Jury, Masvidal, Nurmagomedov: Who Should Donald Cerrone Fight Next?

A lot of times in mixed martial arts, fights get made not because they are the best matchups, but because they are the best available matchups. Timing sometimes necessitates certain pairings, which will probably be the case for Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone’s next fight.

As usual, Cowboy wants to fight as soon as possible. He started 2014 with the goal of getting in the cage six times, and he’s already notched four victories this year. Despite having a 2014 resume worthy of a UFC lightweight title shot, an opportunity that has thus far eluded the 32-fight veteran, Cowboy doesn’t want to wait for the winner of Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez.

With Cerrone not pursuing UFC gold, who is the best possible opponent to plug into his hectic schedule?

Lightweights are constantly coming out of the woodwork to challenger Cerrone on Twitter. Since defeating Eddie Alvarez at UFC 178, Cerrone has been called out on Twitter by Jorge Masvidal, a fight that Cerrone was “100 percent” for. The UFC has been trying to match Cerrone up with undefeated Myles Jury, and he has been going back and forth with him on Twitter as well.

On paper, the matchup that makes the most sense for Cerrone is against Khabib Nurmagomedov. Nurmagomedov is undefeated at 22-0 and has used his elite-level Combat Sambo and judo to dominate his competition thus far in the UFC, where he’s currently 6-0.

Nurmagomedov has been sidelined with an injury but will be back in action in early 2015 and is campaigning for the winner of Pettis vs. Melendez. A fight with Cerrone would establish a true No. 1 contender in the lightweight division and clear up the logjam that has been caused by Pettis’ recent injuries.

The Eagle would have a distinct grappling advantage over Cerrone and would look to do exactly to Cowboy what he’s done to everyone else he’s faced: take them down repeatedly and use his stifling top control for the duration of the bout. It’s an interesting matchup with Cerrone, who is known for the pace of his offense and finishing instinct.

Nurmagomedov is ranked No. 2 on UFC.com. If Pettis wins and is able to have a somewhat quick turnaround, Nurmagomedov may be next in line for a title shot.  

As far as Masvidal goes, that would be a fantastic matchup. Cerrone is known for his muay thai style and willingness to engage, and Masvidal is a street-fighter-turned-legit-world-class mixed martial artist. Gamebred has won five of his six UFC fights and has cracked the UFC’s Top 15 with his recent winning streak.

Cerrone vs. Masvidal would be a typical Cerrone matchup. But due to the tear Cerrone has been on, he’s positioned himself among the truly elite at 155 pounds and should be facing guys ranked within the Top 5.

Myles Jury is the likely next opponent for Cowboy. Cerrone insinuated on Twitter (note: language in tweet NSFW) that Jury turned down the fight in December due to an injury, and Jury’s camp has said he will also be ready in January. With both fighters ready in January and the UFC making moves to get this fight booked, Jury will probably get to test his undefeated record against Cerrone to kick off 2015.

Only UFC matchmaker Joe Silva truly knows who Donald Cerrone will face next, but it seems like he won’t be able to get his next fight before 2015 unless a mystery lightweight comes out from behind the curtain to challenge Cerrone on short notice.

Cerrone’s desire to fight so often and utter indifference to who his opponent is make him a one-of-a-kind fighter in the UFC. Cowboy may not meet his goal of six fights in 2014, but he’s always got next year.

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UFC: For Dan Hardy, Sitting Cageside Should Be Close Enough from Here on Out

There’s no shame in being gone and staying gone. That’s true of life, but it’s particularly true of combat sports.

Sometimes you’re just done and you have no reason to go back; no reason to even consider it. It can be mental or physical, or maybe a little of both, but your run is over and it’s time to look to the future.

Unfortunately, a painful number of combat athletes don’t see it that way. They see retirement as a particularly long layoff between fights as opposed to a concrete out from a sport unforgiving to its elderly.

Even the smartest of the smart ones can’t stay gone.

For his part, colorful character-turned-color commentator Dan Hardy looks like he’s about to add his name to that list.

Recently, the beloved brawler who entertained UFC masses from 2008-2012 has begun to bang the drum for a return to the cage, as seen in his interview with MMAnytt (h/t Bloody Elbow’s Anton Tabuena). Those two years of absence came at the insistence of a heart condition that manydoctors includedfelt would see him out of the fight game forever.

