It was always going to be tough to live up to the pre-fight expectancy and levels of anticipation, but Robbie Lawler and Donald Cerrone did their best to deliver tonight (July 29) at UFC 214, producing three rounds of back-and-forth action after which Lawler, the victor, left the happier of the two.
A close contest throughout, Lawler, 35, came out strong, landing heavy punches on the unguarded head of Cerrone, 34, and also finished the fight on top. Cerrone, though, shaded round two, mixing up fake takedowns (used to keep Lawler guessing), punches and kicks to great effect, and seemed dejected to hear he’d been pipped at the post when the decision (29-28 across the board) was rendered.
Admittedly, it could have gone either way. Both had their moments. Both enhanced their reputation. But it was Lawler, 28-11 (1 NC), the former champion stepping into the Octagon for the first time since losing his title last July, who secured a much-needed win and remained on track for a rematch with the man who dethroned him, Tyron Woodley.
It’s probably unfair to say Jimi Manuwa overlooked the threat of Volkan Oezdemir, but he certainly failed to see the Swiss striker’s short punches coming tonight in Anaheim, California. Aimed at his head, in close, these punches conspired to scramble the senses of Manuwa after just thirty seconds of round one and, as a result, removed from the table any chance of the Londoner fighting for the UFC light-heavyweight title or, indeed, boxing David Haye in a boxing match.
These scenarios could still unfold, of course. Just presumably not yet. Not after this.
All the talk beforehand was of what Manuwa, 17-3, would do next – would he call out the UFC light-heavyweight champion? Would he goad Haye some more? – but it’s Oezdemir who, in the end, had the last laugh, the final say. It was he who kept his eye on the immediate prize and set about Manuwa with an intensity that had also served him well against Misha Cirkunov (dispatched in just 28 seconds) in May. Ten years the Englishman’s junior, Oezdemir, 15-1, possessed a sharpness Manuwa lacked and capitalized on his moment, his tiny window of opportunity, to switch out ‘The Poster Boy’s lights after just 42 seconds of the first round.
Now, with back-to-back wins over top 205-pound contenders both secured inside 45 seconds, Oezdemir, one of the breakout stars of 2017, has jumped the queue, replaced Manuwa at the front of the pecking order and, who knows, could be on course for a title shot either this year or next.