The first card of the new year and the new decade certainly has potential to bring excitement. Not just with the return of Conor McGregor vs all-time action hero Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, but we have a solid main card and undercard, with all time greats, up and coming prospects, and fringe contenders looking to break through into contention. This is the UFC 246 Main Event Preview.
The Notorious One has Returned
Through all the controversy and the chaos that comes with his name, it is admittedly nice to see McGregor back. His story is very well documented at this point. McGregor started out at featherweight and suffered through brutal weight cuts to gain a massive size and power advantage. He used his combination of charismatic mic skills and high level in cage skills to make a quick rise to the 145-pound belt. He then captured it with a quick knockout over then-champion Jose Aldo. Then came two classic fights with Nate Diaz, where they split the series 1 – 1. After that, most memorably, he made history by becoming the first simultaneous two division champion in UFC history. He did so with a dominant 2nd round knockout over Eddie Alvarez.
A brief run in boxing to fight Floyd Mayweather, which McGregor essentially talked into existence, didn’t do a whole lot except make Conor a lot of money. He was clearly outboxed by Mayweather and lost via 10th round TKO. Then finally, after about two years away, McGregor returned to face the newly-crowned lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Khabib was, for a long time, believed to be the worst match-up in the division for McGregor. The beliefs were proved right, as Conor was soundly dominated by Khabib en route to a 4th round submission loss. The brawl afterwards and some legal troubles has kept McGregor out ever since. Maybe with this return, we will finally see the return to form for “The Notorious One”. Luckily, Cerrone should be the perfect opponent to see where McGregor is at.
Spotlight Finally Shines Bright for Cowboy
For his 50th pro fight, it is nice to see Cerrone get a massive spotlight like this one. Through all the ups and downs, Donald Cerrone is still here. At the time of this writing, he’s still in the top 5 of the division at 155. Across two divisions, Cowboy has been one of the most reliable and well-rounded action heroes. He’s done so while maintaining a consistent stance at the top level of the division for the better part of the last decade. From his 8-fight win streak that brought him a 155 pound title shot, only to get smoked quickly by then champion Rafael Dos Anjos. To his move up to 170, where, initially, he looked better than ever, but then finally ran into opponents he could no longer scare off from relentlessly pressuring him. That gave way to a career-worst 3-fight losing streak and ultimately a 6 – 4 record at welterweight when it was all said and done.
After a nice win over Mike Perry, he returned to 155. He proceeded to reintroduce himself with a 2nd round TKO over the up and coming Alexander Hernandez. He followed that up with a five round beating of Al Iaquinta. Tony Ferguson was too much to overcome, and Justin Gaethje flat out blew Cerrone out of the water in September. Admittedly, it is tough to say whether or not Cerrone is finally slowing down for good. It could be due to of the level of competition he’s been up against. A championship doesn’t seem to be in the cards for Cowboy, but who knows? With a win here over McGregor, he may jump the queue for one last shot at the championship.
This should be McGregor’s fight to lose on paper, but this would be much easier to pick if I was sure where his head was at. If he comes in half-hearted, looking for a payday, then Cerrone should be able to pick at him from range and win a nice decision. However, I tend to put him in the same category as Nate Diaz where “If he wasn’t motivated, he wouldn’t fight.”, so I’m expecting him to come back ready to go.
Cerrone planning a stand-up fight is a nice thing to say in front of the camera, but it will be interesting to see if he sticks to that plan as the fight progresses. If this does stays on the feet the whole time, then McGregor should be able to use his speed and accuracy to tag Cerrone and throw off his rhythm. Cerrone has seemed to want to break his own patented slow starts in the last two, but that has just run him into strikes from both Ferguson and Gaethje. With McGregor’s countering ability, the same thing will probably happen if Cerrone rushes Conor.
If this goes longer than two rounds, things will get interesting and potentially swing in Cowboy’s favour. However, it’s hard to say that it will get that far. I don’t think it will be quite as quick as the Gaethje fight. However, the pick is still McGregor via second-round stoppage.
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