Few fighters embody the old saying, “any time, any place” quite like Donald Cerrone. The Colorado native is tied with Jeremy Stephens for the second most fights in the Ultimate Fighting Championship at 30; with many of those bouts being set up on short notice.
Known for his slick submission game, vicious headkicks and trademark cowboy hat, Cerrone’s kill or be killed mentality has lead to him becoming must-see TV over the span of his thirteen-year professional career.
But before that, let’s take a look back at some of Cowboy’s finest finishes.
#5. Matt Brown at UFC 206 – 2016
When Cerrone vs Matt Brown was announced as the co-main event of UFC 206, fans expected violence. They both liked to, “stand and bang” and had a penchant for finishing their opponents.
The first round was an exciting one. Brown was using his boxing and trying to crowd Cerrone while “Cowboy” was throwing out his trademark body and head kicks. Both men hurt each other and Brown almost locked on a triangle choke near the end of the round. The second round was more of the same. Brown landed a right hook that put Cerrone on the ground. Cerrone again rallied and stunned Brown twice with kicks to the head. Going into the third, the fight was very close. There was no telling how the judges would score it. Luckily for them, they wouldn’t have to.
At the beginning of the final stanza, Brown over-extended on a punch and ducked his head low as he threw. Cerrone saw his opening and landed his shin flush across Brown’s face. Brown dropped with his arms outstretched. Cerrone had gotten the third round finish in an exciting back-and-forth war.
#4. Rick Story at UFC 202 – 2016
Back in 2016, Cerrone moved up to welterweight and had finished two opponents in a row. His third fight in the new division would be against former collegiate wrestler, Rick Story. Story was known for his resolve, gritty fight style, and clinch/takedown game. It seemed likely he’d try to get in close and avoid the ranged attacks of Cerrone.
“Cowboy” made him pay with knees to the body and short elbows every time Story got inside on him. Cerrone even initiated his own takedown in the first and briefly put Story on his back. His constant assault on the inside made Story timid and kept him at the striking range of Cerrone.
A place you don’t want to be.
It was in the second that “Cowboy” landed a four-punch combination ripped straight out of a video game. A left straight to the face, a right to the body, a short left hook to the face that pushed Story’s head into the right high kick. After a few follow up strikes for good measure, Cerrone had picked up his third straight win in the welterweight division.
#3. Melvin Guillard at UFC 150 – 2012
Melvin Guillard and Donald Cerone were friends. They both trained with Greg Jackson back in 2012 and sparred together three or four times a week. Cerrone was linked to a fight with Anthony Pettis but when that fell through due to an injury, the UFC approached Guillard about taking the bout. Guillard and Cerrone spoke on the phone and agreed to throw down at UFC 150 and take home “Fight of the Night” honors.
Which they did.
In the first ten seconds of their match, Guillard landed a crushing left hook that dropped Cerrone. Cerrone got back to his feet but was lost in a barrage of knees and elbows from his opponent. Guillard eventually backed up his relentless assault and gave Cerrone space which he used to recover. Cerrone blasted his training partner with a that wobbled him and followed up with a lunging straight that left Guillard motionless on the canvas.
The whole affair lasted just over one minute.
#2. Edson Barboza at UFC on FOX 11 – 2014
Edson Barboza was 13-1 when he met Cerrone in 2014. The Brazilian Muay Thai specialist was already known for his fight-ending kicks and had finished two guys with them since joining the promotion. Pairing him up with another rangy striker in Cerrone had fans salivating at the mouth ahead of this one.
Barboza came out with a furious 3-piece combo that seemed to rattle Cerrone in the opening seconds. “Cowboy” recovered, and the pair met in the middle. Barboza was clearly a bit quicker than Cerrone and beat him to the punch (and leg kick) in almost every exchange. After being outstruck almost 3-1 throughout the first three minutes, Cerrone dropped Barboza with a flicking jab and pounced onto his back with a quickness. He had the rear naked choke on and Barboza was tapping within a blink of an eye.
#1. Alexander Hernandez at UFC on ESPN+1 – 2019
Alexander Hernandez burst onto the scene with a 42 second KO over Benali Dariush in March of last year. In his second outing, Hernandez showed more of his game, outgrappling Olivier Aubin-Mercier over three rounds. The UFC, clearly seeing star potential in Hernandez, paired him up against Cerrone in as the “featured prelim” during the UFC’s first showing on ESPN.
The buzz surrounding that and the subsequent ESPN+ event was at an all-time high. Cerrone was dropping back down to the lightweight division after going 2-4 over at welterweight over the last two years. The bookies assumed that Cerrone’s best days were behind him and christened the undefeated prospect the favorite heading into the fight.
Come fight night, Cerrone proved he wasn’t there to put anyone over.
Hernandez began busting up Cerrone from the opening bell. Halfway through the first, Cerrone, who has been a professional fighter since Hernandez was in middle school, started employing some veteran tactics. He was timing Hernandez’s approach and kneeing him hard to the body. He was also cracking the younger man in the clinch and throwing headkicks when Hernadez would try and exit. In the second, a gassed and battered Hernandez became a moving target. Cerrone lit up his body with kicks until he went high, and caught his opponent with a head kick. Smelling blood, Cerrone went for the kill– landing ground and pound until the referee pulled him off.
The fight had been viewed by 1.96 million people and truly ushered in the ESPN era of the UFC.