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Cowboy’s Last Stand: Was Title Shot Cerrone’s Last?

Donald Cerrone gestures after defeating John Makdessi in their lightweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC on 187 Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
(AP Photo/John Locher)

A 40-acre ranch, a great paying job and enough beer to last an entire platoon through the winter—most would agree that Donald Cerrone is living the American dream right now. He is literally in a position where he can play harder than he works.

But that’s never the path chosen by Cerrone, whose lavish lifestyle was forged through blood, sweat and calloused hands. Life as an MMA fighter for the perennial lightweight contender has mostly consisted of kicking ass and drinking beer. All of it has been so that he could one day reach up to the sky and grab that proverbial brass ring—the UFC lightweight title.

Opportunity put Cerrone on the cusp of reality when he met UFC champion Rafael dos Anjos in the main event of Saturday’s UFC on FOX 17 fight card. After eight consecutive victories, the steed was saddled and ready for Cowboy to ride to the Promised Land. The Amway Center in Orlando lit up like a rock concert when Kid Rock’s anthem played and Cerrone stepped into the cage.

And then the lights dimmed once more for dos Anjos, the most underappreciated champion in the UFC. A train was coming for Cerrone, and he stood right in front of it like a deer in headlights. Dos Anjos took the Jackson/Winkeljohn student apart in 66 seconds. There was no proverbial brass ring grabbing. There was only pain, more pain and loss.

“Sometimes you just don’t show up to work, so you get your ass kicked,” Cerrone said at the post-fight press conference. “Hat’s off to the son of a b—h. He did what he had to do.

“The knee is what started it. Then he put a great onslaught of punches on me. He did a great job overwhelming me, and he did what he had to do to remain champ. Sometimes you just don’t show up, and in our profession, that’s a bad day.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbOV_mVK2uI

It was certainly a bad day for Cerrone, who fell to 0-4 in career title fights. The climb to the top of the mountain took him nearly half a decade in the UFC, and the precipitous fall barely lasted a minute.

One has to wonder if the fight against dos Anjos was the 32-year-old star’s last chance to win a world title.

Another extensive winning streak in an incredibly tough division is in order. Thankfully, Cerrone is one of the most active fighters on the UFC roster, and if certain pieces fall into place, it shouldn’t take him long to get back into the title picture.

The biggest roadblock standing in his way is obviously dos Anjos, who already has a pair of decisive wins over him. Two losses to the reigning champion is usually the death knell of a contender’s journey to the top. Rarely do we ever see a contender get three cracks at the same champion, especially in such a talent-filled division.

As long as dos Anjos remains champion, Cerrone will spend his contender days in the stable on gatekeeper duty.

There are plenty of interesting challenges ahead for dos Anjos that could potentially shift the balance of power, but given recent performances, it’s likely dos Anjos will be warming the throne for a long time, unless a certain Russian fighter can finally manage to get his health in order.

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