Until now, that looked to be the case.

Hardy had taken up a role in the commentary position on Fight Pass shows happening in Europe and the Middle East, and he was doing quite well with it. He’s intelligent and articulate with a knack for communication that much more seasoned color men of the sport don’t naturally possess.

But old flames burn brightly, and the flame to fight seems to be the hardest to extinguish in martial artists. Common sense and laws of reality be damned, sometimes you just have to punch someone in the face for a few thousand dollars.

And so Hardy, a never-undersized welterweight, now wants to get back into the UFC fray as a lightweight, as implied in his interview with MMACrazyTV (h/t FanSided’s Jacob Cooper). He’s been training but not at an elite level, and dietary changes have contributed to him walking about nearly 40 pounds lighter than he did as a contender only a couple of years ago.

The name Diego Sanchez has been bandied about, but nothing has been finalized on account of Sanchez already having an opponent lined up and Hardy having no actual clearance to safely pursue his recent desires.

All of this is to say, in the simplest way imaginable, that this is a bad idea. All of it. Hardy needs to stay comfortably in his position cageside, developing his broadcast skills and making a nice career for himself in doing so.

He, like many ill-advised combatants who simply refuse to go home, needs to accept that his fight career is best left completed and no amount of lost weight or enthusiasm to lay a beating on a grown man should come before that fact. It’s equal parts unwise and unsafe for him to continue the pursuit.

No one can say where this will end up. It could be anywhere from the best Dan Hardy the world has ever seen romping to a lightweight title to the worst Dan Hardy anyone has ever seen looking like a sick man trying for one last crack at glory.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter.

Given how he got to this point, the best place for either version of Hardy is cageside. That’s close enough to the centre of the Octagon for him, and for anyone who cares about the safety of athletes in the sport.

 

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder!

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GSP Returns to Training at Tri-Star Gym

After getting cleared by his doctors following ACL surgery back in April, Georges St-Pierre returned to training at Tristar Gym in Montreal this week. Though the former welterweight champion doesn’t have an official timetable for a return to mixed martial arts, getting back in the gym is a good start.

Tristar head coach Firas Zahabi tweeted on Monday that GSP resumed training and “looked awesome.”

After narrowly defeating Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 in November of last year, St-Pierre mentioned the desire to take time away from mixed martial arts for personal reasons. A few weeks later, St-Pierre relinquished the welterweight title and went on an indefinite hiatus from the UFC.

Shortly thereafter, St-Pierre tore his ACL and has been sidelined for six months following surgery. UFC President Dana White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta met with St-Pierre last week but didn’t come to an agreement for St-Pierre to return imminently.

St-Pierre getting back into the gym matches up with statements made by White to UFC.com last week that his knee had been cleared by his doctor:

“His knee just got cleared and he’ll start training again and getting back into shape. He’ll let us know when he’s ready.”

GSP told BloodyElbow.com recently he won’t return to MMA unless he and his opponent are thoroughly tested for performance-enhancing drugs, and has mentioned the problem with PEDs in mixed martial arts as a partial reason for his departure. He’s been out of the cage for nearly a year and hasn’t been training for half of that time due to the injury.

St-Pierre hasn’t waivered in his decision to leave the sport of mixed martial arts and hasn’t made any serious mentions that he plans on returning any time soon. But getting back into training is a good sign.


 

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Glover Teixeira Looking to Get Back on Track Against Phil Davis at UFC 179

A fighter’s success is what helps them elevate their profile and earn bigger opportunities, but oftentimes, setbacks and adversity show the true measure of who they really are. When Glover Teixeira steps into the Octagon to face Phil Davis this weekend at UFC 179, it will be the first time he’s entered a fight coming off of a loss in nearly a decade. And he’s hungrier than ever to get back into the win column.

After a blistering winning streak that saw the Brazilian powerhouse topple the first five opponents he faced under the UFC banner, Teixeira was given the opportunity to face Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title at UFC 172 back in April.

While many believed the 34-year-old John Hackleman-trained fighter had the tools to dethrone the pound-for-pound great, Teixeira had few answers to what the long-reigning champion brought to the table, and the end result was Jones walking away with a lopsided unanimous-decision victory.

