Just fifteen days removed from a one-sided drubbing of Myles Jury that left a bad taste in Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone’s mouth — after coming close to being finished in the first round, Jury did everything possible to avoid engaging with the popular WEC veteran — the lightweight star makes his fastest turnaround since his career debut back in 2006, where his first two fights came just thirteen days apart. It’s a tough fight that will see Cowboy face former UFC and WEC lightweight champion Benson Henderson for the third time in his career and first under the UFC banner. Henderson has defeated him twice already, and this would not normally be a match the UFC would be looking for, save for an injury to Eddie Alvarez.

So up steps Cowboy, he of the anyone, any time, anywhere mantra. It’s a fight that Dana White, as a friend, advised him against taking, and a fight that has a lot on the line for Cerrone: a win here will almost certainly catapult him into immediate title contention. With all apologies to Khabib Nurmagomedov, he just doesn’t have the marketability, history, or personality that Cerrone does.

To see a top-level mixed martial artist take a fight with a top five ranked opponent on basically two weeks notice with virtually no time to work on a training camp or game plan is downright insane, and that’s why fans love Cerrone. Win or lose, he’s always looking to put on a show, and he has already tweeted to Henderson suggesting that they seek out a Fight of the Night result.

Yet while it’s easy to praise Cerrone for his willingness to take on all comers, seeing a path to victory in this situation is much, much more difficult. Henderson is no Jury, an unproven talent pushed too far too soon. He’s no Eddie Alvarez, a solid, quality fighter making his UFC debut. Henderson is a former champion in two major organizations who has already beat Cerrone twice. With little time to prepare, the odds aren’t exactly in Cowboy’s favor  — but as noted, the payoff is bigger than ever.

So what are the keys to victory for Donald Cerrone then?

Stay Off Your Back, Cowboy

Henderson’s game from the top is strong, and Cowboy is going to need to avoid being taken down and controlled from above. Especially coming with such a quick turn-around, Cowboy is going to want to avoid playing to Henderson’s strengths. It’s far from impossible — officially, Henderson has 46 takedowns in the UFC in 96 attempts for a 48% average.

Change Up The Pace

One issue Benson Henderson has pointed out in recent interviews is that while Cowboy Cerrone is an improved fighter since last they fought (that was 2010 in the WEC where Hederson submitted Cerrone), he’s essentially still the same fighter as far as style goes. A Cowboy fight is a Cowboy fight, in other words. He’s going to walk forwards, he’s going to have a certain rhythm, and Henderson has seen it twice before. If Cerrone wants a different result this time out, he’s going to need to be a little more unpredictable. Remember the so-called definition of insanity: repeating the same action over and over expecting different results.

Get The Finish

This is an all-or-nothing sort of fight. Everything is on the line. Sure, Cowboy can rebound from a loss, especially after taking the fight on such short notice, but it means working up through a couple more fights to get back to where he was. Benson Henderson, despite being 2-2 in his last four, is a top five fighter in the division. He’s the elite of elite.

He can be stopped however. In fact, his last two defeats have come by way of stoppage — a submission loss to Anthony Pettis that cost him his UFC title, and a KO loss to Rafael dos Anjos. Decisions, on the other hand, have a way of falling in his favor, and Donald Cerrone needs to make every effort to ensure that does not happen, without exposing himself.

This is by no means an easy task. In fact, it’s arguably the toughest fight of Cowboy’s career, but then, he’s never been one to back down from a scrap.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.