In the main event of UFC Ottawa, Cerrone (36-11, 1 NC) put on another vintage striking performance, outworking Al Iaquinta (14-5-1) over the course of five action-packed rounds to earn a unanimous decision (49-45, 49-45, 49-46) win, his 23rd overall in the UFC.
“Cowboy” is actually undefeated at 4-0 when competing in Canada, but more importantly, he’s unbeaten since the birth of his son Dacson Danger, who joined him in the Octagon on Saturday at Canadian Tire Centre.
“Dad Cerrone is 3-0 now so I’m on a new mission, I’ve got to build this boy a swimming pool,” he said post-fight.
The two veterans set a solid pace in the opening round. Iaquinta was the aggressor, marching forward and landing leg kicks on a patient Cerrone. With the crowd loudly chanting, “Let’s go, Cowboy,” Cerrone gradually began to pick up the pace, answering with kicks of his own and countering as Iaquinta looked to work his boxing in close. Though he was getting caught with straight punches, Iaquinta made sure he had Cerrone’s attention with a quick punch combo. Iaquinta absorbed a hard kick going in for a takedown to close out a close first period.
The heated action carried into the second and third rounds as Iaquinta and Cerrone remained laser-focused. Cerrone continued to land even as he gave ground to Iaquinta, but Iaquinta cracked Cerrone with two big right hands before eating one in response.
Neither man was interested in backing down and they stayed in close proximity, battering each other with strikes to the leg, body, and head. Even taking their time to pick their shots, it was impossible to avoid a counter or a retribution strike. A crimson streak running down the middle of his face, Iaquinta always seemed to respond with a hard punch when it looked like Cerrone was starting to walk him down.
A cracking right left hand by Cerrone halfway through the third caused the intensity to ramp up further, leading to a flurry and a leg kick that tripped Cerrone up. He evaded Iaquinta’s follow-up punch and later landed a straight left of his own that wobbled Iaquinta. Cerrone hesitated for a moment before pouncing on Iaquinta, but Iaquinta’s defensive guard was enough to keep him in it until the bell rang.
Heading into the championship rounds, there was noticeable bruising on each man’s lead leg and swelling on Iaquinta’s face. Cerrone did not let up, flooring Iaqinta again with a high front kick and measuring his punches as Iaquinta scrambled to recover.
Cerrone was definitively the aggressor as round four came to a close and the final round began, his Muay Thai attack on point. With five minutes remaining, the blood streaming down Iaquinta’s head had spread to the right side of his face and referee Jerin Valel asked that the doctor examine Iaquinta’s swollen eye.
The bout continued. As did Cerrone’s dominance.
Iaquinta simply had no answer for Cerrone’s non-stop offense, though he went down swinging in classic “Raging Al” fashion, popping Cerrone with hooks to try and slow Cerrone down. But Cerrone poured it on, delivering damaging 1-2s and body kicks. By the end, Iaquinta was overwhelmed and left on his back trying to fend off a swarming Cerrone as the time ticked down.
With the win, Cerrone improved to 23-8 in the UFC, extending his record for the most wins in UFC history and he is now 2-0 since returning to the lightweight division. Overall, he is 17-4 competing at 155 pounds in the Octagon. His 31st UFC appearance is second only to Jim Mililer (32) for the most in company history.
Afterwards, he was asked what’s next, and he set his sights on another UFC title opportunity or a bout with Conor McGregor.
“I want the title, whatever that means,” Cerrone said. “Unless Conor McGregor, you want to fight me in July. I’m ready, 4th of July, let’s do it.”
Iaquinta loses for the second time in three appearances, the other setback being a short-notice main event bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 last April. His UFC record falls to 9-4.