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UFC Singapore: Donald Cerrone vs. Leon Edwards Toe-to-Toe Preview - A complete breakdown

Phil and David breakdown everything you need to know about Cerrone vs. Edwards for UFC Fight Night in Singapore, and everything you don’t about welterweight turnover.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Donald Cerrone vs. Leon Edwards headlines UFC Fight Night 132 this June 23, 2018 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore.

One sentence summary:

David: Cowboy begins his early retirement tour by threatening to retire some young’ins.

Phil: Cowboy attempts to stop the next phase of the Great Welterweight Turnover, where the stars of yesteryear are replaced by a new generation who are unfortunately almost universally less interesting than their predecessors.

Stats

Record: Donald Cerrone 33-10-1 NC | Leon Edwards 15-3

Odds: Donald Cerrone +200 | Leon Edwards -220

History / Introduction to the fighters

David: We all expect Cowboy to decline, but as long as he’s not facing top prospect after top prospect, I feel like his retirement tour could be more violent for the opposition than for Cowboy himself. Charles Bronson looked haggard as a vigilante, but would you f--k with him? That’s what I see in Cerrone’s immediate future; a guy who relishes kicking ass too much to get his ass kicked. I don’t know that Edwards is the guy who put the nail in Cerrone’s beer coffin.

Phil: Cowboy Cerrone remains Cowboy Cerrone, although one major aspect about him that changes over time is that he appears to be growing more and more into his name from a visual perspective. That luxuriant moustache he’s sporting of late is the missing touch that makes him someone who could walk into Al Swearingen’s Gem and order a whisky without anyone batting an eye. A lot of the best cowboy stories end in tragedy, though, and Cerrone’s new look doesn’t exactly disguised how much more weathered he’s looking these days.

David: Edwards entered the octagon as a BAMMA prospect, and now he fights as a UFC one. I didn’t expect much from Edwards coming in. He finished fights, but he wasn’t destroying opposition so much as taking measured approaches to winning inside a pressure package of punches and grapplework. Now he seems to have a real identity, figuring out the pace of a professional fight, and finding his way into his highest profile fight to date. This fight’s typical for UFC muckviewing, but pretty good by their lowered standards.

Phil: Leon Edwards is an odd transformational story. A low-output power puncher, he got outmuscled by Kamaru Usman and then seemingly took the wrestling lesson to heart to such an extent that it became his primary method of attack. He then rolled off five wins, most of them of fairly high quality. Although it can be argued that a more fan-friendly style might have gotten him marquee matchups like this earlier, there’s no arguing with his consistency. Plus, there’s a benefit to flying under the radar and not getting tossed in there with Top 5-7 guys like, say, Mike Perry was.

What’s at stake?

David: Nothing, really. Unless Edwards knocks Cerrone out with some patented spinning shit, there won’t be any demand for one of these guys to fighting in a serious high profile bout. Welterweight isn’t exactly brimming with excitement in the contender ranks, but whatever. I just like this fight.

Phil: Welterweight is currently: Covington vs Woodley. After that is Darren Till, and after that is Usman and perhaps the Ponz. Edwards can’t jump over any of these guys with a win, unless it’s very very impressive, but he can certainly get himself into a match with some of them. For Cerrone, I think it’s just more of the same at this point. Tough guys that he’ll fight for a check, with no real thoughts of where that heads other than the next surfing trip.

Where do they want it?

David: When I think about Cowboy’s career, I think about how his technique evolved past his peak window. He started out as a dangerous striker with some elite offensive grappling skills, but he was never a full volume striker. His boxing was a little limited, and over time, he became a much more dynamic threat with his hands thanks to solid coaching and a potentially rejuvenated outlook getting to sink some more beers with more weight. As I’ve said before, Cowboy’s biggest difference is utilizing his left hook. It used to be an apparition, but once he got it going, the move up in weight didn’t matter, as he grew more tools. In some ways, he’s become the fighter people stereotypes him as. Even though he fought a smart fight against Robbie Lawler, the action didn’t favor him, and the fight against Medeiros was a typical Medeiros booze-legged slugfest. We know what Cowboy is good at: elbows, knees, etc. Now it’s a question if what he’s liable to be bad at (besides a vulnerable body).

