There is something about a fight that appeals to our primal senses. By saying this, I'm not talking about the often touted "big fight" feel where there is something special in the air and all that jazz, but rather, the type of fight where you know two men who don't particularly care for one another are going to finally cross paths, where they are going to solve their differences in a flurry of punches and kicks.
It may seem like a stripped-down approach, but championship belts and accolades aside, finding out who is the superior fighter is what mixed martial arts is all about.
Working in the sport for the past several years, I have witnessed plenty of matchups that have played crucial roles in the bigger picture of all things MMA. That being said, few things get me more excited on fight night than knowing I'm going to see an old-school scrap take place.
There is something ineffable about it. My colleague and Bleacher Report lead writer Jeremy Botter likes to say these fights "tickle his violence bone." Thank you for the phrase Mr. Botter—I couldn't agree more.
This, of course, isn't taking anything away from the technical aspects of the battle. When two talented combatants settle into the ruckus, their skill sets are their most important assets. But when you look farther into the heart of the fight and know two men are going to come forward with everything they have, what is there not to get excited about?
When you sprinkle a good old-fashioned grudge on top of an already combustible combination, then you have a fight that simply can't be missed. Fortunately for UFC fans, over the next few months, there are going to be a handful of these tilts, starting next weekend in Chicago at UFC on Fox 6.
Cowboy vs. Showtime
In the world of MMA media, there is perhaps no greater advocate for the 155-pound fighter than yours truly. All truths be told, I'm a geek about it. It is my solemn belief that this weight class is not only the deepest and most competitive in the sport, but also the most exciting.
In the UFC alone, the Top 10 is a shark tank, filled with fighters who can end an opponent's night in brutal fashion but also have the gas to do 25 minutes' worth of battle if the situation requires. I'm a lightweight fanatic through and through, and the upcoming throwdown between Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis has been on my radar for quite some time.
As two of the top 155-pound fighters in the now-defunct WEC (Never Forget), it is strange their paths never crossed in the little blue cage. Nevertheless, the merger with the UFC went down, both proved their mettle inside the Octagon and now their scheduled dance is more high-profile than ever. While the winner could potentially earn a shot at the lightweight crown, neither fighter seems all too concerned with that at the moment.
The fighters know that there is a dust-up on the horizon, and no one is making the trip to Chicago to lose.
Of the two, Cerrone has certainly been the busier fighter since transitioning over from the WEC. "Cowboy" fought five times in 2011 alone and has found victory in six out of seven bouts under the UFC banner. The 29-year old, Albuquerque-based fighter is a walking embodiment of the "anytime, anywhere" mentality,and he's proven as much by taking multiple fights on short notice.
When Cerrone's name is on a card, you know you are going to see action.
The Jackson's MMA-trained fighter pushes forward at all costs, working behind technical striking, where he possesses power in both his hands and feet. While his stand-up may be Cerrone's strong suit, slick submission skills and continued improvement in his wrestling make him a threat wherever the fight takes place. To put it simply: Cerrone isn't in the cage to mess around, and he's looking to finish his opponent in any fashion that presents itself.
The path to this fight has been long and winding for Pettis and, ultimately, frustrating as well.
The former WEC champion entered the UFC looking for an immediate title shot, but the congestion caused by the Edgar-versus-Maynard situation lead "Showtime" to take a different route. The 25-year-old faced Clay Guida in his Octagon debut and was handed his first loss in nearly two years.
Pettis bounced back strong with wins over Jeremy Stephens and Joe Lauzon, but a rash of injuries sidelined him for the remainder of 2012. The Milwaukee native is looking to make a huge statement and a case for title contention in 2013.
That quest begins against Cerrone in Chicago.
The Duke Roufus-trained fighter possesses a versatile skill set and is undoubtedly one of the most promising young fighters in the sport. Perhaps Pettis's biggest asset is his unpredictability. The surging talent has shown the ability to deliver video game-inspired attacks whenever he sees fit, and not knowing if you are going to catch a kick in the mouth coming off a capoeira back spin or fence jump is enough to keep the opposition guessing.
It is in those moments of hesitation where Pettis shines, and he's proven his ability to capitalize when he goes on the offensive. When you add in strong ground skills, it is easy to see why there is so much buzz surrounding him.
Of course, all these things are nice to say, but no one knows what is going to happen when the cage door closes. Plenty of times before, I have seen a matchup that looks dynamite on paper (Guillard vs. Stephens) turn out to be a wash inside the cage. Nevertheless, Cerrone vs. Pettis appears poised to be the fight we are all expecting it to be.
Earlier this week, Cerrone echoed that feeling, describing the bout as "power vs. flash" on the UFC on Fox 6 media call before adding a few choice words just to throw a little more gas on the pre-fight fire.
Next weekend at the United Center in Chicago, Cerrone and Pettis are going to step in the cage and go at it.
The winner could very well be the next in line for a shot at the UFC lightweight title.
But before those things can materialize, there are going to be leather, shins, knees and elbows flying. After all the talk about Pettis ducking Cerrone for years, now comes the time to show and prove.
There is going to be a fight, ladies and gentleman. What more could you ask for?
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