Donald Cerrone believes that he is cursed to be a slow starter. But that didn’t matter on Saturday night as the Cowboy rode on his leg kicks and knees to defeat Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez in the co-main event of UFC 178 at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Had to dig deep

Cerrone said that he had to dig deep early in the fight as Alvarez was gaining momentum in the first round. Showing no fear, Alvarez tied up Cerrone at the center of the octagon in the first minute of the fight and peppered him with right hands to the head. But although he scored a lot of points in that exchange, he wasn’t able to do significant damage on the slow starting Cerrone.

After they broke apart, Cerrone was able to weather the storm by scoring on a lot of leg kicks that began to redden Alvarez’s left leg. He also showed tremendous takedown defense as he stuffed all of his opponent’s attempts to take him down. Aside from leg kicks, Cerrone also did damage by hitting Alvarez with powerful knees to the ribs. While Alvarez may have won the round, Cerrone’s striking investments would later accumulate in the fight.

A diesel engine

Like a diesel engine, Cerrone got better as the fight went on. His leg kicks and knees were starting to take their toll on Alvarez. After Cerrone took round two and started to dominate round three, Alvarez landed a hail mary of a punch that knocked an off balanced Cerrone to the mat.  But Cowboy recovered quickly and continued to chop down Alvarez. With less than a minute left in the fight, another leg kick forced Alvarez to finally fall to the mat with a badly bruised left leg. Cerrone finished the fight on top position by landing several blows.

A bigger bonus?

All three judges scored the bout 29-28 in favor of the UFC’s 5th ranked lightweight. It was Cerrone’s fifth consecutive victory since losing to Rafael Dos Anjos by unanimous decision in August 2013. And although the victory was very impressive, it was the first time in five fights that Cerrone didn’t get a stoppage. It also broke his streak of four consecutive fight bonuses.

But the bigger bonus for Cerrone could be a title shot. Cerrone improves to 12-3 in the UFC and he becomes a top candidate to face the winner of the December 6 bout between lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and challenger Gilbert Melendez.

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