Last week, I got all hot and bothered over the UFC's upcoming slate of events in early 2013. I'm sorry about that; I still get excited from time to time, and these stacked events make the old mixed martial arts fan in me wish, if only for a brief time, that he did not have to co-exist with the journalistic side.
If I had to take all of the excellent fights from all of those pitch-perfect cards and pick just one favorite, I'd probably stress out and begin losing even more hair than I already have.
The very idea is preposterous. There are at least 15 fights that I'm looking forward to over the next four months, and you're telling me I can only take one of them to my desert island for repeated viewing?
That just doesn't seem fair.
And yet, I think it can be done. Because if I have one desert-island fight for early 2013, it's Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis—a fight with a heavy dose of lightweight title implications, lots of bad blood and two guys who have been itching to face off for a long time.
Before we get started, here are the particulars:
What: Donald Cerrone (19-4) vs. Anthony Pettis (15-2)
When: Jan. 26, 2013
How to watch: Fox
Why is this fight so important? Because the winner will likely be in line for a title shot after Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez finish their business in a few months.
Dana White has already gone on record as saying that Melendez is getting the shot, and depending on how the Eddie Alvarez/Bellator contract-matching snafu ultimately plays out, Alvarez could also be "in the mix" for a championship shot.
In fact, Zuffa's contract offer to Alvarez—the one that Bellator said they matched while Alvarez claimed they didn't, leading both parties to file acrimonious lawsuits against each other—included a shot at Henderson's title in March.
If it feels to you like the winner of Cerrone vs. Pettis will have to wait awhile before getting his promised title shot, well, you're probably right. But they're in the mix, which means something as long as it means nothing; just ask Pettis about guaranteed title shots and how quickly they can become not guaranteed.
Cerrone vs. Pettis is still a fight of some importance, but mostly it's a fight where the old "styles make fights" adage has never been more true, because the styles here are going to make this an awesome fight. I don't know if you're the wagering type, or if you like prop bets, but I'm telling you right now that the smart play on this Fox card is betting on Cerrone vs. Pettis to end up as fight of the night.
Yes, you can bet on that kind of thing. More on that some other time.
Neither of these guys have boring fights; the last terrible Pettis fight I can remember was the one where Clay Guida held him down for nearly the entire fight, and still Pettis managed to make that one at least a little bit entertaining.
And I think you'd forgive me if I wait with bated breath for Pettis to do something as mind-blowing as the jumping-off-the-cage kick to the face—forever dubbed the "The Showtime Kick" on countless ESPN year-end specials—he executed on Benson Henderson to capture the WEC lightweight belt in that promotion's swan song.
Cerrone also delivers the goods each time he steps in the cage; since making his debut at UFC 126, Cerrone has won six "of the night" bonus awards, including three fight of the night bonuses. In fact, Cerrone has won some type of bonus award in five of his seven UFC fights.
That's impressive stuff.
You can see why I'm so excited for this fight. If you still don't feel the fire in your belly, I recommend going back and watching tape of Cerrone and Pettis in, oh, each of their last five or six fights. You'll see what I see, which is two fighters, both in the primes of their careers and with much upward trajectory still to come, facing off on free television.
What's not to love?