Under two years ago, Donald Cerrone was riding high. After suffering defeat in a UFC Lightweight title challenge, ‘Cowboy’ had moved up to Welterweight with immense success, stringing together four straight finish wins in under ten months. The exclamation point on that streak came with the fourth victory too, an emphatic head-kick knockout win over the historically tough Matt Brown. However, Cerrone’s constant urge to stay active has often proved a double-edged sword and at Welterweight, that’d remain the case.
Not even two months removed from that aforementioned Brown win, Cerrone’s fortunes almost totally reversed, suffering a devastating stoppage defeat to Jorge Masvidal. In a career of mostly successful nights, this fight would join the smaller category of Cerrone’s tougher moments, a handful of fights in which ‘Cowboy’ just seemed absent, losing without having any real success of his own. That was certainly the case opposite Masvidal, and it rightly resulted in Cerrone taking a slightly longer break before returning six months later.
His opponent would be former champion Robbie Lawler, who after a year of inactivity, re-entered more motivated than ever. That showed early too, with Lawler initially blitzing Cerrone until ‘Cowboy’ weathered the storm. In rounds 2 and 3, Cerrone would experience genuine success also, convincing some that he’d actually been the fight’s deserved winner. However, the three judges disagreed, electing Lawler the victor as Cerrone slumped to the first two fight losing streak of his career. Things would then go from bad to worse, with Cerrone heading to Poland for a fight with unheralded prospect Darren Till.
In now unforgettable fashion, Till would dispose of Cerrone with ease, scoring a swift stoppage win and seemingly ending ‘Cowboy’s brief stay among the Welterweight elite. After fighting for over a decade without consecutive defeats, Cerrone suddenly found himself without a win in his last three outings. Nonetheless, Cerrone wouldn't be kept out of the win column for long, starting 2018 with a main event stoppage win over the surging Yancy Medeiros. It had been a dramatic affair and with the UFC’s loaded schedule, a reminder of Cerrone’s potential impact regardless of title contention.
He’d stay in the main event spot too, next heading to Singapore for a fight with fringe contender Leon Edwards. It was a spirited, back and forth headline bout but Cerrone came out on the losing end, dropping a unanimous decision defeat to stall his recently regained momentum. Now just over four months later and Cerrone is back again, this time taking on exciting finisher ‘Platinum’ Mike Perry. Stylistically, this fight has obvious appeal but after all the drama surrounding Jackson – Wink’s stance by Perry’s side, its intrigue has suddenly become quite unique within Cerrone’s career landscape.
Either way, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that at this point in time, Cerrone’s time in title contention is likely a thing of the past. However, his role going forward is still unclear. On a roster that at times, lacks familiar faces, Cerrone is a popular, recognizable figure that on name value alone, can probably main event any fight night card across the world. Combine that with his style, and Cerrone quite obviously still has genuine value to the UFC. With that being said, he has to remain competitive, especially when paired with this kind of opposition.
This Perry matchup feels somewhat similar to that aforementioned headline bout opposite Yancy Medeiros. It’s not a fight related to ranking or UFC gold but instead a clash of exciting fighters with a clear intention to steal the show. Unless he’s left wanting in dramatic fashion on Saturday night, this feels like Cerrone’s optimum position right now, still featured but in a fashion that helps all involved. However, when any fighter finds themselves this deep in a career of violence, the end could frankly arrive at any time.
In all likelihood, this upcoming chapter will be Cerrone’s last regardless. It’s now just a matter of how long Cerrone can ride this storm though, and more importantly, how well he can ride it too.