UFC Ottawa Main Event Preview: Al Iaquinta vs Donald Cerrone
In combat sports it tends to be the champions that stand out. Over the past few years the likes of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey have taken full advantage of the success that has come their way.
The whole world knows their names and they’re considered to be the most popular fighters on the planet. However, to the hardcore audience, it’s not necessarily the elite that cement themselves in the hearts of those who follow the sport religiously.
Make no mistake, the two men who headline UFC Ottawa this weekend are extremely talented athletes, but it’s their other qualities that have made them hardcore favourites. It’s the way they conduct themselves outside the octagon as well as in it, a willingness to fight any man, any time, anywhere and the resilience to come through whatever challenges the cage presents to them.
‘Raging’ Al Iaquinta and Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone both fit the definition of warrior, and tonight they are set to put on a show that surely can’t fail to entertain.
A typical New Yorker, Iaquinta says it exactly how he sees it, without the false exterior or pantomime façade. His words come from the heart and despite a turbulent relationship with the UFC, it’s his outbursts that have made him likeable to MMA fans.
After an impressive high school wrestling career, Iaquinta put together an undefeated amateur campaign and switched to the professional ranks in 2009. He competed in the live season of the Ultimate fighter and looked impressive until he was on the end of a shattering submission loss to Michael Chiesa in the final.
Despite the loss, Iaquinta continued fighting in the UFC and would triumph against the likes of Kevin Lee, Jorge Masvidal and Ross Pearson, but his biggest fight to date came when he least expected it. UFC 223 had an eventful fight week to say the least, and a scheduled fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson for the lightweight world title fell apart after Ferguson pulled out. Replacement Max Holloway also failed to make it to the scales successfully and to make matters worse, Irish superstar Conor McGregor threw a dolly through a bus window.
From the rubble of what seemed to be a cursed card, emerged Raging Al. Nurmagomedov is a fighter people try to avoid even if they’ve had a full training camp, but Iaquinta accepted on one day’s notice. The start of the contest went how most expected with Nurmagomedov out grappling the American, but towards the end of the fight Iaquinta began to have some success on the feet and even fended off some takedown attempts.
Despite losing the decision, Al emerged with enormous credit. His next outing came against Kevin Lee and in an entertaining brawl he took the win for a second time. He was owed a huge fight and he’ll get it in Ottawa.
Donald Cerrone will fight any man on Earth at the drop of a hat, which has made him one of the most iconic fighters in the sport. He has the most wins in the history of the promotion and has been in his fair share of exciting battles. This alongside his pride in his country roots have set him apart from the rest.
After having success at Kickboxing tournaments, Cowboy switched to MMA. In the UFC he has been the victor over the likes of Edson Barboza and Eddie Alvarez, so he is certainly capable of beating the best.
Despite being thirty-six years old, Cowboy continues to love fighting and after the birth of his child he claims he has even more motivation to the continue a craft he’s spent his whole life perfecting. After an inspiring knock out win against Alexander Hernandez last time out, he’s as ready as ever for Saturday night’s main event.
You’d struggle to find two men more game to fight than Al Iaquainta and Donald Cerrone. The mixture of their talent and blood and guts styles will make most likely for a fight of the year contender.