Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone (#8) faces a tough test on Saturday against Al Iaquinta (#4) in a battle of top ten UFC lightweight contenders. This main event for UFC Ottawa has the makings of a classic striking battle. This fight will have title implications for the winner and the loser will have a longer road to fighting for the belt.
Let’s see what could happen for the winner and the loser.
Al Iaquinta is 8-2 in his last ten fights. The most notable loss came to Khabib Nurmagomedov (C) at UFC 223 for the lightweight championship. Iaquinta took the fight on less than one day notice after Tony Ferguson (#2) was forced to withdraw due to freak injury. Since that fight, he has campaigned for another shot at Khabib. Iaquinta had a few bright spots during the fight, but he couldn’t handle the champ’s grappling/wrestling.
If Iaquinta were to beat “Cowboy”, he would remain in the top five of the division, but more importantly he would still be in the title picture. A win would also put Iaquinta in the running for another big fight or main event spot down the road as he could face the likes of Tony Ferguson, the loser of the Dustin Poirier (IC) vs Khabib title fight, or Conor McGregor (#3) which would be the biggest money fight of his career. Winning would give Iaquinta many options going forward.
Losing would see Iaquinta behind the likes of Kevin Lee (#6), Edson Barboza (#7), Anthony Pettis (#9), his opponent “Cowboy” Cerrone and maybe even the tenth ranked Paul Felder. Lee and Pettis have also recently made the move to welterweight. Like I said, losing makes the path to the title a bit harder, Iaquinta would have to fight stiffer competition while trying to re-establish himself in the division and more than likely, he would have to go on a two or three fight win streak to get a title shot.
Cerrone on the other hand is 6-4 in last ten fights. I know he says he would like to fight for the belt again, but if we are being honest, history doesn’t paint a pretty picture for “Cowboy” when he is in title fights. He is 0-4 in title fights dating back to 2009. Winning this weekend would certainly put him back in the title hunt, but more importantly it gets him one step closer to the fight he has been asking for vs Conor McGregor. If the Conor fight doesn’t happen, he has the same options as Iaquinta for future fights in the lightweight division.
I know this might rub some folks the wrong way, but if Cerrone were to lose, a loss doesn’t hurt him as bad as Iaquinta. He would not be in the tile picture, but that’s fine. “Cowboy” is known for taking fights in and out of his weight class. This means he would have more options for other fights. He could stay at lightweight and fight the likes of Felder, up-and-coming Gregor Gillespie (#11) or Islam Makhachev (#15). These fights would be what I consider “in the spirit of competition,” meaning that he is fighting for the love of the sport. He could also jump up to welterweight again and test himself against “Wonderboy” Thompson (#7), Santiago Ponzinibbio (#9) or a dream match versus Tyron Woodley (#1). Cerrone has stated he wants to be at lightweight, but the reality is that he will have options win or lose as he is known to fight all comers in and out of his division.
Saturday could see both Cerrone and Iaquinta call for title shots if they are to win. Although, I feel Cerrone probably would call for a fight with McGregor. A loss would hurt Iaquinta more as he is focused on a future title shot. Nonetheless, this should be a helluva fight and I wouldn’t be surprised if either guy was to come out victorious.