Lightweight steps up on short notice for the third time this year
UFC matchmaker Joe Silva must have Donald Cerrone on speed dial.
For the third time this year, the former WEC standout is stepping up on short notice.
Saturday night, “Cowboy” will climb into the cage with Dennis Siver at UFC 137, filling the opening left by Sam Stout, looking to extend his overall winning streak to six, while notching his fourth win in the UFC this year.
“Joe just knows I’m always ready to go,” suggested the 28-year-old. “I’m sure they call a few people, but they know if I say I’m ready, there won’t be any bullshit; I’ll show up, make weight, and put on a great fight.”
Cerrone doesn’t really like interviews. He’s not a guy who likes being in front of the camera, and he doesn’t really enjoy having a tape recorder or microphone pointed in his direction either. He prefers to let his performances speak for him, and so far this year, they’ve spoken volumes, each outing more impressive than the last.
A three-time title challenger in the WEC, Cerrone started his UFC career with a second-round submission win over Paul Kelly at UFC 126 in February. He followed it up by battering the legs of replacement Vagner Rocha at UFC 131 in Vancouver, admitting afterward that he was frustrated with the Brazilian’s unwillingness to engage.
Two months later, his phone rang again, and Cerrone was off to Milwaukee, teaming up with Charles Oliveira in a “Battle of the Replacements” on the UFC on Versus 5 card at the Bradley Center; Cerrone replaced an injured John Makdessi, while Oliveira subbed for Paul Taylor.
Cerrone didn’t give the youngster a chance to get comfortable, pressuring Oliveira from the outset, and showing the same tenacity he exhibited while kicking the legs out from underneath Rocha back in June.
Viewed as a solid match-up and a stiff test for both competitors at the time it was finalized, Cerrone proved to be a too much for Oliveira to handle, dropping the 21-year-old prospect with a knee to the body before finishing him off with punches just three minutes into the opening round. The performance earned Cerrone $65,000 for Knockout of the Night, a feat he hopes to duplicate when he steps in against Siver on Saturday night.
“Love that money man; the more bonuses the better. My boy Leonard (Garcia) just got the Fight of the Night bonus, so I guess we’re doing something right.”
His financial goals are part of the reason Cerrone likes the pairing with Siver; he sees the potential to put another bonus check in the bank because of the German’s approach.
“I like the match-up in the sense that Siver comes to fight, so I wont have to go chasing this dude around the cage.”
While Cerrone sees potential dollar signs in Saturday night’s Spike TV headliner, this is also a chance to advance in the rankings for the Greg Jackson trainee.
This year has produced a great deal of change on the lightweight landscape, with divisional fixtures changing weight classes, and more than a couple perennial contenders being hit with losses that moved them down in the pecking order in the UFC’s most competitive division.
Siver was responsible for handing out one of those unexpected losses, upsetting George Sotiropoulos at UFC 127. He’s since extended his winning streak to four with a win over Matt Wiman. With his own success so far this year, a victory for Cerrone over the steadily-climbing Siver could move him into the top 10 and maybe even the top 5, depending on the finish.
Cerrone seemed to struggle with consistency and keeping his emotions in check during his WEC days. Talent was never a question, and the fact that he rose to compete for the lightweight title on three separate occasions bears that out.
Focus and fighting up to his potential was always the knock against the intense lightweight competitor, but Cerrone has seemingly gotten those things under control. He no longer stresses out about what is going to happen inside the cage, choosing instead to rely on this talents and the knowledge that he’s put in the necessary work in the gym with the all-star cast assembled at Jackson’s.
“It just comes with experience, I guess; I’ve been to the rodeo a few times now, and I know what I can do. I’m more motivated to be my best; I just want to get better. No one can be as hard on me as I can be on myself.
“We have a ton of guys at Jackson’s that are always training hard,” continued Cerrone. “So as long as I’m not traveling or out on the lake, I’m training.”
That training — and his new train of thought — has paid dividends three times already this year, and a fourth consecutive win could put him on the short list of lightweight title contenders heading into 2012.
Of course, he could take another fight before then.
“They want me to fight, I fight. If anything, they talk me out of fighting; I’m always asking for fights. Injury-free, I will fight every month.”
Before he can think about the next fight, he’s got to get through this fight with Siver at UFC 137.
While he won’t offer a prediction on the outcome, Cerrone does have a message for everyone set to tune in on Saturday night.
“Expect to be entertained.”