May 3, 2019

UFC Ottawa: Al Iaquinta and Donald Cerrone Fight For Different Stakes

By Raphael Garcia

This weekend, UFC Ottawa is headlined by an interesting lightweight fight between Donald Cerrone and Al Iaquinta. These two ranked lightweights are both men that have garnered a cult following within the sport by doing things their own way. But a compelling subplot is that, while Cerrone can be labeled a "company man," Iaquinta tends to look out for his own interests first. That angle lends some intrigue to what these men are fighting for as they step into the Octagon on Saturday night.

Cerrone and Iaquinta are favorites among fans for different reasons. On one side, there’s Cerrone, a guy who exemplifies the wild west, and that goes beyond his nickname of “Cowboy.” Cerrone seems incapable of using the word “no” when posed with the idea of a potential fight, and his record speaks to that point. He walked into the UFC with 17 professional fights back in 2010 and has amassed 30 fights in the Octagon in less than nine years. That’s a blistering pace that will stand the test of time.

Cowboy has been valuable to the UFC in a number of ways. Though he hasn’t yet found a way to hold UFC gold, he has been a go-to name for "Fight of the Night" performances, as he puts on exciting fights whether in victory or defeat. Currently riding a two-fight win streak, Cerrone is always looking to parlay victories into bigger fights, such as the much ballyhooed matchup with Conor McGregor that couldn't quite come together. He's also a man that the UFC can count on when it needs to fill a void anywhere on one of its cards, a convenience that applies to very few fighters on the roster. And remember when Cerrone was one of the names mentioned alongside former Bellator President Bjorn Rebney as he started the MMAA? Well, neither does Cerrone, because he quickly distanced himself from those efforts, deciding instead to return to being a UFC company man who will step up whenever and wherever the organization needs him to.


Iaquinta, on the other hand, has played his hand in the exact opposite fashion. Iaquinta seems to relish the idea of telling the UFC “no” any chance he can get. Think back to when he walked away from fighting to enter the world of real estate, something he still practices today. Or another example, when he pushed back on the idea of canceling early weigh-ins, an idea that was pushed by UFC leadership without any input from the fighters themselves. Twice Iaquinta has been pulled from fights due to disputes over his UFC contract, and he continues to stand firm in his beliefs within an organization where most fighters bend to the will of the men who sign their checks.

This is what makes Saturday night’s bout so interesting. Cerrone has continued to lobby for the McGregor fight, which was rumored to have fallen apart due to the UFC being unable to find a way to get McGregor to agree to a co-main event slot. On the other side, Iaquinta is attempting to hold onto a coveted Top 10 ranking in the most competitive division in the sport. Iaquinta knows the value of staying ready, and he’s one injury replacement away from potentially fighting for the title a second time.


It's clear that a win or loss has different value for each fighter. For Iaquinta, outside of his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 – a fight he took on mere hours’ notice – he has not tasted defeat in five years. During that time he has grown more brazen in his pushback against the company. If he loses, a lot of that accumulated stature and momentum is lost. Cerrone, on the other hand, doesn’t stand to lose nearly as much with a defeat; he will continue to get booked in important matchups with prominent card placement. And his position within the company -- a position that is coveted across the organization -- isn’t at risk at all, whereas it certainly is for Iaquinta.

Al Iaquinta vs. Donald Cerrone is a matchup that should tickle the interest of hardcore fans within the sport. There are stakes in this battle that will help shape the flow of the lightweight funnel, as the 155 field looks to shake itself out behind the pending fight between the champion Nurmagomedov and the interim champion Dustin Poirier. But looking at the two fighters involved, it's clear that there are different stakes for the men in this fight.

UFC on ESPN+ 9
Al Iaquinta vs. Donald Cerrone

UFC on ESPN+ 9: Iaquinta vs. Cowboy (formerly UFC on ESPN+ 8: Iaquinta vs. Cowboy) takes place May 4, 2019 at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Click HERE for more UFC on ESPN+ 9 Pre-Fight Analysis


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