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Conor McGregor makes his eagerly-awaited return to the UFC on January 18, but will the former two-weight world champion make a winning return to action or can Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone claim the biggest win of his career and become the third man to beat McGregor inside the Octagon?
READ MORE: Get more free UFC 246 tips for Saturday, January 18
Road To Conor McGregor v Donald Cerrone
It would not be unfair to say that Conor McGregor has become more accustomed to making front page news instead of back page sports news over the past couple of years. The 31-year-old has had numerous run-ins with the law and has seen his personal life get splashed across newspapers, and his in-ring career has hardly taken attention away from those matters because he has fought just once under the UFC banner since becoming a two-weight world champion in November 2016. That bought came in October 2018 when he was dominated and forced to tap out against bitter rival Khabib Nurmagomedov, and even that contest was overshadowed by his shameful behaviour prior to the fight and his opponent’s appalling behaviour in the wake of it. So fight fans can be forgiven for hoping there are no similar theatrics when McGregor finally resumes his UFC career here.
Providing the opposition in his first fight back will be Hall of Fame-bound Donald Cerrone. ‘Cowboy’ enjoyed his best run of form for a couple of years when he reeled off three straight wins against strong opposition between November 2018 and May 2019, but he was stopped by Tony Ferguson a month after that third victory and then failed to last a full round when he took on Justin Gaethje in September of last year. Those losses mean Cerrone has now gone 4-6 in his last 10 fights as he has flitted back and forth between the lightweight and welterweight divisions – the worst run of form of his professional career. A victory over McGregor at UFC 246 would stop the rot in headline-making fashion, but can ‘Cowboy’ do what only two other men have managed to do inside the Octagon – beat the former two-weight world champion?
Conor McGregor v Donald Cerrone Tips
The UFC have been accused of giving McGregor an easy fight in his return to action, but for me that is very disrespectful towards Cerrone who is one of the most talented fighters the lightweight division has seen over the past couple of decades. He may not be past his prime, but he remains incredibly active and there is a clear path to victory for him in this fight.
‘Cowboy’ has the edge over McGregor when it comes to grappling and fighting on the ground, having submitted his opponent in 17 of his 36 professional MMA wins, and if he can use those skills to control where the fight takes place and perhaps take it past the first couple of rounds then he can cause an upset. It is, after all, no secret that McGregor fades after the first few rounds. The problem is that Cerrone is a notoriously slow starter and that spells trouble for him here.
I do not see this going beyond two rounds – in fact I expect McGregor to take out Cerrone inside the opening five minutes. ‘The Notorious’ was guilty of being too hesitant to exchange when he lost to Numagomedov last time out, showing too much respect for the Russian’s wrestling, but I do not believe he will make the same mistake here. Cerrone is always up for a stand-up scrap and that will backfire on him because McGregor has the clear advantage in terms of technique, timing and speed.
I expect the Irishman to light up Cerrone before taking him out rather quickly. ‘Cowboy’ has been stopped inside the first two rounds in four of his last six defeats, and I believe we will see more of the same here as McGregor records his first UFC victory for over three years and perhaps sets up a blockbuster rematch with Numagomedov before the end of 2020.
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UFC 246: Inside The Octagon with Dan Hardy & John Gooden
In this episode of nside The Octagon John and Dan breakdown the highly anticipated return of Conor McGregor, who meets onald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in the blockbuster main event in Las Vegas on January 18. The Octagon welcomes back McGregor after a 15-month hiatus and the former two-division champion will be looking to prove once again why he is the biggest draw in the game. However, this is not Cowboy’s first rodeo under the bright lights. A relentless competitor with a never say die attitude, Cerrone boasts an unrivalled UFC finishing record and knows he has the firepower to take out the Irishman. The fans can expect fireworks as UFC kicks off 2020 with bang.
What The Experts Are Saying
UFC ‘BMF’ champion Jorge Masvidal talking to ESPN: “It can go many ways. Conor is great off the block – he’s phenomenal off the start. ‘Cowboy’ is a slow starter. Conor has tremendous speed and timing in the beginning, good power, so I think he can catch him early. If ‘Cowboy’ comes out to grapple like he has in the past with decent strikers and even good grapplers… he can mix things up real nice and then he can start to flow and get into his game of high kicks and punching and being tricky, like a dual threat to Conor. If (Cerrone) just comes out to fight it out, I see Conor winning within the first two rounds.”
