mma / Columns

The Blueprint 1.25.12: Showdown or Showtime?

January 25, 2013 | Posted by Patrick Mullin

Hello everyone and welcome back to this week’s edition of The Blueprint. We start this column on a bittersweet note as I must make mention that the director of my favorite film “Death Wish” Michael Winner passed away after battling illness for several years. Winner painted a gritty and realistic picture of New York City in the 1970’s and the teaming of him and Charles Bronson will always remain special to me. My condolences go out to the family of the talented director. On a more positive note one of my idols Bob Backlund will take his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame. In the very make believe world of professional wrestling Bob was the real deal winning the NCAA Division 2 title at North Dakota State University and being a role model to anyone with even a budding interest or appreciation for physical fitness, congratulations to Mr. Backlund from one of his most devout plebians.

We didn’t come here to talk pop culture though, we came here to talk MMA and we’ve got a fight people have been buzzing about for months. You’re hard pressed to find two fighters who like to bring action to the cage more than Anthony “Showtime” Pettis and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. Pettis is the former WEC lightweight champion having beaten current UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson to win that title. He started off his UFC run looking to find his niche with a disappointing loss to Clay “Wet Blanket/Can’t Do Basic Math” Guida and a lackluster win over Jeremy Stephens. He looked to be the “Showtime” of old though when he scored a brutal head kick KO of Joe Lauzon in Japan and brought back his strengths.

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is pound for pound one of the toughest guys in all of MMA and because of that he tends to make things exciting. Going toe to toe with Melvin Guillard is generally as bad a strategy as you can have against him but Cerrone went for it and still won out in the end. He has shown the capability to fight smart and disappoint fans by extension(vs. Jeremy Stephens), but Cerrone seems to live and die by making any fight he’s in the best fight on the card. He thrives on exchanging punches, kicks, knees, and is extremely good when bringing the offense when the fight goes to the ground. As the underdog according to oddsmakers, we’ll start our look with him.

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Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone
: 6’0
Reach: 73 inches
Record: 19 Wins(2 KO, 13 Submission, 4 Decision) 4 Losses(3 Submission, 1 Decision)
Strengths: Aggression, Pressure, Leg Kicks, Offensive Grappling
Weaknesses: Strike Defense, Takedown Defense, Lack of Speed, Willingness to Brawl

Donald Cerrone’s Keys to Victory

1) Intelligent Pressure – Perhaps the biggest advantage that Anthony Pettis carries into this fight is speed. He’s quicker with his punches, kicks, movement, just everything Pettis does he does quicker than Cerrone. The way to combat a fighter with significant advantages in speed is pressure. So one thing Cerrone should do if he can is get a copy of Jamie Varner’s fight with Melvin Guillard as Varner really won that fight solely due to applying pressure, even though it wasn’t the most intelligent pressure. Speed is beaten when pressure nullifies its effectiveness.

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Cerrone is very good at coming forward and working and this is going to help him against Pettis. Cerrone is a long fighter but likes to mix it up on the inside. For him to be able to do that he cannot allow Pettis to have space to set up his famous kicks. He has to also force Pettis to keep moving his feet so that he can’t set them to strike with any power. Constantly moving forward and forcing ineffective strikes from Pettis will also look great to the judges. Judges tend to score points for the guy coming forward even if what he’s doing isn’t overly damaging or effective.

2) Leg Kicks/Body Punches – Anthony Pettis is an absolutely dynamic kickboxer. His kicks work best though when he can stop on a dime and change angles and hit you with a kick you never saw coming. So how can you take away that dynamic movement and quick surprise offense? Beat the holy heck out of his legs with hard kicks. Cerrone’s most effective striking is his kicking to the legs of his opponents. It cramps them up and halts their movement while allowing Cerrone to mix up his own striking offense and even take them down to go for the submission. Even if he can’t put down Pettis if he kills his movement this fight becomes much easier for him.

Leg kicks will also force Pettis to try to anticipate them coming. What that can do is open up opportunities to dig to the body straight up the middle with uppercuts to the sternum. When Cerrone commits to the body his attacks can be quite effective like when he had Dennis Siver keeling over from a left hook to the body. Adjust the angle on those punches and go straight up the middle and you’ll knock the wind out of Pettis and put some money in the bank for the latter stages of this fight.

3) Take Him Down – This is where life would be easiest for Cerrone. Despite training with Ben Askren, Anthony Pettis’ biggest weakness is still his wrestling. Pettis isn’t an easy guy to beat up or submit on the ground, but staying off of his back against a good wrestler is still troublesome for him and as we know, the judges will score rounds for whomever is in top position when the fight goes to the ground. Cerrone does not possess great takedowns and we’ve seen him struggle to take down guys who can outwrestle him or keep him at range with their striking.

However if he can stick to keys one and two, things will get easier for him in this regard. By beating up Pettis’ legs his movement will be slowed. By beating up Pettis’ body he’ll get tired easier. If he continues to pressure Pettis and force Pettis to work at a higher pace than he would like fatigue will set in faster. At that point he’ll become much easier prey for a takedown and Cerrone has some of the best submissions Pettis has ever seen.

