Following his first-round submission victory over Mike Perry at UFC Denver, Donald Cerrone made his intention to return to 155lbs clear.
The identity of the man he will potentially share the octagon with was hinted at but apart from the fact that the UFC have someone in mind, nothing else is known.
— MMAjunkie (@MMAjunkie) November 11, 2018
Naturally, I decided to have a go at figuring out who exactly was in the running for a shot at the winningest fighter in the history of the UFC and to be honest, it was pretty easy to whittle it down to just a few viable candidates.
Things change and people get injured but when the smirking Cowboy told reporters that he was moving back down to 155lbs, he claimed that the UFC already had an opponent in mind for him.
If this is true, this completely rules out the fighters listed in the category below.
Paul Felder: scheduled to face James Vick
Francisco Trinaldo: scheduled to face Alexander Hernandez
Alexander Hernandez: scheduled to face Fransisco Trinaldo
Edson Barboza: scheduled to face Dan Hooker
James Vick: scheduled to face Paul Felder
Michael Chiesa: moved up to 170lbs, scheduled to face Carlos Condit
Kevin Lee: scheduled to face Al Iaquinta
Al Iaquinta: scheduled to face Kevin Lee
Dan Hooker: scheduled to Edson Barboza
There are a few long-shots out there, though.
Each of the guys below are unlikely to be Cerrone’s next fight for different reasons but who knows, the former title-challenger’s name is one that carries weight in this sport so we could well see the promotion go against the grain on this one if the price is right.
Khabib Nurmagomedov: As champion of the division, his ranking would make a showdown with Cerrone highly-unlikely. His ongoing issues with the NSAC also make this one perhaps the most far-fetched of the lot.
Tony Ferguson: As the division’s top contender, setting him up for another contender fight would be simply ridiculous at this stage. A fight with Khabib is the only thing that makes sense for him right now – with the exception of a big-money fight with either Nate Diaz or Conor McGregor.
Anthony Pettis & Justin Gaethje: According to reports from ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, the UFC are looking at a showdown between these two for early next year. It doesn’t fully rule them out of the running but makes them unlikely nonetheless.
I’m just taking a casual stab at figuring out what the UFC have planned. From Donald’s words alone, it’s hard to know whether he’ll be thrown into a big-money fight at 155lbs or if the fighter he described as ‘very exciting’ is simply an unranked fighter or even a fellow divisional hopper from either welterweight or featherweight.
With that being said, there are four guys who I believe live up to the type of fight that Cerrone deserves at this point in his career.
Whether it plays out like that, remains to be seen.
Who wouldn’t love to see these two run back their first fight from back in 2011. Both guys have definitely evolved since then (though one man has been far more active between the two) and Nate has already shown his willingness to take a contender fight to re-establish himself by signing to fight Dustin Poirier.
It would be one of the best fights we could ever possibly hope for in 2019 and the press conferences themselves would be worth the price of a ticket.
If Cerrone is looking to get his name right back into title-contention, a win over an opponent of Poirier’s quality would be perfect. If the UFC aren’t looking to rebook ‘The Diamond’ for a showdown with Nate Diaz – perhaps they will look to set up this shoo-in for Fight of the Night honours in the meantime.
Poirier is known as one of the division’s most electric competitors and with a dance-partner like Cerrone, expect fireworks.
I delved deeper into the reasons why this fight is absolutely perfect in a separate piece yesterday. Conor McGregor needs a win and while Cerrone is most certainly not an easy fight for anyone, stacking the odds in the favour of the UFC’s most prized cashcow is absolutely essential at this point and whether you like it or not, there is nothing wrong with that.
Cerrone would also finally receive his well-earned red-panty night and who knows how the fight would play out when the octagon doors close.
I think this could be the fight.
Both guys are muay-thai technicians and Aldo has spoken about his desire to move up to 155lbs as recently as September. With the belt still in Holloway’s possession, the chances of José receiving a third shot at the Hawaiian are very slim so why not take the step up to lightweight and answer one of the sport’s great ‘what ifs’ before eventually calling it a day.
And on top of that, the fight itself would be nothing short of superb.
Other guys like Mairbek Taisumov, Gregor Gillespie, and David Teymur are all knocking on the door of the division’s top-15 and who knows, we could even see Ireland’s own Joseph Duffy in the running but to be honest, it would be a good show of faith from the UFC if they were to avoid throwing him to a young, hungry up-and-comer.
Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone has made a career on the back of fighting anyone, any place, at any time, so let’s hope Dana and co. give him a huge fight as a reward for one of the most memorable fighting careers the sport has ever seen.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena