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UFC 238 - United Center - Chicago Illinois
11:15 PM EST. For the casual fan, this is likely to be considered the night's "real" main event, as Donald Cerrone is by far the most recognizable and popular fighter on this card. "Cowboy" is just five weeks removed from a five-round battle with Al Iaquinta and it would not be unfair to question if that was enough time for him to recover from not only that fight, but the extra sacrifice that goes into training for a 25-minute bout. However, Cerrone's calling card over his Hall of Fame career has been taking fights on short notice and for better or worse, it's a massive part of his appeal and a big reason why he has more UFC victories than anybody. It doesn't always work out in his favor, but "Cowboy" never fails to answer that call.
Cerrone carries great appeal as a pooch in just about any situation and he's been arguably at his best after the birth of his son. Since "Lil Cowboy" arrived on the scene, his old man is 3-0 with his other wins coming over Alexander Hernandez by way of TKO in his return to the 155lb division and an armbar submission victory over Mike Perry in his swan song at welterweight. We're not suggesting that Cerrone's boy gave him superpowers or made his Jiu-Jitsu undefendable, but having a kid changes most people for the better and forces them to work harder for something far more important than themselves. It doesn't matter if you're a CEO, the janitor, or a cage fighter. Cerrone is always a danger to win any fight he is in and while there's a chance he's outclassed in this spot, "Cowboy" will not be outworked and he's unlikely to be intimidated by Tony Ferguson's trademark bullying inside the Octagon.
Enter "El Cucuy," who is no doubt one of the most talented fighters in the organization after ripping off an 11-0 run going back to October of 2013. That undefeated streak is impressive, but it doesn't take a mathematician to figure out that Ferguson has averaged less than two fights per year over that time. For comparison's sake, Cerrone has 21 bouts. Injuries over the last few years have kept "El Cucuy" from reaching his full potential as one of the division's best. His career peak was an October 2017 submission win over Kevin Lee for the interim UFC Lightweight Championship, but he was stripped of that title after a freak accident while doing media before his scheduled defense at UFC 223. Ferguson beat Anthony Pettis at UFC 229 in October after Pettis was forced to quit prior to the start of the third round after breaking his hand. Since that fight, Ferguson has one of the most tumultuous years for a UFC fighter on record.
Mental health is not something that we take lightly and you will find no snark about the subject in this space, but it's a topic that is very much at the forefront of this fight. It's been well documented that Ferguson had a restraining order filed against him by his wife less than two months ago after he allegedly showed signs of severe paranoia, including thinking he had a tracking chip installed after knee surgery. He was also not sleeping or acting like his usual self and he tore apart the fireplace in his home. Hell, even Dana White said that "El Cucuy," had "a lot of personal issues" that were keeping him from taking that walk to the cage, yet here we are.
At their best with all things being equal, this would be Ferguson's fight to lose, but we've seen just 10 minutes of cage action from him in the last 20 months. He is now 36 with over a decade worth of fights under his belt and there is no telling how much punishment his body has suffered. The surgeries and time off because of them are one thing, as limited mobility and age are a lightweight's Kryptonite, but it’s the wounds we can't see and the damage that has been done to "El Cucuy's" brain that is of the most concern here, as the effects of those blows are on recent public record. What state of mind Ferguson will be in when the Octagon door closes cannot be predicted and we will call the organization and White specifically onto the carpet before Bruce Buffer makes the introductions because if this ends badly for Ferguson, the blood will be on their hands. Even if "El Cucuy" gets the win, at what cost will it come to him long term? Ferguson has been critical of White this week saying Dana was, "not his boss," and that their relationship was "dissed." If White had Ferguson and his family's best interests in mind, "El Cucuy" likely wouldn't be fighting tonight. That Ferguson seems more concerned with his status within the division and the fact he never lost his "championship" rather than his own well being may shed some light on that subject. Win or lose, the dog is the smart play here.
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Donald Cerrone +143 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.86)