The latest UFC Fight Night offering should really go a long way toward determining just how devoted UFC fans can be. If you’re willing to wake up at 4:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, June 23, and watch UFC Fight Night 132 from start to finish, then you’re just about the hardest of hardcore fan around.
This card is available exclusively on UFC Fight Pass to boot, and it originates from Singapore, which explains the odd event start time. Even though much about this card is unusual, the main event features someone who is well known to just about every single UFC fan. Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone takes another crack at competing overseas, this time against Leon Edwards.
Cerrone won a highly entertaining bout in February by knocking out Yancy Medeiros. Prior to his recent victory, though, Cerrone had lost three consecutive fights and looked as if he was preparing to ride into the sunset for the final time. Did a win over Medeiros breathe new life into the Cowboy, or will Edwards add another name to his list and turn his five-fight winning streak into six?
The co-headliner could provide some clarity as to the next challenger in a not-at-all-crowded light heavyweight division. Ovince St. Preux is coming off a tough first-round submission loss and will face Tyson Pedro, who has gone 3-1 so far in the UFC. All three of Pedro’s wins came in the first round. St. Preux seems to always be right on the cusp of title contention, but can he finally break through against Pedro? Or will Pedro leapfrog him and yet again deny St. Preux a chance at the title?
The preliminary card begins on UFC Fight Pass at 4:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, June 23, with the main card starting at 8 a.m. ET. Combat Press Editor-in-Chief Bryan Henderson and writer Chris Huntemann are here to get you ready for all the early-morning action in this edition of Toe-to-Toe.
Donald Cerrone’s stock fell after three consecutive losses, but those setbacks came against members of the welterweight’s upper echelon and the Cowboy has since recovered with a win over Yancy Medeiros. Will Leon Edwards find success against Cerrone, or will the veteran slam the gate shut on the rising prospect?
Henderson: It would be easy to look at Cerrone’s recent failures and label it as a major decline for the star fighter who once challenged for the UFC’s lightweight crown and entered his recent skid on the heels of four straight wins as a welterweight. However, this would be foolish, given Cowboy’s recent win over Medeiros and a closer look at who handed him those losses.
Cerrone was knocked out by Jorge Masvidal, a savvy striker who sits at No. 9 in the UFC’s current welterweight rankings. The Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter suffered his next defeat on the scorecards against former champ Robbie Lawler, who still resides at No. 5 in the poll. Finally, Cerrone was decimated by rising star Darren Till, who occupies the No. 2 slot after a questionable win over Stephen Thompson. These guys are all members of the top 15 in the division, and they all clearly have top-notch skills to bring into a battle with Cerrone.
When Medeiros took to the cage with Cowboy, the momentum swung in the opposite direction. Medeiros is a tough fighter, but he sits outside of the top 15 and hasn’t quite found the answer to help him get past the best of the best in the lightweight or welterweight divisions.
So, this fight is less a question of whether the 35-year-old Cerrone still has it and more of a question of whether Edwards is on par with the Masvidals, Lawlers and Tills of the division. Well, “Rocky” makes a strong case. He, too, holds a position — No. 13 — in the UFC rankings and has won seven of his nine Octagon appearances. The Brit has finished Seth Baczynski and Peter Sobotta via strikes and submitted Albert Tumenov, but he also surrendered decisions to Claudio Silva and Kamaru Usman.
Edwards has snuck his way into the top 15, but his resume is hardly a who’s who of the division. This could be another fight that boosts Cerrone back toward consideration as a top welterweight. By no means is Cerrone, who still lands at No. 11, set to cruise past Edwards, but he has the veteran knowledge and confidence to out-duel his opponent on the feet and eventually score the knockout.
Huntemann: See, I’m going to do what my esteemed editor decries as being “foolish” and say that Cerrone is firmly on the backside of his career. That receipt for all the brutal wars he’s had inside the Octagon is coming due, also. The body can only take so much punishment, and when you live and die by the sword, things like that are going to happen.