Donald Cerrone’s Perfect Strategy – Despite the fact that on paper Cerrone’s usual strategy may seem to play against him when he fights Anthony Pettis, sometimes you have to throw the paper out the window. Donald Cerrone does a number of things well that will always trouble speedy fighters who rely on quick attacks and control of the distance. If Cerrone is able to apply his keys to victory he will win this fight.

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Anthony “Showtime” Pettis
: 5’10
Reach: 72 inches
Record: 15 Wins(6 KO, 6 Submission, 3 Decision) 2 Losses(2 Decision)
Strengths: Overall Speed, Kickboxing, Grappling Defense
Weaknesses: Takedown Defense, Tendency to Fight Defensively, Fights in Spurts

Anthony Pettis’ Keys to Victory

1) Angles – Against a guy like Donald Cerrone who feeds off of aggression, you can make his life very difficult by fighting him at angles. Constantly stopping and shifting and moving are some of the things Pettis does better than most fighters in MMA, in addition to doing it quicker. Straight line fighters like Cerrone who move straight in and straight out don’t do well when faced with angles. They become inaccurate and get frustrated into becoming desperate which leaves openings. Making this mistake against Pettis is one he cannot afford.

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Anthony Pettis’ speed allows him to capitalize on openings that a lot of fighters aren’t able to close in on. The pinnacle of this would be his “Showtime” kick that anybody who saw will always remember. All it took was Ben Henderson to circle away and momentarily drop his hands for Pettis to see it coming and he sprang into action with one of the most impressive strikes you’ll ever see. How many people do you see land a crazy strike like that on an elite level fighter? Only the guys with the best eyes and instincts can pull that off and Pettis has those in spades.

2) Control Center Octagon – It is imperative for Anthony Pettis to get out immediately into the center of the cage at the start of each round. Taking the center of the cage is the equivalent to taking the high ground in a battle because it forces the other side to have a more difficult path to success and for them to have to come to you rather than vice versa. Despite Cerrone being the longer fighter he’d prefer to have this inside. Controlling the center of the cage makes Cerrone have to try and cut it off and corner Pettis to get to the inside.

Because of Cerrone’s tendency to follow rather than cut off the cage effectively with lateral movement(see the Diaz fight) this is going to give Pettis the opportunity to control the distance. Distance and a speed based fighter make for a happy marriage because distance allows the speed fighter the ability to control the action based on quicker reflexes and reaction time. Despite being the “Cowboy” Cerrone doesn’t want to play quick draw against “Showtime”.

3) Jab to Set up Kicks – Cerrone is a tough guy, but he’s also not overly technical. If you can take anything away from his last loss to Nate Diaz, it’s that Cerrone just doesn’t combat against a good jab well at all. Pettis enjoys working behind his jab because first and foremost its probably the easiest tool to help you control the distance. However the jab is also the fundamental “set up” weapon in a fighter’s arsenal. Conventional wisdom thanks to years of empirical evidence shows that if you can land the jab with any regularity there’s a good chance you will land whatever you throw behind that jab as well.

This is the best opportunity for Pettis to land his trademark high kicks, particularly with his left leg. When you hit Cerrone with the jab he either just takes it on the chin and tries to come forward or covers up and moves straight back. This will work twofold for Pettis as if he forces Cerrone back behind a double jab for example it moves Cerrone into perfect range for Pettis to step forward and throw a heavy left high kick in perfect position to land. If Cerrone just tries to move forward he’ll move right into either a front kick or a straight right hand that Pettis likes to throw, and Pettis will have the opportunity to move out of range since Cerrone will often wait for his opportunity to strike, rather than strike with the opponent’s strikes.

Anthony Pettis’ Perfect Strategy – Anthony Pettis’ strategy revolves around the three principal elements of fighting; distance, leverage, and timing. Control of the distance is his biggest key because it will set up the other two. The distance will allow Pettis to put leverage(which is the key to damage) into his strikes and give him the proper timing to land them where he wants to. If he sticks to the basics this becomes a real showcase for his abilities.

Final Prediciton – Its kind of funny to me how this fight breaks down very similar to the fight we covered last week, Vitor Belfort vs. Michael Bisping. Ultimately we felt that the speedy striker with good finishing ability would be a bad match up for the relatively easy to hit Britton with the lack of good footwork. While Cerrone absolutely has a better chin than Michael Bisping, he’s still prone to making the same mistakes and fighting an opponent who has proven to be dangerous through every round of the fight who is just much more solid in the aspects he needs to win the fight. Cerrone’s willingness to be exciting to keep his job is what will ultimately cost him this fight

And the Winner Is… – Anthony Pettis, Unanimous Deicision

That’s it for this week folks. Join us next week for another jam packed edition of The Blueprint and don’t forget to join us on Sunday at 11am EST when we review UFC on FOX 6 at 11am EST on the 411 Ground and Pound Radio Show airing live on Blogtalk Radio. Call in at (323) 657-0901 and join us same Pat-time, same Pat-channel.


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Patrick Mullin
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