The Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Canada welcomes in a perennial clash in the UFC's lightweight division. It will be the promotion's second visit to the Canadian city and will feature a headline bout between"Ragin" Al Iaquinta and Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone.
The number 4 and 8 ranked fighters respectively are both coming off wins. Long Island's "Ragin Al" earned a hard fought decision win over Kevin at 'UFC ON FOX: Iaquinta vs. Lee' last December in Milwaukee, while "Cowboy" handed Alex Hernandez the first loss of his UFC career in January at 'UFC Fight Night: Dilashaw vs. Cejudo'.
In all reality it's an excellent fight on paper but both fighters are a number of fights away for contending for the UFC lightweight title held by Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Iaquinta stepped in to face the Dagestan fighter on short notice back at UFC 223 in 2018. Khabib retained his title that night after five-rounds, earning a unanimous decision on all three of the judges scorecards. Team Longo/Serra's Iaquinta is unlikely to be considered again until he puts a win-streak together that rivals that of others in the division.
Cerrone returned to the lightweight division in devastating fashion finishing the up-and-coming Hernadez in the second round of their January contest. The former lightweight title challenger will also be looking to string together back-to-back victories. It's his second stint in the 155lbs division after a largely unsuccessful run at welterweight.
Keys to Victory:
The versatile Long Islander will definitely prefer to keep this fight on the feet. He has a slick technical stand-up game matched with finishing power. Don't under estimate Iaquinta's wrestling, he is vastly underrated in that facet and showed his strengths against Kevin Lee, constantly pressing on the front foot and mixing it up with feints and looked for takedowns to keep the former interim-title challenger guessing. He can be extremely gritty when needs be, too. He's very handy off the cage with takedown attempts. I expect Iaquinta to push the pace and look to exchange in the pocket, avoiding Cerrone's takedown attempts. He has a 73% takedown defence accuracy and is very solid defending submission when his back has been taken, we saw that against Nurmagomedov and last time out against Lee.
The BMF ranch man will fancy his chances in the stand up battles with Iaquinta. His smooth kickboxing is style is easy on the eye, and devastating when he has time to get off but Denver's Cerrone has never dealt well with fighters who like to exchange off the front-foot. He needs time to establish his range and likes to size up opponents by having time to create angles, time he won't get against Iaquinta. It may not be a bad thing if the Long Islander lands a takedown on Cerrone. The UFC record performance bonus winner champion 17 submissions on his record, many from off his back, a loves to lock in a triangle. A key area to watch in tonight's fight.
A crucial factor in tonight's bout could be the weight cut. Donald Cerrone looked terrible at yesterday's weight-in and has found it tougher to make 155lbs in the latter part of his career - hence the move up to 170lbs a number of fights back. It will be interesting to see if "Cowboy" can reload correctly after looking so depleted on the scales yesterday morning.
I expect Iaquinta to push the pace in the early rounds and I think he'll look to load his powerful right on Cerrone in the pocket. Forward pressure a Takedown defence are key here for Iaquinta. As mentioned he has improved ten-fold with his submission defence when his back has been taken. Iaquinta's overall repertoire suits the style of this fight for me. I think there are more areas where he can take Cerrone in to deep waters than vice-versa. I think he'll have a enough to unsettle and finish the former Jackson/Wink fighter within the scheduled 5 rounds.
Iaquinta by 3 round tko