Donald Cerrone  has been criticized for not delivering in big fights before, and has been labelled a slow starter. Well, following his quick loss to Conor McGregor at UFC 246  on Saturday, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reportedly blasted the popular fighter for what transpired.
Smith lays into Cerrone
McGregor charged out of the gates in the card’s headliner, and as they clinched up, he dazed Cerrone with a series of shoulder strikes. The former featherweight and lightweight champ followed up with a head kick that put Cerrone into deeper waters, and then McGregor finished the bout with follow-up punches. The fight lasted just 40 seconds.
Well, during the post-fight show on ESPN, Smith reportedly had this to say about Cerrone (quotes via MMA Fighting ):
“Step back, gather yourself,” Smith said. “The man’s got over 50 fights in his career, for crying out loud. You know how to fight. We’ve seen you. We’ve seen 17 submission, we’ve seen 10 knockouts. Excuse me, step back and go like this, ‘OK, he caught me with the shoulder. I’m a little bit rattled right now. Let me catch my bearings. Let me catch my breath.’ I’m not even a fighter and I know this. C’mon, y’all! You guys fought, I didn’t!
“This guy knows better, and somehow, someway, you’re in there with Conor McGregor, and I’m going to tell you all something right now,” he said. “He never had a pay-per-view before. He hasn’t been a champion. It could be that the lights were a little bit too bright. I’ve covered sports for a quarter century – not this sport, but sports – and there have been plenty of examples where I’ve seen guys that when the bright lights are brighter, palms get sweaty, backsides get tight, and … they don’t show up that particular night, and that’s what happened to ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. He didn’t show up – period. and I don’t understand it.”
“When you look at ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, that did not look like a fighter that was prepared to fight tonight,” he said. “We knew Conor was going to be ready. We wondered whether or not he would take him out early, because obviously, the later the fight goes on, ‘Cowboy’ is the bigger, stronger guy – supposedly. But for him to be get hurt in 15 seconds, get away from the clinch, and still just let Conor come right back at him. C’mon, you smarter than that – except tonight.”
So are these criticisms fair? Or overboard? It’s certainly true that Cerrone has taken heat in the past for performing poorly in big fights. Even before UFC 246, Cerrone acknowledged that had been the case, but that things would be different against Conor.
But, is what transpired on Saturday the result of Cerrone’s habit of being a slow starter? Or being overwhelmed in big fights? It could be in part. But, how often do you see someone get hurt and bloodied from shoulder strikes?
Further, while Cerrone may never win a UFC belt, his impact on MMA cannot be dismissed. Not only has he fought a who’s who on the UFC roster, he’s one of the most active fighters of this generation who has set various records. So, at the end of the day, Cerrone will hang up the gloves with legendary status.