Two highly touted lightweight strikers look to entertain the crowd this May 23, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Match Up
Lightweight Donald Cerrone -600 vs. John Makdessi +450
3 Things You Should Know
1. Cerrone has to hit an activity wall at some point. Right?
Much is always made about "ring rust"; those magic sprinkles that accumulate in your joints to hinder movement after you've been away from the octagon for a long time even though you've probably been working just as hard as you would in a fight given the rigorous training required. But what about ring musth? Cerrone has been in a violent frenzy since January of last year, fighting four times in 2014, and twice within a two week span to start this year. At a certain point you wonder just how long he can keep this pace up.
He's 7-0 in his last seven, so he's making a strong case for a potential title shot, despite the fact that beating Makdessi doesn't strengthen his case. Nonetheless, Rafael dos Anjos is champion; I certainly wouldn't be surprised if their rematch was for the belt, MMA weirdness be damned.
2. Makdessi replacing Khabib Nurmagomedov is like Anthrax replacing Arcade Fire. There's quality, but of a very different sort.
And no I'm not big into Arcade Fire. Some good songs here and there, but I needed a useful analogy. Nonetheless, props to Joe Silva for putting this one together on the fly. Makdessi's status is somewhere between the twilight zone, and Madison Square Garden. He's got a unique style that has earned him fans, but he's never turned that unique style into big wins. He's like Machida without the secret hot sauce. He's suffered some bad losses, which has held him back but he's 4-1 in his last five. So perhaps he's peaking.
3. Cerrone needs to win big. Lightweight is crowded right now, which means Dana White and Co. look less at who you beat how, and more at how you beat who.
While the odds are lopsided, it's important to remember how these odds are determined to begin with. Makdessi has little experience in general, nevermind his experience in the lightweight division itself. And he's never done anything to really stand out besides fight cool. But he's a polished fighter within the arena he chooses.
The factor Makdessi will rely on against Cerrone will be his kicking. While Makdessi has a great right hand that he might not throw as much as he should, he controls range well with his footwork. I doubt he'll be looking to initiate punching exchanges even though they offer him the best way to finish this fight. And it'll be hard to get his jab going given the height difference. Needless to say, it's an uphill battle literally and figuratively.
But I'm confident Makdessi can fluster Cerrone a bit, as Cerrone is prone to doing. Cerrone's striking has always been dynamic, but his dynamism is best underlined in the way that his striking is able to take a backseat to his equally effective grappling. His knees are as brutal as they come, complete with power and timing (I'm convinced his knees themselves have their own spider sense). But it's how he grapples so effectively that makes him a threat to anyone.
I don't think grappling will be the defining factor though. While Cerrone can be flustered, the best Makdessi could manage is something like the one Myles Jury managed; conservative to a fault. But Cerrone needs to feel threatened in order to be confused, and Makdessi just doesn't have the strength to really impose a will that is more the sum of his karate. I wouldn't be surprised to see Makdessi go for an ill advised takedown, leading to...
Donald Cerrone by Guillotine, round 2.