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UFC Denver: Donald Cerrone vs. Mike Perry Toe-to-Toe Preview – A complete breakdown

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Donald Cerrone vs. Mike Perry co-headlines UFC Denver this November 10, 2018 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.

One sentence summary

David: The Good vs. The Bad & Ugly

Phil: Cowboys and not-Indians

Stats

Record: Donald Cerrone 33-11-1 NC | Mike Perry 12-3

Odds: Donald Cerrone +170 | Mike Perry -185

History / Introduction to the fighters

David: Cowboy’s career feels tangibly in the process of it’s long walk home. He’s 1-4 in his last five, and ‘quality of competition’ is a reasonable excuse until we break his fights down by ‘quality of performance.’ This is Cowboy’s twilight. Except there are no sparkling vampires, or snapchat filter babies. Just bravado and racism. Cerrone himself has still looked good in spots. But if he loses to Perry, he’ll probably call it a career. Especially if he loses bad (spoiler alert: I don’t think he will).

Phil: Cowboy’s entire UFC career has felt like the sword of Damocles waiting to drop, and now it kind of feels like it’s on its way down, albeit in slow motion. He never made it to a title shot, but the consistency of the man has been boggling: despite all the partying, despite the nearly-dying-while-dirt-buggying, and the nearly-dying-while-caving and presumably at least another couple of stories of nearly-dying-while-X, despite taking whatever fight was offered to him at any given notice, Cerrone has always just come out and done his thing. We’ll miss him when he’s gone.

David: I’ll just go ahead and say it. If Perry were just a head-down, Aww Schucks Good ‘Ole Boy from Down South, I don’t think he gets this fight. Because he’s the UFC’s numetal anthem come to life, and Freedom at Speech At Any Cost, the UFC will push him any way they can. Am I being overly critical? Do I seem like someone who wants trigger warnings on my classic literature? However we got here, that is definitely not the case. But let’s face it. Perry lost to a middle of the road fighter in Max Griffin, lost to Ponzinibbio, and had to eek out a win over a one-armed-since-round-one Paul Felder. In other words; he’s not that good, but when you bark louder than you bite, you get to fail up in the UFC. I don’t hate the fight, so clearly I’m the one getting played.

Phil: Perry remains both a potential landmine and promotional gold for the UFC, but perhaps the biggest risk that he presents is that he just won’t be much of anything at all. When he first came into the UFC, he was someone with a knack for timing power punches, an innate feel for how to pressure, and sheer horrific physicality up close. Now, a few years down the line, is he much different than he was back then? It’s hard to tell. He’s gone to Jackson-Wink, which would have been a great idea back in the day, and seems like less of one nowadays. How much better has Lando Vannata gotten?

What’s at stake?

David: For Cerrone, it’s All Spiritual, Man. Not trying to be condescending there. I just keep reading the tea leaves in Patrick Swayze’s voice. He knows his time is up, but he needs to catch that last point break — even if it costs him his health — for old time’s sake.

Phil: When Perry first came to the UFC, we all said: one day, this guy is going to brutally polish off one of your favourite fighters. Condit was the popular pick, but Cerrone isn’t far off.

Where do they want it?

David: I don’t feel like Cerrone has lost a step so much as a convergence of steps have colluded against him. The step up in competition; the wear and tear; the continued slow starts; the Brandon Gibson drama; etc. At his best, Cerrone is fight jazz. Without establishing a clearly defined rhythm — one-two’s, jab, kick, overhand, or some order of all the above — Cerrone feels the fight out, disrupting his opponent’s rhythm with ill-intentioned strikes to slowly dictate the pace. For some reason, I think about Jacare’s performance against Weidman a lot. Although we think of offense is happening in proper sequences, sometimes the blunt force of awkward sequencing is just as effective as the precision of sharp sequencing. Cerrone does something similar, never quite finding offense in sequences, and preferring moments (slicing knees, overhands, submission attempts), but unlike most of this non-linear fighters, Cerrone CAN sequences when he wants to.

Phil: I feel like the main thing about Cerrone is: can he safely establish kicking range to the extent that people have to rush to overcome it? A lot of the people he’s lost against have been tall, rangy lightweights (Diaz) or welterweights (Edwards) or somewhere between (Masvidal) who can establish boxing range and stick to it until his lack of depth there starts to show. He can jab, and he can hook, and he can land the one-two, and he’s often shockingly accurate with any and all of them (witness his videogame Rick Story knockout), but like Anthony Pettis, his lack of any real defense in that range beyond a simple slip often comes back to haunt him. Given his kicking range to sit in, he’s still happy to carve people up to the legs, body and head, but it’s something that increasingly doesn’t happen given that most welterweights are his size or bigger. He’s still likely a better striker in most senses (even just pure boxing) than Perry, a better wrestler and grappler, but he’s also increasingly looking physically frail, and like his second gear has disappeared.

