experienced his fair share of up’s, down’s, surging runs, and brutal defeats, it has become increasingly difficult to figure out exactly if the 36-year-old Cerrone’s decline has started or if he is actually getting even better.
His 6-5 record in the welterweight division was one that is a lot better than it sounds and in his return to his more natural home at 155lbs, he beat down a young contender, in Alexander Hernandez, who had been tipped by many as one to make waves in the near future.
So now, he finds himself in a familiar spot. On the periphery of the divisional elite and perhaps one win away from a massive showdown against one of the big dogs.
The question is whether the same problems that have plagued his career so far will be an issue – namely, his tendency to falter in the so-called big-fights, his slow-starts, and his supposed weakness for body-shots.
If I’m being completely honest, I see all three working against him here.
I think the cut down to 155lb – while perhaps not as harrowing as the one taken by a Khabib or a Kevin Lee – will still hamper his ability to take those hard shots in this fight.
Cerrone looked tough as nails against Alexander Hernandez about four months ago but you have to wonder how many fights like that he has left in him.
In Al Iaquinta, he’ll be in there with a guy who will out-work him, out-pace him and presumably, be able to take more damage if things get ugly.
I think Cerrone’s ability to build up expectation during these surges in momentum is matched only by the cold reminder that comes when he runs into a wall.
He can certainly pull it off, don’t get me wrong, but I do believe that Al Iaquinta will prove to be the latest fence that Cowboy fails to jump.
Prediction: Iaquinta via third-round TKO
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena