On Saturday night, the UFC returned to Canada with a card from the nation’s capital of Ottawa with a dynamite main event between lightweights Donald Cerrone and Al Iaquinta.
Cerrone recently turned 36-years old and walked into the Canadian Tire Centre with possession of the UFC’s record for wins with a staggering 22 victories to his name. On the other side of the cage was Al Iaquinta, whose lone blemish in his last six fights came against Khabib Nurmagomedov in a fight Iaquinta accepted on 24-hours notice.
The stage was set with Ragin’ Al looking to build off his victory over Kevin Lee last December and keep his name among the upper echelon at 155 pounds. Cerrone was fighting a narrative that he cannot shake at this stage of his career, that he is fighting father time and the young guns of the division are hoping to silence the Cowboy and build a reputation off of his name.
Cerrone’s albatross has been his inability to pull the trigger when the stakes are highest. Following multiple attempts at WEC gold and putting together an eight-fight winning streak to earn a UFC title fight in 2015, he came up short when a championship was on the line.
On Saturday night, he took one step closer to the hopes of fighting for championship gold one more time when he soundly defeated Al Iaquinta with a decision victory over five rounds.
It was a disciplined and methodical version of Donald Cerrone, who annihilated Iaquinta legs, leaving the 32-year old vulnerable to his strikes up top. Cerrone left his Cowboy signature across Iaquinta’s face at the end of their 25-minute battle.
The first two rounds were evenly fought. An early indicator of the type of fight Iaquinta had, came in the first round as he shot in for the single leg and ate a kick that he absorbed and withstood. Iaquinta had his best round of the fight in the second, wobbling Cerrone with a right hand and landing the damaging strikes of the round.
The pendulum of the fight shifted towards the end of Round 3 when Cerrone stunned Iaquinta with a jab, got on top and pounded at Iaquinta as the buzzer sounded. The tidal wave intensified with a dominant fourth round from Cerrone, dropping his opponent with a front kick to the face and forcing Iaquinta to live off a steady stream of jabs and a left uppercut that found its target. Of the five rounds, the fourth was the strongest argument for a 10-8 round in Cerrone’s favor.
The fifth round was Cerrone’s exclamation mark on an outstanding performance by breaking down one of his toughest opponents. Iaquinta withstood the damage but found himself on the wrong side of the ten-point must system throughout the fight.
Cerrone took his third consecutive victory, improving to 36-11 (1 no contest) and upping his UFC record to 23 wins.
After the fight, his direction was clear to march toward a championship fight but will gladly detour his championship aspirations for a date with Conor McGregor this summer.
The division has a lot to sort out with the immediate business concerning champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier, who are expected to fight in September. In the interim, Cerrone is amongst the pack of lightweight contenders in waiting to join a line that includes the sidelined Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje.
While joking that he needs to fight in order to build his son a swimming pool, the preceding 25 minutes served as a wake up call to any lightweight doubters that even at 36 years of age and a veteran of 48 professional fights, standing across from Donald Cerrone in 2019 still means you’re venturing into the deep end of the lightweight pool.
Here are the full results from the UFC’s Fight Night card on Saturday at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario:
*Cole Smith def. Mitch Gagnon by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*Arjan Bhullar def. Juan Adams by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*Matt Sayles def. Kyle Nelson by arm-triangle choke at 3:16 of Round 3
*Nordine Taleb def. Kyle Prepolec by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Vince Morales def. Aiemann Zahabi by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Macy Chiasson def. Sarah Moras by TKO at 2:22 of Round 2
*Andrew Sanchez def. Marc-Andre Barriault by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Walt Harris def. Serghei Spivak by TKO at 0:50 of Round 1
*Merab Dvalishvili def. Brad Katona by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Shane Burgos def. Cub Swanson by split decision (30-27, 27-30, 29-28)
*Derek Brunson def. Elias Theodorou by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*Donald Cerrone def. Al Iaquinta by unanimous decision (49-45, 49-45, 49-46)