Donald Cerrone knows what he’s doing, and this is just one of those situations where a five-fight winning streak and this weekend’s catapult bout to the lightweight title picture adds up to Nam Phan. It’s almost a cliché at this point -- all roads lead to Nam Phan, one of the game’s notorious heels.
This last part is obviously a lie (Phan isn’t a notorious anything) -- but the first part? The first part appears to be a confounding truth.
Cerrone is a unique fighter, and if there’s an added wrinkle in his game heading into this weekend’s fight against Dennis Siver it appears to be vendettas. Phan recently decisioned Cerrone’s teammate/ranch hand Leonard Garcia in a rematch at UFC 136. This didn’t stick in Cowboy’s craw so much as Phan’s comments that Greg Jackson and the coaching staff out in Albuquerque were not working things correctly.
Now Cerrone is telling the media ahead of his UFC 137 fight with Siver -- who is built like a Russian accordion and has won four in a row of his own -- that he will drop to featherweight to fight Phan when this thing’s over. Not maybe, but will drop down, according to an interview with MMA Weekly. While there, he’ll test the waters for what might be a quick climb toward Jose Aldo. The Aldo carrot acts as media filler for now, something to hitch a story to.
That’s because Cowboy, who deals best in short-term situations, says what he really wants is to bring that Phan to justice, that kid that walks out to Foster the People and goes about opining on stuff he just don’t know about. Cole Miller, who has been angling for a fight with Cerrone himself, might want to take notes. Phan hit a nerve, and this has a “meet me at the flagpole after school” vibe where Cerrone wants to offer physical proof of what’s being taught at Jackson’s.
Right. But Phan? What would be the point? When did changing his mind become such a priority?
If Cerrone goes down to featherweight and smashes Phan, this will teach somebody a lesson (that he's better and more disciplined than Garcia maybe) and do nothing otherwise. He’d be a vast favorite. It’s easier to believe that Cerrone is ultimately contemplating going down to 145 pounds for a run at Aldo’s belt, because making a cameo appearance for these expressed purposes just seems cruel and unusual.
And then again, to believe that, we’d be ignoring logic. In going to featherweight in pursuit of Aldo’s belt he’d be leaving a division where he’s already installed as a contender to Edgar’s. Maybe Siver renders the whole thing moot, but at this point, Cowboy clearly isn’t interested in traditional motivations (like titles) so much as changing fool notions. He’s gone 0-3 in title shots in the past, and his standing in all these theoretical rankings is a mess he doesn’t need.
It’s a maverick attitude that is both fun and confusing to linear tastes. Think Edgar should feel the threat coming up the rungs? No, not with a loud mouth in Orange County out there making the wrong kind of noise.
That’s what you’ve got to love about Cerrone; his is Old West reckoning. Fights are personal.