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UFC Fight Night: MacDonald vs Thompson - Donald Cerrone v Patrick Cote Toe to Toe Preview

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Phil and David break down everything you need to know about Cerrone vs. Cote for UFN 89 in the land of maple syrup, and everything you don't about Long Tall Sally.

Artwork by Phil MacKenzie

Donald Cerrone looks to stay active, aggressive, and victorious at welterweight against Patrick Cote this June 18, 2016 at the TD Place Arena in Ottawa, Canada.

Single Sentence Summary

Phil: Cowboy vs Predator might not be the spin-off everyone expected, but it'll probably still be better than Prometheus (Ed. Note: if it's anything like Cowboys vs Aliens, this statement is very arguable).

David: Cowboy and the Predator intend to 'have some fun tonight'.

Stats

Record: Donald Cerrone 29-7-1 NC Patrick Cote 23-9

Odds: Donald Cerrone -155 Patrick Cote +135

History / Introduction to the Fighters

David: Cerrone continues his renegade journey through the UFC with his second welterweight Zuffa bout. Unlike most fighters coming up in weight, the size of his opponents doesn't fundamentally alter his approach. He's a tall, lanky striker who happens to be tough, and is fantastic on the ground. I think the real question for Cerrone is whether or not the move in weight benefits him long term. He's had a ton of fights, so maybe fighting bigger guys will have a more pronounced effect if/when he begins to decline.

Phil: Cowboy's consistency can be attributed to miracle dust and moxie. At some point the undeniable force of entropy is going to leave him in the dust, whatever weight class he's in, but the fun is seeing just how far he can go and how weird the fights can get in the meantime.

David: Cote has led quite possibly the most bipolar career of any UFC fighter in recent or historical memory. A high profile bout with Tito Ortiz before he received enough cracked skulls to embrace Donald Trump and some wins later, he's fighting Anderson Silva around the time Steven Seagal was imparting wisdom onto him and his crown. Damn. MMA is fucking bizarre. It's a flat circle of nu metal and hermetically sealed violence. Cote has somehow managed to stay afloat in all this mess despite a fairly limited skillset.

Phil: That's the thing though! It's not even a particularly limited skillset any more! If we extract the last few years of Cote's career from any and all sense of history and context, what it most resembles is a talented prospect developing a game from scratch. He starts off as a fairly conservative top position grappler with some clunky striking in the Noke and Wonderboy fights, develops a bit too much aggression in the Burkman fight but makes it through, then centers into more of a clinch fighter and layers it with some oddly dynamic ground game. YOU'RE NOT A DEVELOPING PROSPECT WHO JUST JUMPED ON THE SCENE, PATRICK COTE. YOU'RE A 36 YEAR OLD MAN WHO'S BEEN FIGHTING FOR ALMOST 14 YEARS..

What's at Stake?

David: Welterweight is so flippy floppy, and Dana loves him some Cowyboy, so Cerrone passing up quality contenders wouldn't really shock me. As such, there's a lot at stake for Donald. Less so for Cote, who is definitely not simply happy to be here. It's a tough fight for Cerrone, all things considered.

Phil: Cowboy goes on to get quality opponents towards the top (or at the top) of fight night and Fox cards with a win, Cote likely becomes "hey, that's a more interesting fight than I thought" fodder on things like PPV main cards with contests against guys like Larkin.

Where do they want it?

David: No secrets for Cerrone. Instead of copy and pasting everything we've said a thousand times already about Cerrone, I think we should talk about how his abilities have, and project to translate to welterweight. His slow starts shouldn't be an issue at welterweight where most fighters fight at a much more deliberate pace than the rhythm you find at lightweight and below. Because of that, I'm confident his striking won't suffer. Nor are there many fighters able to capitalize on his notorious slow starts. Cerrone's center of the octagon strategy will remain efficient, but I believe his grappling has the ability to blossom. He's a deadly mover from his back, and swivels his hips as fluidly as most classic grapplers. His real issue will be dealing with the striking specialists that have taken over. Cote isn't a striking specialist. But he's a striking yeoman, which makes this a solid, if stylistically tough second fight.

