UFC 141 breakdown: Diaz vs. Cerrone
Nate Diaz (14-7) vs. Donald Cerrone (17-3)
In a lightweight pairing that has all the makings of a “Fight of the Night” classic, two constantly evolving and evenly matched youngsters will let it all hang out in the octagon.
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Diaz, 26, returned to 155 pounds this past September after a brief stint at welterweight and he turned in one of his finest performances ever, dismantling former Pride mainstay Takanori Gomi in the first round.
Diaz has already achieved moderate success in the UFC lightweight division, winning the fifth season of “The Ultimate Fighter” and submitting Gray Maynard during his stint on the show before going on to earn key wins over Kurt Pellegrino, Josh Neer and Melvin Guillard.
A member of the Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu team, the younger brother of UFC welterweight No. 1 contender Nick Diaz possesses sublime submission skills and excellent boxing. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt utilizes a style similar to that of his brother, overwhelming opponents with a high volume of punches and sealing their fate with submissions whenever the action spills to the canvas.
Diaz has dropped some close decisions to wrestlers, including Clay Guida, Joe Stevenson and Maynard. However, Cerrone’s similar skillset should result in a fan friendly battle as “The Cowboy” will willingly trade strikes with the Stockton, Calif., native and grapple with him if the opportunity presents itself.
Cerrone, 28, has taken the UFC by storm since his debut this past February. The Colorado native has gone 4-0 this year, including submission wins over Paul Kelly and Dennis Siver and a first-round stoppage of hot Brazilian prospect Charles Oliveira.
The former two-time WEC lightweight title challenger has come out on the losing end in two previous bouts with Ben Henderson, who is now the No. 1 contender for Frankie Edgar’s UFC title. Since the WEC was dissolved into the UFC, its lightweight fighters have proven they belong among the upper echelon in the sport and Cerrone is one of them.
A product of Greg Jackson’s Submission Fighting in New Mexico, Cerrone surrounds himself with greatness, including UFC champions Jon Jones and Georges St. Pierre. The charismatic “Cowboy” has submitted 13 of his 17 career victims, which is particularly impressive because he transitioned into mixed martial arts from a traditional kickboxing background. During his stint as a kickboxer, Cerrone went undefeated in 29 contests.
Both Diaz and Cerrone like to bring it, which makes this tilt a fight fan’s joy. We are unlikely to see any stalling when these two lightweight warriors tangle on Friday night.
The stylistic similarities and dominant previous appearances of both men makes this a particularly difficult fight to call, but Diaz deserves a slight edge going in based on his UFC experience and utter decimation of Gomi.
Both fighters are durable and aggressive, but Diaz should threaten more with his submission attempts and dangerous guard, while outputting more punches standing. Cerrone will likely have his moments as well and he’s tough enough to endure three rounds of anything Diaz can dish out. In the end, however, Diaz should outlast the fast-rising star, barely edging him on judges’ scorecards after a scintillating back-and-forth brawl.
Verdict: Diaz via decision