(Hey, it’s that thing from my nightmares! So weird seeing you during the daytime! / Photo via @bjpenndotcom)
It’s been a while since we’ve tried to convince you fine people of something totally ridiculous. But looking through Saturday’s UFC 137: Penn vs. Diaz card, I feel like playing devil’s advocate on a few things. So keep an open mind, and read on…
Donald Cerrone Should Drop to Featherweight
Donald Cerrone has recently claimed that he’d like to face Nam Phan in his next fight, because Phan beat up his best friend Leonard Garcia earlier this month then allegedly said that if Garcia’s coaches were any good they would have taught him how to throw straight punches. Now, the average observer might say, “Look Donald, you’re on a five-fight win streak — shouldn’t you be more concerned about challenging for the belt at lightweight than chasing personal rivalries with unranked dudes at 145?”
But I say screw it, Cowboy, you do you. Not for the revenge aspect, which is completely silly. But because the lightweight division has too many contenders to the throne, and the featherweight division doesn’t have enough.
Cerrone already seems enormous as a lightweight, but he says he can make 145 by giving up his addiction to Milk-Duds and Hot Tamales, and hiring a nutritionist. If he can pull it off, he’d be an immediate threat in the featherweight division. Already dangerous from all angles, aggressive, and well-rounded, Cerrone would be such a physically imposing presence at featherweight that he could win most fights on reach and power alone. And that’s a good thing, because after Chad Mendes (and maybe the winner of Hominick vs. Zombie), there really isn’t anybody who’s set up to challenge for the featherweight belt.
Plus, if Cerrone loses to Siver on Saturday night, he’s back to square one in a very crowded division. And of course, losing is a very real possibility, despite the fact that Cerrone is already writing the Russian-German striker off as a “one-trick pony.” Such overconfidence could cost him. And if it does, Cowboy’s probably better off starting over in a different division anyway.
Yes, I’m saying that the world’s #31-ranked featherweight is going to upset the guy at #7. Is it because I think Roop’s powerful striking will surprise the Japanese grappling specialist and former TKO/Shooto/Sengoku champ? Not exactly. I’ve just lost all hope that a top-ranked fighter from Japan can come over to the UFC and do well.
If there’s anything we’ve learned from the recent failures of Michihiro Omigawa, Kid Yamamoto, Takanori Gomi, and Jorge Santiago in the UFC, and Shinya Aoki and Maximo Blanco in Strikeforce, it’s that any top ranking earned while fighting in Asia is suspect. I hate to sound like Dana White here, but the results speak for themselves. Time and time again, reputations have been made in Japan, and immediately lost inside the Octagon.
Over the last three years, Hioki’s most notable win was his decision against Marlon Sandro, and Sandro has since been exposed while fighting in Bellator. So this argument isn’t based on the matchup, or George Roop’s momentum coming off his win over Josh Grispi. It’s just based on an undeniable trend. We’ve seen this a dozen times before, and we already know what happens.
Here’s how this is going to go down: Diaz is going to slice Penn apart standing and take the fight out of him completely by the third round. Penn will eventually collapse under the onslaught — like so many before him — and Diaz will throw down strikes until the ref stops it. Penn won’t lose consciousness, because Penn doesn’t do that, but it’ll be a convincing, demoralizing stoppage loss, and it’ll signal that Penn can no longer hang with the top welterweights in the division.
Diaz will get a title shot against the winner of St. Pierre vs. Condit, which will be GSP. Now here’s where things get tricky. Before he returned to the UFC, Diaz built up a ten-fight win streak in EliteXC/Dream/Strikeforce, but he did so mostly against other strikers. He’s completely forgotten what it was like to face a tenacious wrestler, and St. Pierre is going to remind him, winning a five-round unanimous decision mostly on the basis of top control.
Diaz will be pissed. He’ll insult GSP afterwards for not coming to fight, and blast the point-fighting strategy that has taken over the sport. He’ll threaten to move to boxing again. But now that he’s served his purpose for the UFC — as another body to throw at St. Pierre — Dana White won’t have to put up with Diaz’s bullshit anymore.
If Diaz insults the UFC in interviews, he’ll be put on ice. If he ditches press conferences, he’ll be taken off cards and not given A-list replacement opponents. And when he does return, he’ll be offered a fight against Jon Fitch, take it or leave it. If he takes it, he’ll be humped to another unanimous decision loss. If he leaves it, well, who knows where the Nick Diaz story goes from there.