Yesterday Duke Roufus, guru and striking coach to Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, posted briefly on social media that Pettis is set to rematch Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone: has Roufus as saying, “It has been a long time in the making. The UFC offered Pettis a rematch with Cerrone. Donald and Anthony have professionally reached out personally to one another and have agreed to fight each other. We are just waiting on a date to dance.” Both men have been through wars and harsh, soul-crushing losses since Pettis downed Cowboy with that splintering body-kick. After all these years, and all these incarnations of Cowboy, who, really, will be dancing?

In their UFC on FOX fight, Pettis dropped Cerrone with what Joe Rogan might call a “disdainful” liver-shot. Whipping out from his side like the unfurling of some giant lizard’s tail, “Showtime”’s shin cracked audibly into Cerrone, who had already taken some stiff shots to the liver (from his opponent, not back at BMF Ranch). He crumpled, turtled-up immediately, and the fight was stopped. It was horribly anticlimactic for someone as vibrant and jocular as “Cowboy.” He has always been the strange, endearing hybrid of fratboy-meets-adrenaline-junkie-meets-simmering-martial-artist. But since Pettis’ vicious strike he has been more Gatekeeper than Game-bred. (We know that title belongs to a… different BMFer.) Defeating Barboza, Eddie Alvarez, and Benson Henderson are notches for any fighter’s belt; but losses to Masvidal himself, Robbie Lawler, Darren “The Gorilla” Till, and (twice) to RDA are not encouraging. Twin TKOs by Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje round out his record. It seems he has a meagre chance of breaking back into championship-level consideration. Despite his draw, and his likeability, he has never stood-up well against the very best, losing to a list of contenders both old and young. But defeating Pettis would get him into more rarefied air. Cerrone is ranked #5 at Lightweight, and this is a good spot for him. A righteous spot. One where he gets the Top-10 ranking he deserves (especially at 155 lbs), and also where he has the chance to reemerge victorious from a bigtime fight…a “Showtime” fight.

Pettis is a perfect social-matchup for Cowboy, meaning that they are both draws, both special, flashy talents, and both veterans. It is a great MMA matchup, too, with several questions emerging: How will “Cowboy” choose his stance, given the way the last fight ended? Will Pettis’ ju-jitsu give Cerrone any trouble? Will Cowboy begin using more Tae-Kwon-Do-style spinning kicks, to keep his liver out of harm’s way with more unpredictable movement and level-changes? Will he land a huge right head-kick, left open by Pettis’ southpaw stance, as he nearly did in the last fight? Some highly-specific eventualities present themselves. Betting in Vegas could get very specific. (“Will Pettis wilt from a flying-knee-from-standstill?” “Will Cerrone shout when his liver is crushed?”)

Pettis has fought better than his record since the men met back in 2013. Seven of his nine losses came following Cowboy; but before we roll out the “correlation does not equal causation” argument, nobody is saying “Cowboy” somehow cursed “Showtime.” Rather, after having passed the Gatekeeper, Pettis has been a very good fighter who loses to very good fighters. For this reason, and with revenge on Cerrone’s mind, this fight is not only a must-watch for the fans—it is a must-make for the UFC.

By: Craig Malesra