The record for the most appearances, the most wins and the most head-kick knockouts in the UFC all belong to one man, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. The man just loves to fight.
On Saturday night at UFC Vegas 11, Cerrone will make his 36th walk to the octagon when he takes on Niko Price on a run of four straight defeats. He was beaten by Tony Ferguson after taking a beaten in the second round, with his eye swelling shut and the doctor stopping the fight. His next bout saw him knocked out in the first round by lightweight contender Justin Gaethje, before his embarrassing 40 second KO to Conor McGregor at the start of this year. He then took on Anthony Pettis in May and suffered a unanimous decision loss.
He now moves on to Price who has yo-yo’d wins and losses in his last six fights, with each of those bouts ending via knockout. Price is a finisher who possesses great power in his hands, with 10 knockout wins from his 14 career victories. That could spell trouble for Cerrone, who has struggled with power punchers in recent times.
Every time Cerrone fails on the big stage, he gets labelled as a gatekeeper. He usually comes back from it and wins a few fights but this time it seems significant that he didn’t. The loss to Pettis was a fight he really should have won. Pettis is a former featherweight and this bout was at welterweight, Cerrone should have been too big and too strong. But while the decision was a controversial one, the record shows he lost.
With Price looking to get back on the winning trail following a knockout defeat to Vicente Luque last time out, Cerrone is a big name that could see him shoot back up the rankings. If Cerrone struggled against McGregor and Pettis in terms of size and strength, a natural 170lbs-er will cause him even more trouble. He also has a great knack for turning fights into a war, which will favour him.
So is it time for Cerrone to forget a title hunt and just focus on wins and wins only? Should he accept the gatekeeper status? Probably.
At 37 he’s entering the end of a normal fighter career, but this man has fought more than anyone. He’s always active, always competing and always training. He has more miles on the clock than anyone in MMA bar Alistair Overeem. It’s time to accept his status in the game now.
He’s had several attempts at the top of the mountain and fallen flat on his face every time. He’s now the marker between those not ready for those top of the mountain challenges and those who are. There’s nothing wrong with it either, not everyone can finish at the top. Cowboy has never been one of the truly elite in any division.
There are plenty of exciting fights he can still have as the gatekeeper in the UFC with his ability to compete in two of the most stacked weight-classes in the company. He must accept his time to become the man has gone and if he can adapt to his new role, he could extend this sensational career a little while longer yet.