There is no question the championship tilt wasn’t Teixeira’s best night inside the cage, and he’s eager to put the bout with Jones behind him. He can do that by defeating the former NCAA Division I national champion wrestler in the co-main event at UFC 179 on Saturday, and that’s precisely what he’s planning to do.

“I feel great, man,” Teixeira told Bleacher Report. “I have trained hard for this fight and I’m ready. I’m so happy to be getting back into the Octagon. Phil is a good fighter. He comes from a wrestling background and I think he’s going to come in there and try to use his wrestling a lot. I think he’s going to be moving around a lot and trying to score points with his wrestling. I’m going to be ready for that and I’ll be looking for the knockout.

“Of course there was more motivation for this fight. I am coming off a loss in my last fight and then I had an injury and that’s why I didn’t fight sooner. But I’m feeling great now and I’m more motivated than ever to get back in there and start climbing the ladder again. This is a big fight for me because I am trying to get back on track and work my way back to become the No. 1 contender again.”

In addition to both fighters battling to rise up the divisional hierarchy in the 205-pound division, the upcoming clash between Teixeira and Davis also presents an interesting stylistic pairing. The Team Alliance Member is a long fighter who relies on his wrestling foundation to get the job done inside the Octagon, while the former title challenger mixes knockout power with a strong submission game. 

Yet, while having the ability to finish his opponent with either hand is a plus, Teixeira believes that single attribute isn’t something a fighter can rest upon.

“Power is good to have, but you can’t just rely on that one thing because what is the point of having power if you are unable to hit your opponent?” Teixeira said. “I have been training my footwork and working on my speed and timing a lot. Power definitely helps, but I’ve been working on a lot of different things for this fight.

“I’m confident wherever this fight goes. Whether it’s standing or on the ground; I believe in my skills. I can be dangerous anywhere.”

When Teixeira steps in to face Davis at UFC 179, it will mark the third time in seven appearances he’s competed on his native soil as a UFC fighter. While many Brazilian fighters ultimately aspire to break out of competing in their home country and reach the American fanbase, Teixeira’s rapid rise to popularity has allowed him to do the opposite. 

The matchup with Davis will mark another showcase bout for The Pit representative, and he’s eager to put on another show for the passionate Brazilian crowd.

“It’s always great to be fighting in Brazil,” Teixeira said. “The fans are always very excited and loud. They love MMA, and I enjoy fighting in Brazil and being close to my family. I always want to give the fans a show. That is why I train and that’s why I work so hard. When I go out there I can’t just wait around and fight that way. I come out there looking for the knockout and to finish the fight.”

 

Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.

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War Machine Letter from Suicide Attempt: ‘I’m a Good Person with a Huge Heart’

Former UFC and Bellator fighter War Machine tried to commit suicide in his jail cell last week, getting saved at the last minute by a corrections officer.

Since TMZ reported that story, they have since been able to obtain a copy of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt’s suicide letter from the incident

I die proudly when it is no longer possible to live proudly – Nietzsche. If you are reading this then it must be a rap. I refuse to live a parasitic life, relying on taxes and the generosity of friends for food and shelter, never being able to give back … To Christy, my one: I truly love you and planned on being with you forever … Finding what I found that night was devastating to me, more than you will ever know. Not just the unfaithfulness, but the way u cared for him and protected him … I’m a good person with a huge heart and everyone who knows me knows that, especially Christy. 

The three-page handwritten letter also has War Machinealso known by his birth name, Jon Koppenhaversay his goodbyes to friends and family members before saying “I was never meant to live in this era anyway. Follow your dreams and think for yourselves.”

The Ultimate Fighter alumnus is currently in the Clark County Detention Center and is facing 32 different criminal charges related to an alleged brutal beating of porn-star ex-girlfriend Christy Mack and former reality TV star Corey Thomas, per KTNV

While Mack is still recovering from the injuries she sustained on August 9, War Machine has previously stated he was “ambushed” by Mack and Thomas on that fateful night and only acted in self defense, per TMZ

A preliminary hearing was originally scheduled for October 17 but was postponed when War Machine’s attorneys began trying to work out a plea deal with prosecutors, per Las Vegas Review-Journal.

War Machine hasn’t competed in mixed martial arts in a year, most recently getting choked unconscious by Ron Keslar at Bellator 104 last October. 

 

John Heinis is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA editor for eDraft.com.

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