In the co-main event of UFC 182 on Saturday night, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone will be looking for his sixth straight victory when he takes on undefeated lightweight contender Myles Jury. Jury is 15-0 in MMA, and if Cowboy can hand him his first loss, he could possibly leapfrog Rafael dos Anjos for the next UFC lightweight title shot.
Dos Anjos earned his spot as the No. 1-ranked lightweight contender by winning in eight of his last nine UFC outings, losing only to Khabib Nurmagomedov by decision in that stretch. He put a three-round hurting on Nate Diaz in his most recent fight, causing UFC president Dana White to say that he’s likely next in line for the title, per Tristen Critchfield of Sherdog.
With lightweight champion Anthony Pettis coming out of his UFC 181 title defense against Gilbert Melendez with no serious injuries to speak of, he should be ready to face the next challenger some time in the first half of 2015.
Cerrone has said in the past that he wants to stay active inside the Octagon, per John Morgan of MMA Junkie, and his schedule has proven that, so he won’t sit out waiting for a title shot. He even took to Twitter after his last fight to express his discontent that Jury wouldn’t be ready to fight a month sooner.
He’s taken on the best available competition that UFC matchmaker Joe Silva could plug into his busy fighting schedule, and he has crammed 15 UFC fights into his four-year tenure after coming over from the WEC in 2011.
Dos Anjos is currently ahead of Cerrone in the title hunt, partially because he holds a unanimous-decision victory over Cowboy from August 2013. Cerrone bounced back from that with five straight victories, four of which earned him post-fight bonus awards. Dos Anjos has gone 3-1 since that fight, with his first-round knockout of former champion Benson Henderson being his most impressive performance.
Even though dos Anjos has beaten Cerrone already and has not fought the current champion yet, which is something that Cerrone admittedly can’t say anything about, Cowboy should get the title shot if he beats Jury.
If you look at what both Cerrone and dos Anjos have done inside the Octagon over the past two years, Cerrone’s resume starts to look a little better. Four fights in 2013, four more in 2014 and a big fight on the first show of the new year makes Cerrone one of the most active lightweights in the UFC. Conversely, dos Anjos has six fights in the same stretch.
It isn’t just the quantity of fights that makes the case for Cerrone, but also the quality of his wins. His strength of schedule puts Cerrone in a class of his own. He’s got two TKO wins over Jim Miller, both of which occurred within seconds of each other.
He ripped through Edson Barboza in less than one round and didn’t bat an eye at welcoming Eddie Alvarez to the UFC. Dos Anjos’ victories over Diaz and Henderson were very impressive and significant, but Cerrone’s have been equally dominant.
Part of the reason that Cerrone wanted to face Jury is because after a dominant decision victory over Diego Sanchez, Jury told Joe Rogan he was “surprised by how easy it was” to defeat the storied Sanchez, per Dana Becker of FightLine.com.
It may have come off as cocky to Cerrone, but it wasn’t just boasting. Jury did make it look easy to beat Diego Sanchez that night, although Sanchez did offer up food poisoning as an excuse for being so beatable.
Jury followed that one up by storming through Takanori Gomi with a first-round TKO. He’s somewhat quietly racked up six wins in the UFC lightweight division, but his most recent wins have made some noise and earned him his No. 8 UFC.com ranking, as well as landing him in a fight with Cowboy.
A win for Jury would be his biggest yet, and a win for Cerrone would put him on a six-fight winning streak. If Cerrone comes out on top at UFC 182, his case for the next title shot is complete.
Cerrone has fought more often and won more often overall over the past two years in the UFC than dos Anjos. If he kicks off 2015 with a victory over Jury, the UFC should plug Anthony Pettis into the busy schedule of Donald Cerrone.
Read more MMA news on BleacherReport.com