Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look ahead to the co-main event of UFC on FOX 23 as Donald Cerrone clashes with Jorge Masvidal in a welterweight bout. Donald Cerrone (Record: 32-7, -160 Favorite, Power Ranking: B+) The longtime Jackson’s MMA-trained fighter has transitioned well from lightweight to welterweight, winning his first three fights in the division. His work at welterweight is highlighted by being the first fighter to knock out both Canadian Patrick Cote and Matt Brown with a head kick. Cerrone continues to keep a busy fight schedule, as he last fought only in December. “Cowboy” Cerrone is one of the most entertaining fighters in the UFC. His anyone, anytime, anyplace mentality has made him one of the biggest fan favorites in the sport. His game begins with his striking. He has an excellent kickboxing base, with heavy kicks landing just over four significant strikes a minute. His length (73 inches) is still long even with the move to welterweight. In addition to his exciting stand-up, he’s got an underrated submission game. In the UFC, he holds submission wins over quality veterans Edson Barboza, Evan Dunham and Alex Oliveira. Cerrone has had his struggles with fighters who can either land to the body or are able to force him to strike off his back foot. Jorge Masvidal (Record: 31-11, +140 Underdog, Power Ranking: B) The Miami born and raised fighter is a longtime veteran of Strikeforce and the UFC. He finished 2016 with a 2-1 record. He lost a split decision to Lorenz Larkin in March, earned a decision win over Ross Pearson in July and finished the year with a TKO victory over Jake Ellenberger just last month. Masvidal has fought 12 times in the UFC, compiling an 8-4 record, with a majority of his bouts at lightweight, although his last five fights have been at welterweight. He continues to show one of the most well-rounded skill sets in mixed martial arts. On the feet, he has very crisp boxing. He can land in combination with 4.20 significant strikes per minute in the Octagon. Not only is he able to land combinations, he does so with accuracy with 46 percent of significant strikes landed, one of the highest percentages in the division. Defensively, he’s very strong as well, absorbing just 2.89 significant strikes per minute with a stunning 69 percent of strikes defended. His technical prowess is very good, but his toughness ranks right up there with it. He’s a very difficult fighter to finish, as he not been stopped in a fight since 2009. While not often talked about, he’s a solid wrestler who has secured nearly two takedowns per 15 minutes in the cage and has been able to defend 79 percent of takedown attempts. The biggest issue for Masvidal has been leaving fights to the judges to decide the winner. He has struggled to put opponents away and has lost close fights on the scorecards. He tends to struggle with fighters who press forward and control the action. Masvidal is a comfortable counter-striker, and that has cost him close rounds throughout his career. Matchup This fight is billed as the co-main event but could very well be the best fight of the entire card. Both Cerrone and Masvidal are fighters that have found success at welterweight despite moving up in weight. From a physical perspective, these fighters are nearly identical in terms of height and reach. Where they differ is in their attacking approach. Masvidal always finds himself in competitive encounters, as he prefers to counter strike and isn’t overly aggressive while Cerrone is a bully inside the cage stalking his opponent down and being the aggressor throughout the fight. Looking back at Masvidal’s performances over the last few years, he has had most difficulties against aggressive fighters. He struggled to contend with the high output power strikes of Lorenz Larkin, and that could well be the case in this fight. Cerrone will mix in punches and kicks well in this fight, and Masvidal has moments of inactivity in his fights. That simply doesn’t work against Cerrone because a fighter needs to be put in a complete 15 minutes to be able to beat him. Considering the durability of both fighters, I think Cerrone’s consistent level of output is the key to this fight and earning a decision on the scorecards. Cerrone (-160) is worthy of consideration as a strong leg of a parlay but also worth looking at to win by decision (+169) given just how difficult Masvidal is to finish, as he hasn’t been stopped by an opponent since 2009.
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