Donald Cerrone has won nine of his last 11 bouts. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
LightweightsDonald Cerrone (20-5, 7-2 UFC) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (19-6, 8-4 UFC)
The Matchup: Riding the momentum of a four-fight winning streak, dos Anjos could announce himself as a serious player in the lightweight division with a win over Cerrone, who has himself flirted with title contention before coming up short in a couple key moments.
While dos Anjos’ unanimous decision triumph over Evan Dunham was hardly as clear-cut as the cageside judges deemed it to be -- all 10 media members scoring the contest favored Dunham, according to MMADecisions.com -- there was still plenty to like about the Brazilian’s performance, particularly his standup. In addition to landing combinations and leg kicks, dos Anjos worked well in the clinch and countered effectively when Dunham moved forward. On a night when the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt was unable to land a single takedown attempt, his striking was the difference between winning and losing.
Despite being known for his kickboxing ability, Cerrone’s lone Octagon defeats have come at the hands of striking-oriented foes, first the volume-punching of Nate Diaz at UFC 141 and then a perfectly placed kick to the liver from Anthony Pettis at UFC on Fox 6. With that said, it would not be wise for dos Anjos to simply exchange with the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts product for 15 minutes. Cerrone has the height and reach advantage and, as the longer fighter, should be able to control distance with his diverse array of kicks.
“Cowboy” also does a good job of mixing it up, following crisp punching combinations with leg kicks and landing knees to the body and chest. Dos Anjos’ deceptive power has shown itself on more than one occasion, but he would be better served to use his boxing to move into tie-up and takedown range. Dos Anjos relies on an explosive shot to get his opponents down, and before being shut out in that area by Dunham, he landed a combined 10 takedowns in wins over Anthony Njokuani and Mark Bocek.
However, Cerrone’s defensive wrestling has vastly improved since his WEC tenure; not since losses to Jamie Varner and Benson Henderson in 2009 has the Colorado native been grounded consistently. His ability to use angles and footwork should disrupt dos Anjos’ timing, but if even if it does not, Cerrone has proven to be a crafty submission artist from his back.
The Pick: The ability to mix up his strikes and stay out of range of dos Anjos’ most serious offerings will prove to be the difference here. Cerrone wins by decision.
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