Cowboy knocked out Medeiros in his last fight, but that was more a byproduct of Medeiros being willing to engage with Cerrone and just swinging for the fences. If Medeiros had fought a smarter fight, he might have won.
Edwards has only lost twice in his UFC career, with a tough split decision in his debut and coming up short against Usman despite taking him the distance. Edwards is getting better with each performance. He won’t be so willing to stand and brawl with Cerrone. Edwards is a smart fighter, and he will throw a healthy mix of stand-up and takedowns at Cerrone to keep Cowboy off balance. Edwards gets the defining win of his career against someone who seems to be firmly in the “gatekeeper” phase of his career.
What will Tyson Pedro prove in his fight with Ovince St. Preux?
Huntemann: This fight with OSP can actually end up being “Fight of the Night.” Yes, the light heavyweight division is extremely shallow — and that’s being kind — but that also means that guys like OSP and Pedro have a real opportunity to make a name for themselves. They will put on an exciting fight, and Pedro will emerge victorious.
Pedro already showed in his three previous UFC wins that he can be a dangerous finisher. Here, he also proves that he is ready to compete for a title sooner rather than later. A win against OSP followed by another win against someone like Glover Teixeira should make Pedro a top contender at 205 pounds.
Henderson: The 26-year-old will prove he’s not ready for the top tier quite yet.
Pedro’s fight with Ilir Latifi was a hint of what we could expect from the Aussie fighter. He was decisioned by a fighter who has become a solid, if unspectacular, part of the light heavyweight division’s top 15. Latifi was able to utilize takedowns to shut down Pedro’s offense. Pedro’s other UFC wins came against Khalil Rountree, Paul Craig and Saparbeg Safarov — hardly the best the division has to offer.
St. Preux isn’t the skilled wrestler that Latifi is, but he’s still a very athletic fighter who can put opponents on the mat. He also qualifies as Pedro’s only other truly high-level opponent. This is a huge test for Pedro, but it could turn out to be another setback for him.
This fight does have the potential to be a “Fight of the Night” candidate, but it also has the ingredients to turn into a war of attrition that is far from entertaining. Whichever way it goes, expect OSP to emerge with his hand raised.
Petr Yan and Hector Aldana — do we need to know these names?
Henderson: Yan, yes. Aldana, on the other hand, is a question mark if ever there was one.
Let’s start with Yan, a 25-year-old former Absolute Championship Berkut bantamweight kingpin. While the ACB’s homophobic owner Mairbek Khasiev brings a dark cloud over the Russian promotion, it’s difficult to downplay the amount of talent that’s been gathered under the ACB banner. Yan won his first ACB tournament in 2015 with a decision nod over the formerly undefeated Murad Kalamov, but he then lost in a title bid against Magomed Magomedov, a legitimate prospect in his own right. “No Mercy” bounced back to top Ed Arthur and then avenged his loss to Magomedov to claim the crown. Yan went on to defend the belt with a third-round knockout of Matheus Mattos before jumping to the UFC.
Yan draws Teruto Ishihara for his Octagon debut. It’s a winnable fight for the Russian against a Japanese foe who has lost three of his last four UFC fights. This one probably goes the distance, but Yan is capable of taking the nod and working his way to a mid-tier spot in the UFC’s bantamweight division.
The 29-year-old Aldana is much more of a wild card. He debuted in his homeland of Mexico in 2011 and went on to win his first four fights, including three by way of stoppage. However, the last of those fights came in 2013, and Aldana didn’t return to action again until his 2015 appearance in The Ultimate Fighter house for the reality show’s second Latin American season. He took a decision win in his first fight, but he was eliminated via a quick submission in his next TUF bout against Enrique Marin. He has been inactive ever since.