Phil: Cowboy is a defined distance fighter, and I feel like a lot of his welterweight career has been about trying to cloak ways to hide that fact, often with surprising and impressive levels of success. His counterpunching and head movement was polished up by Brandon Gibson, with a nice left hook and much more of a tendency to throw in combination. His clinch game has added in slashing elbows to compliment is double-collar knees, and he’s shown much more of a proclivity to use his previously-underrated offensive wrestling game. I feel this is all in service of making sure he isn’t in the pocket for too long, because despite all these improvements, he is still not that great there. His head remains up and he instinctively steps back on straight lines in unfamiliar situations. What he really wants is to be at kicking range, snipping away safely and countering with the step knee as people rush in. That has become a lot more difficult now that he’s up against welterweight frames, who are more likely to be able to counter his kicks with punches. Hence the more deep game... but I think it’s hard to overemphasize how important those few extra inches of reach were to his approach down at lightweight.

David: Edwards has a nice, clean style. With a slick left hand, he knows how to work his real strengths with a top-down approach, using sharp kicks, and quality sequential wrestling to funnel effective pressure with a very economic approach. He has a one-and-done method of attack. While it leaves you wanting more, it’s hard to argue against its effectiveness. Edwards doesn’t make many mistakes, and his style forces opponents to open up more than they’d like as a consequence. It works well for Edwards, who has the talent to cross his legs, breathe through his nostrils, and recite Siddhartha. How that interacts with Cerrone’s game is another question...

Phil: Edwards’ game is meat’and’potatoes in the extreme. A solid one-two, a dangerous left straight and a powerful rear leg head kick have largely been relegated of late in favour of a surprisingly excellent wrestling game. Edwards’ blazing speed has been put in service of a quick first shot, and he chain wrestles effectively, and is genuinely excellent at latching onto the back in transitions. Comfort seems a big issue for him - he can throw clean Dutch-style punch-kick combinations, but it’s surprisingly rare to see him throw anything more than a single shot before going back to wrestle. That makes Cerrone an interesting challenge. While Cerrone has been vulnerable to several things, shot takedowns haven’t really been a major issue for him since... his first Henderson fight? His improved defensive wrestling can I think largely been traced back to a single fight, namely Jamie Varner 3, where an enraged Cerrone fought perhaps the most complete bout of his career. Essentially, Edwards is bigger, younger, hits harder shot-for-shot and is skilled enough to be able to utilize all of those advantages, but his primary skillset of late is one which Cerrone has proven to be able to sprawl, scramble and submit his way out of in various phases.

Insight from past fights

David: It comes down to how well Edwards can handle Cerrone’s grappling. Even though I think Cerrone has always had issues with his defensive grappling, his offense is wicked. Not only does he control ground and pound attacks well, but his agility allows him to snap up his legs kick for triangles, and he has a solid variety of chokes at his disposal. I don’t know that Edwards can handle those threats for all three rounds.

Phil: Edwards has been oddly excellent at neutralizing power kickboxers. Tumenov and Luque are both blazing fast, technical strikers and he was able to close in on them fairly effectively and then shut them down. Neither man is anything like the grappler that Cerrone is, but it showed that Edwards can close in on seriously dynamic threats without being hurt.

X-Factors

David: Apparently there’s been “animosity.” As if there would be any more or less after someone tries to take each other’s head off.

Phil: Cerrone has reportedly been trying to be nice to Edwards, who is being mean to him. Lord knows what this means and whether it makes Cowboy more or less likely to underperform. It is notable that his big-fight nerves are unlikely to present themselves in Singapore, though.

Prognostication

David: I think Cerrone has real talent for a counterstriker, but he doesn’t have the instincts. His defense is too open, and his body is unusually vulnerable for him to work that angle and style. At the same time, I don’t think Edwards has the power to take advantage of his time on the feet. Cerrone is still very good at giving himself a nice window of violence in the clinch, meaning Edwards’ takedowns could work against him in minor ways that could build up if he’s a little exhausted, allowing Cerrone to catch him on the ground. Donald Cerrone by Submission, round 3.

Phil: This fight is weird. I originally thought it was going to be Leon Edwards coming-out party... then I thought of how passive and wrestling-focused he could be and switched to Cerrone... and then I watched how Edwards counters and switched right back to him. Cerrone has been traditionally poor against southpaws, and Edwards’ one-two is straight, accurate and controls Cerrone’s favourite range. It seems almost custom-built for him. I don’t think wrestling will work on Cerrone (at least not on its own), as that’s a recipe for getting swept or submitted, but I just can’t get the idea of Cerrone being countered repeatedly out of my head. Leon Edwards by submission, round 3.