Pep Talk: WEC Saves A Horse, Rides A "Cowboy"

(Donald Cerrone “having a good time” at Ed Ratcliff’s expense. Check out the full WEC 45 gallery here.)

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone may not have championship gold around his waist but 2009 saw him win a mythical title that may end up making him more money than the real deal. Cerrone has become the mixed marital arts fighter most likely to deliver an exciting fight, win or lose. You can fault him for the lack of takedown defense he showed against current and interim World Extreme Cagefighting Lightweight Champs Jamie Varner and Benson Henderson. But even in those losses he emerged as a guy, regardless of the opponent or that particular fighter’s strengths or style, who will make the fight exciting as long as you put him in the cage with a top-notch opponent. With its growing roster of lightweights, the WEC is only too happy too oblige.

Cerrone’s performance tonight in the main event of WEC 45 against Ed “9MM” Ratcliff added some extra wattage to his brightly lit star while doing nothing to hurt Ratcliff in the eyes of the people who really matter…the fans and the WEC brass. Ratcliff came out aggressive and strong, getting the better of the Cowboy for the first half of round one. Cerrone is a notoriously slow starter, so much so that he sought out the aid of a sports psychologist after his recent loss to Benson Henderson for the interim title. As he started to come alive, he got the better of the exchanges with a game Ratcliff. Then came the testicular pain as Cowboy caught Ratcliff not once, but twice, causing referee Herb Dean to take a point away. Cerrone came out aggressive in round two and the unthinkable third knee to the groin came and yet another point went away.

Knowing that he’d lost a point in each round, Cerrone came out extremely aggressive in round three. He dominated the tiring Ratcliff, reeling off submission attempts in the last two minutes of the fight until he finally locked in a rear naked choke that caused Ratcliff to tap at 3:47 of the round. Did he come out with a sense of urgency in round three because he was on the brink of losing his third fight in his last four? Surprisingly, no. Mr. Excitement didn’t care about winning or losing, just having fun. “I knew in my head I was losing the fight and I’d had two points deducted. But I said to myself, ‘I don’t care. I’m having a good time.’ That’s all I cared about…I just love fighting, man.” And we love watching him.

For his part, Ratcliff raised his stock, and his bank account, in the loss. He and Cerrone scored a cool ten grand for Fight of the Night but the non-financial benefits of his performance far outweigh the cheddar. WEC General Manager Reed Harris praised Ratcliff for his gutsy performance against one of the best 155-pounders in his company. Cowboy himself led the cheering section at the post-fight press conference saying that there was no quit in Ed and that he could he see in his eyes that he would not let what turned into a very tender groin stop him. He easily could have stayed down in the second round and taken a DQ win and few could have faulted him for it. And fighting through all that pain, with the spotlight brighter than its ever been in his entire fight career, he manned up and gave a guy who’s gone 9 ½ rounds with the best two lightweights in the WEC all he could handle. Ed’s fight cred hit an all time high and he showed that he belongs in the top five of the division.

Closing Shots

Chris Horodecki was “Assassin-ated” by hard hitting Anthony Njokuani who scored his third straight “Knockout of the Night” bonus. The win wasn’t a huge surprise, but the way it happened was. Chris was a standout in the now defunct International Fight League and came into this fight with a 13-1 MMA record. You’d think that would be enough experience to know better than to turn your back on your opponent and casually walk away in the middle of the round, especially when that opponent is a Muay Thai specialist nicknamed “The Assassin” and has, in his words, “giraffe legs”. Not surprisingly, Anthony almost kicked the Polish Hammer’s head off his shoulders and finished with aggressive ground and pound to earn the win. I’d love to see Njokuani and Radcliff next and wonder if Horodecki wouldn’t be better suited for 145. He looked to be significantly outsized at 155 and definitely could lose the weight.

Joseph Benavidez rebounded from the first loss of his career with a first round TKO over submission wizard Rani Yahya. Rani seemed too content to play around on the feet with Joseph for too long and paid the price for it. The very patient Benavidez picked his spot, caught Yahya flush and pounced on him to finish the fight. “I saw his eyes roll back and I knew it was over.” So did the referee. Don’t be surprised to see Benavidez and Miguel Torres at WEC 47 at the Arnold Classic weekend in Columbus, Ohio in March.

Scott Jorgensen made his case to be considered in the upper echelon of the 135 pound division by utterly dominating Takeya Mizugaki on the feet and on the ground for two rounds on his way to a unanimous 29-28 decision on all cards. The decorated wrestler showed vast improvement in his hands and should become a mainstay on the televised card for the foreseeable future.

Larry Pepe is the host of Pro MMA Radio.

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