Aldana could just as easily vanish from the MMA world once more. His fight with Kenan Song, a 28-year-old prospect hailing from China, is a true toss-up. Aldana has been submitted, and Song has six total submissions and a striking game that makes him dangerous regardless of where the fight goes. However, Song also has been about as inconsistent as they come. “The Assassin” was on a two-fight skid before he joined the UFC, but he only needed 15 seconds to steamroll through Bobby Nash. Aldana’s overall level of competition seems very low by comparison, however, so the nod here has to go to Song. Aldana might hang around for another fight or two with the organization, but he’ll struggle to keep up with much more skilled adversaries.
Huntemann: That’s a way more detailed explanation than I could ever hope to provide, so I will concede this question. However, I will say this: remember when Ishihara was supposed to be a thing? This guy just seems to be living his best life, every day, if you follow him on social media. Unfortunately, he’s a pedestrian 3-3-1 in the UFC and seems destined to be just another warm body. Yan gets the better of Ishihara in this fight and is just able to count a win over a purported ladies’ man like Ishihara on his resume.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Huntemann: I know mentioning a main-card bout as a “sleeper” candidate is frowned upon, but the flyweight contest between Jessica-Rose “Jessy Jess” Clark and Jessica Eye could really be a fun brawl. Jess battered Paige VanZant — Remember when she was also supposed to be a thing? Those were fun times — in her last fight, and even though Eye is a pretty average fighter overall, she is willing to trade hands with the best of them. These two ladies will leave it all in the Octagon, and it wouldn’t be surprising if a standing ovation from the crowd is their reward.
Henderson: There are some compelling fights on the preliminary card, too. Shinsho Anzai is getting a tough test against Jake Matthews. Lady strawweights Viviane Pereira and Xiaonan Yan have combined for a career mark of 21-2, and one of these fighters could move closer to title contention with a big win here. Then, there’s the latest showcase effort for Naoki Inoue, a rising flyweight prospect. Inoue’s fight with Matt Schnell therefore gets the nod as the evening’s (morning’s?) sleeper.
The 21-year-old Inoue could be a fixture in the UFC’s flyweight division for years to come. He has excellent submission skills and already conquered his Octagon debut with a win over Carls John de Tomas.
Schnell provides Inoue with another solid challenge. The 28-year-old is a former Legacy Fighting Championship interim titleholder and won his first fight on The Ultimate Fighter 24 before getting submitted by eventual tournament winner Tim Elliott. Schnell went on to lose his first two official UFC fights by knockout, but he finally found his first UFC win against Marco Antonio Beltran at UFC 216.
Schnell is scrappy enough to keep things fun, but this fight qualifies as a sleeper for giving us another glimpse at a potential future title contender.
Pair this card with…
Henderson: A breakfast burrito. The start time for the event makes the preliminary card an afterthought for all but the most dedicated (or insomnia-plagued) of fans. The main card, however, kicks off at 8 a.m. ET and features some interesting match-ups. Grab a breakfast burrito loaded with chorizo, eggs and cheese, then settle in for the four fights that matter the most. If that’s not a big enough dose of UFC for the weekend, then take a quick glance at the prelim-card results and pick out any highlight-reel finishes to go back and watch.
Huntemann: The snooze button. That’s what I would feel inclined to press repeatedly if I were forced to wake up and watch this card online. Seriously, if you feel the need or obligation to wake up and watch this card, seek help immediately.
Main Card (UFC Fight Pass, 8 a.m. ET)
WW: Donald Cerrone vs. Leon Edwards
LHW: Tyson Pedro vs. Ovince St. Preux
Women’s FlyW: Jessica-Rose “Jessy Jess” Clark vs. Jessica Eye
WW: Jingliang Li vs. Daichi Abe
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass, 4:30 a.m. ET)
BW: Petr Yan vs. Teruto Ishihara
FW: Felipe Arantes vs. Yadong Song
FW: Rolando Dy vs. Shane Young
WW: Hector Aldana vs. Kenan Song
WW: Jake Matthews vs. Shinsho Anzai
Women’s StrawW: Xiaonan Yan vs. Viviane Pereira
FlyW: Matt Schnell vs. Naoki Inoue
FlyW: Jenel Lausa vs. Yuta “Ulka” Sasaki
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