LAS VEGAS – Donald Cerrone proved the power of positive thinking on Saturday in his fight with Ed Ratcliff in the main event of WEC 45 at the Pearl at the Palms.
Cerrone was on the verge of a disqualification, which would have been his third loss in four fights in 2009 and would have put his hopes to fight for both the World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight and lightweight titles in 2010 well on the back burner.
But he didn't think of the dire consequence at all and roared back down the stretch to submit Ratcliff with a rear naked choke at 3:47 of the final round.
Cerrone had enlisted the aid of sports psychologist Brian Kane after his October loss to Ben Henderson, hoping to cure a problem of slow starts. Kane, who made a dramatic improvement in Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre's outlook, clearly had an impact upon Cerrone, as well.
Cerrone wasn't worried about a loss. He wasn't worried about being disqualified. He wasn't worried about blowing a fight with WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo or one against the winner of the upcoming lightweight title fight between Henderson and Jamie Varner.
He was simply concerned with fighting to the best of his ability.
"This fight was all about me and maturing my mind mentally," Cerrone said. "I was out there 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."
It was a back-and-forth, high-energy fight that Cerrone slowly began to take control of as the bout wore on. He was stronger and had a more varied attack.
Ratcliff was also slowed by the knees to the midsection, but he said quitting was never an option.
"There was never a point in time where I was going to quit," Ratcliff said. "I needed a little time, for sure. It didn't feel good, but it never crossed my mind that I was about to go home."
After the third low blow – and second point deduction – Cerrone engaged in an animated conversation with Ratcliff's mother, as well as his friends and family, while Ratcliff was recovering.
Cerrone apologized for the unintentional fouls, but was getting more animated by the second.
When the fight resumed, he charged ferociously at Ratcliff, trying to end the fight on the spot.
"That's something that's expected," Ratcliff said. "You're at war, man. We were at war in there. When you see somebody is injured, you're going to go for the finish. Why not? He would have been dumb not to. I was going to keep fighting. I don't lay down for nobody."
Cerrone went hard for the finish in the third. At one point, he slipped on a triangle choke, though he said that move was more just to maintain position. He transitioned to a knee bar and then finished the fight by catching Ratcliff in a rear naked choke.
It kept alive all of his dreams for 2010, but that never dawned on him until it was mentioned to him afterward.
"When I was in there, this fight was just about me going out and doing what I had been working on, getting started and having fun," Cerrone said. "I was having a good time. Ed said he was going to stand and bang and he did that and was fun. That one point, we stopped and the disqualification, I thought there was a possibility of it, but I was saying, 'Come on, Ed, let's go.' It was just so much fun."
He also had plenty of fun at the post-fight news conference, where he yet again was given Fight of the Night honors. When he was asked if he'd like to fight Anthony Njokuani, who won Knockout of the Night with an amazing head kick to Chris Horodecki's face, Cerrone beamed.
He then turned toward Njokuani, who was sitting to his left, and high fived him and then knuckle bashed him.
"I just love fighting, man," Cerrone said.
He showed it yet again with his emotional, high-energy effort. It would have been a great night of fights even if Cerrone-Ratcliff had been a dud – "This was one of the most amazing cards I've seen," WEC general manager Reed Harris said – but it turned out to be a terrific scrap.
Clearly, Cerrone loves to fight. And just as clearly, the fans love to watch him. There aren't many better in the sport when it comes to consistently delivering high-quality bouts.
"I thought my fight (with Takeya Mizugaki) might be Fight of the Night, but it's pretty hard when Cerrone's on the card," said Scott Jorgensen, who stopped Mizugaki in the third round.
There may be a number of lightweights in the world who can defeat him.
There are very few, though, who are more entertaining.
And at the end of the day, what's more important?