Just In UFC on ESPN+ 16 breakdown: Can Donald Cerrone weather the Justin Gaethje hell storm that awaits? MMA Life

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MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for UFC on ESPN+ 16.

UFC on ESPN+ 16 takes place Saturday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The card streams on ESPN+.

Donald Cerrone (36-12 MMA, 23-9 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 36 Weight: 155 lbs. Reach: 73″
  • Last fight: TKO loss to Tony Ferguson (June 8, 2019)
  • Camp: BMF Ranch (New Mexico)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/muay Thai
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:

+ Multiple muay Thai titles
^ 28-0 as a pro kickboxer
+ 10 KO victories
+ 17 submission wins
+ 15 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Intelligent strike setups
^ Feints, reads, reacts
+ Devastating head kicks
+ Accurate and intercepting knees
+ Hard leg kicks
^ Most landed in UFC history
+ Underrated wrestling ability
+ Good transitional grappler
+ Active and attacking guard

Justin Gaethje (20-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 30 Weight: 155 lbs. Reach: 72″
  • Last fight: Knockout win over Edson Barboza(March 30, 2019)
  • Camp: Elevation Fight Team (Denver, Co.)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:

+ WSOF lightweight title
+ NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler
+ 17 KO victories
+ 1 submission win
+ 8 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Relentless pace and pressure
+ Heavy right hand
^ Variates between overhands and uppercuts
+ Hard leg kicks
+ Strong inside the clinch
^ Good hips and dirty boxing
+ Strikes well off the break
+ Excellent wrestling and scrambling ability
+/- Propensity to brawl

Point of interest: Stopping the pressure

The main event in Vancouver features a familiar fan favorite who is, once again, tasked with taming an oncoming force.

Considering Donald Cerrone’s history with competent pressure fighters, I can understand why some of his fans may have concerns about this matchup. However, with this threat being a common theme throughout Cerrone’s career, the 13-year pro has added elements to his game to help dissuade the pressure that is typically headed his way.

A pronounced muay Thai striker who loves to play in space, Cerrone has always embraced his kickboxing base to help him gauge/maintain distance. Cerrone also carries his patented check-knee up the middle, which adds a crucial layer to his preservation of said space.

In recent years, the 36-year-old veteran has proven to provide much more than the kicks the comprise his highlight reel, showing strides in his ability to connect punches inside the pocket or in combination.

Since his time spent working with Brandon Gibson, the more recent iterations of Cerrone have him moving his head and torso offline and at angles, unloading his punches with different mechanics than before. Often punching his way out of exchanges with his left hook, Cerrone will feed his newfound flow into his devastating head kicks, displaying an arsenal that’s much more symbiotic.

Regardless of what weapons Cerrone chooses to arm himself with, he will need to draw fast considering the hell that will be riding toward him on Saturday.

Enter Justin Gaethje.

A man who may own the most violent and financially fruitful four-fight start in UFC history, Gaethje has proven to be highlight-reel material, win or lose.

A relentless forward mover, Gaethje embodies the phrase “a bull in a China shop” with his unabashed aggression and hard-wiring to inflict damage. Doing his best work when on the attack, Gaethje will gain his opponent’s respect with hard hooks and crosses, looking to punctuate his presence with crushing uppercuts and leg kicks when appropriate.

Gaethje may be matched up with the man who has landed the most leg kicks in UFC history, but the 30-year-old talent more than showed his ability to compete in that area when going kick-for-kick with Edson Barboza (before knocking him out, that is).

Similar to a Spartan and his shield in a phalanx, Gaethje relies heavily upon his double-forearm guard, planting and looking to counter with immediacy.

However, outside of his shelling defense, the 30-year-old sometimes has shown little regard for what comes back at him in the past, something that is reflected by his statistics in the strikes absorbed department. Given Gaethje’s opposition at hand, I will be curious to see if he makes any tactical adjustments to his pressuring approach.

Next point of interest: Working through the clinch

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