David: Perry is the proverbial example of power, guts, balls, and fortitude overcoming technical deficiencies. When you look at the best strikers in MMA, a lot of their prowess comes from making the right reads: spotting an opponent’s tail — does my opponent duck certain hands for specific punches? Do they follow up certain strikes with the same move? — and making adjustments. While this is an essential trait for counterpunchers, it’s not exclusive to them. Perry ignores the long reads for TL;DR violence. Sometimes it pays to have a short attention span. This isn’t fight condescension. Perry has good instincts, and fights within them to make his opponent react with their own fight or flight switch. When you have power, and a chin, this isn’t a bad gameplan. In fact, it works a lot like a trap. To quote Anthony Hopkins, ‘beware of the deadfall.’

Phil: Perry is both a bad-case style matchup for Cerrone and one which Cowboy can deal with relatively handily. On the one hand, if Cerrone’s physical disparity has shown up against fighters like Leon Edwards, then what happens against a force of nature like Perry? Conversely, though, Perry’s style is not exactly built to maximize his own gifts, and more specifically it isn’t built to work effectively off a reach advantage or parity. Instead, Perry seems to function best as an aggressive counterpuncher, pulling shots out of an opponent and then cracking them as hard as he can. The issue is that he doesn’t appear to have the punch selection to draw attacks out, which often leaves him vainly getting picked off at range trying to figure out when or what is coming at him. His primary distance closer is a weaving left hook, which he’d be well served to use in this fight: not only is Cerrone historically susceptible to left hands, but it should at least get Perry into the clinch, where he can really leverage his physical advantages.

Insight from past fights

David: Oddly enough, not many fighters are similar to Cerrone when looking at Perry’s resume. Jouban beat him with recklessness, Ponzinibbio beat him with speed, and Griffin beat him with range. Cerrone isn’t any of these things. Cerrone is fast from the outside, picking shots. When in close or being pressured, he’s more measured. In a way this bodes well for Perry, who will try to Lineker his way in. As good as Cerrone is, he’ll falter when backed up, although he has a good selection of counters. The difference here is that I don’t think Cerrone needs to blitz Perry to offset Perry’s pressure. Cerrone just needs one good sequence. Faded or not, Cerrone still has a brutal arsenal at his disposal, and the intelligence to cut through Perry’s attack.

Phil: I think a lot of what we’ve seen from Perry’s losses is a single trait: functional range strikers. Griffin, Jouban etc kept him at range and sniped him, and he got lost looking for that one huge counter. Conversely, while Perry fits into the archetype of fighters who have troubled Cerrone in the past (aggressive, powerful pressure), he lacks one of the major elements which has been Cowboy’s kryptonite: he’s not a southpaw.

X-Factors

David: How much Mountain Dew did Perry have the night before?

Phil: It’s in Colorado, where Cowboy hails from. Normally a hometown advantage is a help for a fighter, but Cowboy is infamous for his tendency to choke on the big stage, and the last time he was in Colorado he got thumped by Jorge Masvidal.

Prognostication

David: All my instincts are telling me to pick Perry. Cerrone; faded veteran; loser of 4 in 5; probably happy to ride off into the sunset; do some Fox Sports commentary; smoke weed on the Rogan podcast. But I just don’t believe in Perry as some sort of welterweight Lineker. Lineker does so much more than brawl — or I should say there’s nuance to how he brawls. Perry is not a low IQ striker, but his striking lacks nuance. When he’s effective it’s because he’s in the clinch, or mixing it up with takedowns. He’s a Hatebreed concert fueled by the hot hand fallacy. Cerrone, by contrast, has dealt more effectively with bigger one hitter quitters (like Lawler), and provides his own knuckle explosions to keep from being easily intimidated. Donald Cerrone by TKO, round 3.

Phil: I share your perturbation. I also want to pick Perry- Cerrone’s downwards trajectory is unlikely to reverse itself, his durability and will to win both appear to be on the wane, and Perry is in just the point in his career when he should be showing improvements. But… he hasn’t really shown any improvements. Somewhat plodding, orthodox puncher? Limited ability to close distance? Technical gaps everywhere? One last time, Cowboy. Cowboy Cerrone by submission, round 3.


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