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MMA Fight Weekend: What to watch, odds, picks for Sept. 17-19

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·6 mins read

LAS VEGAS — One of the advantages that the UFC has over boxing is that it has convinced its fan base not to worry about wins and losses so much. Rather, the UFC has done a fabulous job of convincing its fans to support the fighters who are entertaining each time out.

Few are as entertaining, inside or outside the Octagon, as Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. Yeah, he’s lost four in a row and that would have him in a precarious situation under different circumstances.

But each of those fights was entertaining and they came against some of the elite fighters in the world. Cerrone has lost to, in descending order, Anthony Pettis, Conor McGregor, Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson. If you’re going to lose four in a row, that’s not a bad group to lose to. Pettis and McGregor were former UFC champions, Ferguson was formerly an interim champ and Gaethje now holds the interim lightweight belt.

Cerrone will fight Niko Price on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+) at Apex and the first question when he met with the media was about retirement, which quickly perked him up.

“Hell, no,” Cerrone said. “Where did you hear that? [It is] not even in my train of thought.”

Few love fighting as much as Cerrone, who would fight every month if the UFC would allow it. And his mindset hasn’t changed all that much.

He sparred heavy rounds preparing for Price and his goal is the same as it usually is when he enters the cage.

“I’m coming looking for the finish,” he said. “I’m coming to whip some ass, baby. Probably a second-round finish is what I’m looking for.”

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - MAY 09: Donald Cerrone prepares to fight Anthony Pettis in their heavyweight fight during the UFC 249 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on May 09, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Donald Cerrone, who is the all-time winningest fighter in UFC history, returns to the Octagon to face Niko Price on Saturday. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

This has high Fight of the Night potential given that Price is extremely aggressive and looking for the finish, as well. Cerrone is not one to pick opponents and he said yes as soon as the UFC called to offer Price.

But he did grin a bit after hanging up because his favorite fights are those that turn into shootouts. He believes that’s the kind of fight he’s heading into with Price.

Price has fought 11 times in the UFC and never gone to a decision, racking up a 6-4 record with a no-contest that was originally a KO win over Alex Moreno. The verdict was changed to no contest when Price tested positive for marijuana.

Price’s last fight that went to a decision was on Aug. 12, 2016.

“I get more excited because I know Niko’s a guy who doesn’t shy away, takes the grit and comes on forward for it,” Cerrone said. “It’s cool. He’s going to be right there in my face fighting the whole time. It should be fun.”

Cerrone’s not worried about the losing streak. The UFC’s all-time leader in wins, he understands what he means to the company and to the sport. People still want to see him fight. They still get excited when he’s on the card.

Maybe his days of competing on even terms with the top two or three fighters in the world are over, but he still loves to compete and puts on a good show in the process.

“I’m going to leave when I’m done,” he said. “I don’t ever want the walking papers. When Cowboy’s done, I’m going to bend my hat and say, ‘All right boys, I’ve had enough. I’m out.’ I’d never want to have them call my manager and release me. That would totally suck. I’m going to keep fighting my ass off.

“Like I was telling everyone this week, this fight is for me. All the naysayers, all the people who say, ‘You lost four in a row; you don’t belong. You should retire,’ I don’t give a s---. I don’t think I need to prove anything. This is for me. I have to look myself in the mirror Saturday morning and say, ‘Let’s go, baby. This is for you, Cowboy.’ I’m going to have all the fun I want with no expectations, no must-wins, no must-dos, no nothings. Just go and fight my fight and love every second of it and have fun and enjoy it.”

Price is currently a -150 favorite, according to BetMGM, with Cerrone at +125.

Walker trains at SBG Ireland

Light heavyweight Johnny Walker, who fights Ryan Spann on Saturday at Apex, has been traveling around to different gyms. For this fight, he trained at SBG Ireland, which is the home of former double champion Conor McGregor. Walker is a -125 favorite, with Spann coming in at +105, according to BetMGM.

Walker said his girlfriend is from Ireland and he wanted to find a place to live with her where she could work and he could train. He said he likes what he’s seen of SBG.

He’s coming off back-to-back losses to Corey Anderson and Nikita Krylov, dimming the star of a guy who was once heralded as perhaps the fighter to knock Jon Jones off his perch in the light heavyweight division.

But Walker is optimistic and said he learned from the losses. A big part of his learning process was in accepting the defeats and moving on.

“You have to be present for the fight and you can’t think of any other problems,” Walker said. “But it’s not just on the fight day. You have to be very focused and your mind has to be focused the whole camp in training, the fight week and fight day. You can’t relax. You have to focus on everything and you need to have good people around you that you can trust.”

Holland to fight twice?

Middleweight Kevin Holland is one of the more entertaining fighters in the sport. He fights Darren Stewart on Saturday, but was quick to note the presence of Khamzat Chimaev on the card.

The unbeaten Chimaev will fight Gerald Meerschaert on Saturday, but Holland noted that Meerschaert tested positive for COVID-19 before a scheduled Aug. 1 fight in Las Vegas with Ed Herman.

“I’m here to fight anybody, so I don’t really care,” Holland said. “I’m hoping the guy across the call, I don’t know how to say his name, the new 8-0 guy that everybody is in love with, oh s---. GM3 [Meerschaert] came up with some stuff last time. If he comes up with some stuff this time, guess what? I’m fighting twice.”

On BetMGM, Holland is -255 to beat Stewart, who is a +205 underdog.

Invicta on Fight Pass

The fight weekend will kick off Thursday on UFC Fight Pass when an atomweight title fight between Ashley “Smashley” Cummins and Alesha “Half Pint” Zappitella headlines Invicta 42 in Kansas City.

The co-main event will be a bantamweight bout between Lisa Verzosa and Raquel Canuto.

Kevin’s picks

  • Mackenzie Dern -165 to win over Randa Markos.

  • Kevin Holland -225 to win over Darren Stewart.

  • Randy Costa +115 to win over Journey Newsom.

  • Andre Ewell -220 to win over Irwin Rivera.

All odds courtesy of MGM Grand Sports Book in Las Vegas.

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