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Insight the Octagon: UFC Heads North of the Border

By Lou Finocchiaro  () 

With no teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs, at least Canada has the NBA -- and the UFC.

Ottawa hosts this week’s UFC on ESPN 9 event. There are several Canadian-based fighters on the card and several matchups where I feel underdogs are in winning situations. Let’s dive right in.

MAIN EVENT: LIGHTWEIGHT (155 POUNDS)

Al Iaquinta -140 vs. Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone 120

To handicap this fight, you need to recognize that, after two full years fighting at 170 pounds (welterweight), Cerrone dropped back to 155 pounds (lightweight) in his last fight and looked focused, precise and dominant in beating Alexander Hernandez, who is a high-volume, highpressure striking talent in the division.

Many thought the move down in weight was an admission by Cerrone that he may be coming to the end of an illustrious career or at least a semidesperate move to remain relevant in the UFC. Rather, the results displayed that Cerrone is still a factor in the lightweight division. In this matchup against Iaquinta, the organization is matching him up with a top talent from a top gym.

Iaquinta is doing the most effective fighting of his career, so I do expect Cerrone to come prepared and focused. Iaquinta trains at Serra-Longo in Long Island. The gym has diverse talent coached and mentored by Ray Longo and Matt Serra.

Iaquinta is all about forward movement and pressing the fight. He took Khabib Nurmagomedov on short notice to five full rounds displaying a toughness as well as all-around fighting ability that makes him the next contender for the belt with a win over the Cowboy here. Iaquinta will look to press Cerrone, bully him, back him up and then batter him against the fence with knees, elbows and power shots. Cerrone will need to maintain distance, then apply precise power-based strikes and kicks to inform Iaquinta that to get inside means to eat a little shin sandwich.

With Cerrone’s weight cut the only reservation, I believe he is a live dog in this fight. I must reserve final commitment until I am able to witness the weigh-ins Friday morning and until the totals for these fights have posted.

Pass for now

This week’s card offers some mangy mutt underdogs. Here is one I have spotted.

BANTAMWEIGHT (135 POUNDS)

Merab Dvalishvili -165 vs. Brad Katona 145

Dvalishvili employs a wild, free-flinging approach to fighting. He arrives with a solid Sambo/wrestling base and has been refining his striking at Serra Longo. He is tough, yet a bit inexperienced. In his two defeats, he has been exposed by better than capable wrestlers. He fights a much better wrestler in Katona, who will be the tortoise in this fight if Dvalishvili is the hare. Katona says little and is not the slightest bit flashy. He uses constant forward pressure to wear down opponents, then wrestle them into submission.

Katona will have to weather a wild and crazy first five minutes, then he’ll eventually catch up to and clasp the smaller, quicker Georgian and maul Dvalishvili into and perhaps through the mat.

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