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When the UFC heads to Singapore on June 23, two well-rounded fighters will lock horns in what promises to be a spectacular main event. In a quintessential ‘crossroads fight’, surging prospect Leon “Rocky” Edwards will look to defeat grizzled veteran and fan favorite, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
The Evolution of Edwards
Considering his current style of fighting, it’s amazing to think Edwards entered the UFC as a pure striker. While Edwards showed himself to be competent against lower level competition, there was nothing to suggest he would become a legitimate contender.
After being suffocated and outwrestled by Kamaru Usman in 2015, Edwards showcased vastly improved grappling in his subsequent bout with Dominic Waters. Next, Edwards was able to nullify an elite technical boxer in Albert Tumenov by dragging the fight to the mat and securing a rear-naked choke submission victory.
In Edwards’ recent bouts, he’s relied on his offensive wrestling to ground opponents and win rounds with positional control. This doesn’t always excite the fans, but it’s clear Edwards favors getting his hand raised over engaging in crazy barn burners.
Riding a five fight winning streak, Edwards doesn’t comprehensively outclass his opponents - but he always finds a way to win. Stylistically, Cerrone could be a difficult matchup for Edwards.
How Much is Left in the Tank for Cerrone?
The all-action, bull riding, rodent shooting, surfboarding Cerrone would rather lose than put on a boring fight. While Cerrone’s recent record is mixed, all of his losses have come against elite competition. More specifically, all of his recent losses were against elite strikers. Edwards is a proficient kickboxer, but he’s a level or two below the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Rafael Dos Anjos and Darren Till.
If the fight stays standing, I believe Cerrone’s Muay Thai experience will be enough to get the better of Edwards. Cerrone also has an underrated ground game. If Edwards gets complacent in Cerrone’s guard, he could easily find himself tapping due to a triangle or armbar.
Despite his wild and reckless personality, Cerrone’s struggles with performance anxiety are well publicized. A slow starter, Cerrone typically needs a round to get outside of his head and establish a rhythm. Rafael Dos Anjos and Darren Till were able to blast Cerrone in the first round because they applied pressure from the first second of the fight. This could be part of Edwards’ game plan, but it’s not something we’ve seen in his performances thus far.
Styles Make Fights
At 35 years of age with over 70 combined kickboxing and MMA fights, Cerrone won’t be able to perform at the highest level forever. Despite winning convincingly, he looked a little stiff in his last bout with Yancy Medeiros and it’s entirely possible he’s declining.
Ignoring the age gap, I believe Cerrone is the more skilled fighter. I also don’t think Edwards will be able to hug his way to victory in the manner of some of his previous wins. In what should be a competitive fight, I believe there is value on Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at +210.
Pick: Cerrone +210
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