Former UFC welterweight & middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre talking to TriStar Gym’s YouTube channel: “If it’s a quick fight it’s going to be McGregor. If it’s a long fight it’s going to be Cerrone. It depends if Cerrone comes and tries to grapple because he has a very good ground game. I’ve trained with him before, he has good takedown. He is very explosive to shoot the takedown. People don’t know that because he doesn’t use it much. If he does that, to weather the first couple minutes of the storm and McGregor’s powerful left hand, I think he can get it. I think if he wrestles in round one he has a good chance to win but if he tries to play a boxing and karate game with McGregor, McGregor will knock him out. I don’t know enough about McGregor, but, from what I’ve seen is he is like a sniper. When you fight a sniper, you need to move, you need change levels, you need change angles, change distance and I don’t know if Cerrone will do that. He is known to be a slow starter as usual, so if he doesn’t start right away hard with the speed he is going to get caught.”
Former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra on UFC Unfiltered: “I think ‘Cowboy’ has more ways to win, but styles make fights. Even though he’s got more money than God and this and that, I feel this means more to Conor in the sense that ‘Cowboy’ is in there to have fun, win or lose. [It’s a] Big paycheck. The guy is already happy as s**t. This is huge for Conor. Usually [Cerrone’s] a slow starter. Not Conor. Conor is a beast in those early rounds. I tell you right now a lot is going to be dictated in that first round, you know? I think [Cerrone’s] caught up in the ‘let’s give everybody a show type of thing’ and in that kind of headset I think Conor will probably end up KO’ing him.”
UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman talking to BT Sport: “I see a lot of people writing ‘Cowboy’ off like he is mister wash because he’s won some and lost some, but ‘Cowboy’ is a very dangerous fight for Conor. I know Conor is a professional and he’s going to come in prepared, but you know he’s underestimated an opponent before and he paid for it. I think in a sense, he’s kind of underestimated ‘Cowboy’ and you have seen before when you light a fire in ‘Cowboy’ he’s going to get going. It’s a good, good, good fight but I am expecting Cowboy to respond.”
Joe Rogan on his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience: “Based on watching them fight different people, it seems to me Conor McGregor has an advantage in being able to close the distance and a speed advantage. ‘Cowboy’, when at his best, is remarkably well rounded – more well rounded than Conor. I think he has a lot of tools people forget about. In particular, his takedowns are excellent and he can submit the f**k out of you. He’s nasty off his back and has wicked triangles. If this went to the ground, I can see Conor getting submitted by a triangle but what I can’t see is ‘Cowboy’ getting submitted by a triangle. I don’t think it’s impossible, but I don’t see it. Conor can win by knockout. His left hand is a f**king piston and he’s sneaky. He’s got nasty uppercuts and a killer instinct. The Eddie Alvarez fight is the best example of that. He tuned him up and made it look like he had no business being in there. Conor McGregor handles pressure as good as anyone. If he’s the same guy who knocked out Dustin Poirier when he was a savage, Diego Brandao, Jose Aldo and Alvarez and decides he wants to let the world know he can still do it, we could certainly see a resurgence.”
UFC commentator & former title contender Dan Hardy talking to talkSPORT: “I think Conor is rightly the favourite going into this one. Cowboy’ is an excellent fighter but the doubt around him comes from his slow starting and weathering an early storm. If he can get to the second or third, it’s a far more difficult fight for Conor to win. Starting fast can be ‘Cowboy”s kryptonite, though, and that’s Conor’s game.”
What The Fighters Said
Conor McGregor talking to themaclife.com: “If you look at the list of call outs, or the people who I’ve engaged with, Donald was probably one of the first ones. So he’s first on the list, and that’s it. I know Donald’s a good fighter, great records. Most knockdowns, most head kicks, most fights, most rounds, he’s got a lot of UFC records under his belt so I’ll get a great camp, a great fight, and it’ll take me into the year. I’m looking at this as a season, so this is the beginning of the season. Donald was the first one that I agreed to have a bout with, and here we are.”
Donald Cerrone talking to MMAFighting.com: “There’s a bunch of s**t going around. People keep telling me ‘I heard you’re getting paid to take a dive.’ There wouldn’t be enough money in the world for someone to pay me to take a dive. I could never look myself in the mirror if somebody paid me to take a dive. I’d rather fight for free than take money to f**king lose. That’s not me. I’m going to fight my ass off like I do every time.”