This Cerrone vs Pettis rematch could easily headline any non PPV UFC event or co-main a PPV. However, UFC 249 is so ridiculously stacked that the UFC has decided to make it the prelim main event. This is the highest profile prelim main event in UFC history, a perfect choice that’s highly likely to draw a lot of eyes to ESPN May 9th. Both fighters are legends with varied results over the last few years, including highlight reel finishes and disappointing losses.
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When evaluating the records of both men there’s many similarities and a few differences. Cowboy’s results over his last 5 fights were not exactly predictable but definitely not surprising. Losing to Ferguson, Gaethje and McGregor sucks but they’re the absolute cream of the crop at 155. His wins over Hernandez and Iaquinta were impressive, but nobody seemed too surprised. Pettis’s results have been a little more mind boggling. His last two wins he defeated a great grappler by submission (Chiesa UFC 226) and knocked out one of MMA’s most elite strikers (Thompson UFC Fight Night 148). Pettis also got beat up by Ferguson at the time Tony appeared to be most vulnerable (6 months after major knee surgery), got bossed around by Nate Diaz (whom many said Pettis was too versatile for) and then got submitted by a talented yet less known Diego Ferreira.
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Stylistically, on face level, the fight is very even and the odds reflect that (Pettis is only a slight favorite). Both have the ability to finish people with a variety of strikes and submissions. In their first fight, Pettis landed hard kicks to the body early then finished Cerrone with a kick to the liver only half way into the first round. Like Cowboy’s fight vs Conor, it seemed over before it began. Though it was 7 years ago, we got a good idea how they match up standing and striking. The mystery that looms over this one, at least for me, is how do they match up on the ground? Normally in a match up of fighters who have elite striking, nobody wants to see the fight hit the ground. In this case I think people will be equally pleased with stand up or ground battles. Neither is known for a “lay & pray” style when they get on top and both actively search for submissions off their back. I’d love to see how a ground fight goes, especially when both are relatively fresh and unscathed.
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When you look at their similar opponents it’s interesting to see the commonality in some of the results. Neither could survive the nightmare that is Tony Ferguson. Though neither personally quit they were told they had to, Pettis by his coach and a doctor stoppage for Cerrone. Neither were able to handle the volume/pressure of Nate Diaz and lost unanimous decisions because of it. Both struggled with Rafael Dos Anjos in title fights, Cerrone losing via TKO as a challenger after Pettis lost his belt to him via unanimous decision. Both have impressive wins over UFC legend Jim Miller, both have finished Charles Oliveira and both have wins over Jeremy Stephens and Danny Castillo. The biggest difference they have is Pettis has been a champion of both Strikeforce and the UFC and defended those belts while Cerrone has never been able to claim champion of any major organization.
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Both will greatly benefit from a victory May 9th but regardless who loses there’s zero chance either of their UFC careers are in jeopardy. Both are loved by Dana White and have been fan favorites for well over a decade. Neither earn a title shot with a victory, but a win keeps them close enough where a small win streak could be enough to get them one. More than anything a win stops a small losing skid for whomever wins and likely puts them in a much better position for a more high profile next fight.
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It will be interesting to see how much of an impact the reaction to Covid-19 will have on weight cutting, especially the fighters trying to stay at their normal weight classes. For Cerrone and Pettis however, because they’ve already been recently bouncing around between 155 and 170, it’s not a problem for them. Because they are both able to pick either weight class with no push back from the UFC, it makes sense (especially at this time) to cut less weight and make sure fans get the best performance possible from both men. One thing we can count on with Pettis vs Cerrone is we will see an action packed fight for as long as it lasts. I’m also guessing these gritty veterans will also show their sportsmanship regardless of the result. Personally I can’t wait and expect a real barn burner! ■
Jason Marlowe, UnknownMMA