Two fighters formerly from the WEC introduced themselves to the UFC world on Saturday night with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone submitting Paul Kelly, and Chad Mendes dominating Michihiro Omigawa during the Spike TV prelims for UFC 126.
Stepping in on shorter notice for his debut, the always ready Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone seemed a bit off in the early going in his fight against Paul Kelly, but never got rattled as the Brit came on the offensive.
Cerrone has been a notoriously slow starter throughout his career, but Saturday night looked more like a timing and defensive issue, but he adjusted well and came back strong, especially in the 2nd round.
After cracking Kelly with a vicious elbow that opened a cut over the Brit’s right eye to close the first, Cerrone stayed on the attack during the second round as well. Getting the fight to the ground, Cerrone immediately transitioned to the mount before Kelly rolled, giving up his back.
Locking on a body triangle, Cerrone peppered Kelly with punches until the Wolfslair fighter gave the perfect opening to slip the forearm under the chin and look for the finish. Cerrone wrenched up on the arm and locked it in place, and Kelly wincing in obvious discomfort had no choice but to tap the canvas.
“That’s Greg Jackson’s jiu-jitsu, the best in the world. My training partners are the best guys in the world,” Cerrone said about the submission.
The win gives Cerrone his first official UFC win, and he admitted following the fight that he was out to prove something to anyone that wasn’t sure how the former WEC lightweights would stack up in the Octagon.
“I’m glad to be here and show the WEC guys deserve (to be here) in the UFC,” Cerrone stated.
Mark Hominick may be getting the next shot at UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo in April, but the new No. 1 contender could have very well been crowned as Chad Mendes dominated Michihiro Omigawa on his way to a route in their fight at UFC 126.
Mendes was hopeful before the announcement that Hominick got the fight with Aldo that if he was successful at UFC 126, that he could possibly get the shot at the belt later this year.
Obviously the UFC opted to give the shot to the Canadian, so Mendes decided to make a point and make an example out of Omigawa on Saturday night.
The Team Alpha Male fighter showed flashes of brilliance in both his already established wrestling game, and his rapidly improving stand-up game, battering Omigawa at every turn. Mendes landed a nasty elbow at one point in the fight that opened a gash on Omigawa’s head that brought more than a few ooh’s and ah’s from the Las Vegas crowd when it was shown on the big screen.
Mendes kept up his relentless pace for all 15 minutes and at the end of the fight all Omigawa could do was throw his arms to the mat in frustration.
Mendes maintains a perfect record in his professional MMA career, and now has to be considered the No. 1 contender in the UFC’s newly minted featherweight division.