Phil: In terms of welterweight, I'm a little cautious, frankly. Cerrone lacks the two things which truly retain their value across weight class borders: footspeed, and a dynamite punch. His first "welterweight" fight was against a relatively inexperienced (if very very big) lightweight. The worry is that he could be following the same kind of path as friend and rival Ben Henderson, who had success against the inexperienced (Thatch) and a former lightweight (Masvidal) before running into the power and strength barrier with an audible clang over in Bellator. In Donald's case, Alex Cowboy: former lightweight. Patrick Cote: former light heavyweight.

I do worry that Cerrone's striking has always been predicated on keeping opponents on the end of his kicks and being clever and sadistic enough to stop them getting in. What happens if a big, powerful fighter like Cote just walks through the kicking and punches Cerrone in the face?

David: The good news for Cote is that he ditched that drunken hop scotch on actual scotch routine from UFC 90. Cote hasn't changed his routine so much as chisel away at his fundamentals. He looks to land a big right hand, and he'll either break his boxing with matwork, or work diligently to set up his power right hand with traditional boxing techniques. It sounds boring, but he's been in some fantastic bouts recently. Burkman had never been hurt like that until Cote, so needless to say, Cerrone would be foolish to take Cote lightly. However, as fun as that fight was, part of what makes Cote so effectively lately is that he knows how to slow a fight down. It always comes across as unsure rather than strategic (remember those awkwardly timed clinches against Leben despite finding success in the exchanges?), but there's an efficiency all the same.

Phil: I'm still just weirded out by how good Cote looks nowadays. The sheer depth of his game has increased dramatically from the days when it could be summarized as good looks, a big right hand, and an unthinkable amount of durability.

The legendary chin has faded a bit since the Belcher slam, but we're talking about a reasonable boxer, a decent offensive wrestler and a shockingly effective clinch fighter and defensive grappler. His main problem is one which has followed him from his early days and has only been exaggerated with the drop to welterweight: he is just not a very quick man on his feet.

Insight from Past Fights

David: Perhaps the Eddie Alvarez fight with Cerrone forecasts some modest insight. It was a good example of how Cerrone approaches technically sound boxers with limited creativity. That's not a slight on Eddie. Just that he takes a fairly linear path to boxing his way to victory. Cote is the same way, and much like Alvarez, his defense lacks a real foundation. If Cerrone can get his kicks, and knees going without dealing with a first round flurry, it's clean sailing from there. But Cote is much bigger, and landing the kind of punches Eddie did would make a short night for Donald.

Phil: We can almost see a direct parallel here between Alvarez-Cerrone and Cote-Saunders, which is that Cote beat Saunders by wailing on him with short uppercuts from the single collar, which is exactly what Alvarez did to Cowboy at the end of their first round. Cerrone has a brick for a head, but if Cote does that to him it spells bad things. Cote is about twice as strong as Alvarez, although he is notably also about twice as slow. Hmm.

X-Factors?

David: Can we talk about your artistic prophecies re: Bisping winning the title instead? The Zuffa sale, or anything other than x-factors that would require me to follow extraneous details about Cerrone or Cote that I would otherwise have no knowledge of because writing about hockey, MMA, and pretending to be a novelist are enough hobbies for one lifetime?

Phil: Can we talk about your more impressive prophetic ability in actually picking Bisping to win? In a brief moment of self-congratulation I think we did a good job in pointing out a lot of the potential sharp edges in a nominal squash match for that one.

There isn't much here in terms of x-factors though: just the inevitable flaking away of two fighters who simply aren't as durable as they once were.

Prognostication

David: Unlike the proverbial puncher's chance, Cote is in a real good spot to stumble into clinches where Cerrone has his chin exposed, and just nails Cowboy below the lithosphere. However, I don't think Cote has been prepared in his recent fights to deal with someone as technically proficient as Cerrone. Also, Cote doesn't have the kind of breakneck wrestling to power through Cerrone's stout takedown defense. Being forced to deal with Cowboy's legwork will prove insurmountable despite slipping in some ultra violence here and there. Donald Cerrone by Split Decision.

Phil: It's a surprisingly tricky one. I think Cerrone can lash a few kicks into Cote's legs, and even Cerrone's sluggish footwork should be enough to keep him at his favourite distance against the slower man. Cerrone's still the better grappler, although if it gets into that phase it means that he's already tangling in spaces that he shouldn't be. Donald Cerrone by unanimous decision.