With us now just one day out from probably the most eagerly-anticipated fight card of the year, our attention now turns to the third-billed bout on the night's main card, a welterweight contest between Rick Story and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
I would say this fight has been slept-on a bit, but then again so has pretty much every bout on that card due to the prestigious nature of the main event between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz.
However, the die-hards will be salivating at the prospect of seeing these two go at it, with both of them riding a lot of momentum coming into this contest.
Rick Story is a powerful southpaw pressure fighter, who since losing to Kelvin Gastelum via very close split decision at UFC 171 has gone on a 3-fight win streak picking up wins over Gunnar Nelson, Tarec Saffiedine, and Leonardo Mafra. He also holds notable wins over Johny Hendricks, Jake Ellenberger, and Thiago Alves and is looking to get himself a top-5 opponent with a win this time around.
Donald Cerrone, a favorite of fight fans, despite the frankly ridiculous “inconsistent” label recently given to him by Dana White, has actually only lost 1 fight in his last 11, picking up wins over former and current champions in Benson Henderson and Eddie Alvarez. On top of that, he has also had his hand raised against Edson Barboza, Jim Miller, and Patrick Cote in that time. Since moving to welterweight he has looked a different animal, forgoing his usually slow starts in favor of an aggressive approach, picking up two finishes from two against the aforementioned Cote and Alex Oliveira.
This fight, over 3 rounds, should be an absolute blast. On the feet, I do feel Cerrone may have a slight edge. His speed has translated very well to 170lbs and despite the certainty of Story's pressure and high output, I feel like Cowboy will be able to utilize his kicks and keep a good distance. Body shots will be key for both here, we've seen in the past what Story can do with his fists inside the clinch. He has a deadly and high-intensity to his clinch game at times that he needs to put into practice early.
In fact, a key to victory for Story here is to work the clinch early and grind Cerrone out. I do feel he possesses the superior clinch work and he also has the edge as a wrestler. To leave this bout on the feet is to play into Donald's hands so expect a dogged approach from Story from the off. That's not to say Cerrone is a slouch on the ground. He actually possesses fantastic Jiu-Jitsu so do not be surprised if he pulls off a submission with those long limbs in play.
Cerrone needs to be careful not to get caught in playing Story's game. He's prone to going down to a body shot and does not be surprised if Story takes that into consideration with some strong clinch knees as part of his gameplan. However, I do like the look of Cowboy at 170, it seems like a good weight for him and if I had to make a prediction I would say he comes out looking even better again and takes the decision win.
Prediction : Donald Cerrone via unanimous decision
UFC 202 takes place this Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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