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‘Cowboy’ Headlines Card

Cerrone Wants Shot at Champ

World Extreme Cagefighting closes 2009 with an event featuring a familiar face: Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.

It’s been quite a year for the Cowboy, who trains at Jackson-Winkeljohn Mixed Martial Arts in Albuquerque. While his epic brawl in 2008 against Rob McCullough didn’t make the live televised portion at WEC 36, it quickly became the launching point for a budding career.

Cerrone has parlayed that bout into three headlining bouts — and four overall in 2009.

The last of those comes Saturday night at the Pearl in Las Vegas, Nev.,  where Cerrone (10-2) meets Ed Ratcliff (7-1) in WEC 45’s main event.

“I think just being my fourth big show, I’ve been there already,” Cerrone said. “I love it. It’s surreal seeing my face outside here in Vegas.”

While not everything has gone the Cowboy’s way — there’s no question he would love another shot at WEC lightweight champ Jamie Varner — his style is part of what keeps him headlining fights.

“He’s had a couple of fights that are fight-of-the-year candidates, he always brings it,” said WEC general manager Reed Harris.

Ratcliff presents a new set of challenges than some of Cerrone’s previous wrestling-based opponents. Ratcliff practices Shorin-ryu karate, which originated in Okinawa, Japan.

Mention karate and MMA today, and the first name that comes to mind is UFC light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida.

Whether Machida’s reign in the UFC has opened the doors for a karate takeover in mixed-martial arts remains to be seen. Ratcliff is grateful for the renewed recognition his discipline receives.

“I think it’s overdue,” he said. “This is the forefront of what MMA is doing today.”

Greg Jackson, who cornered Rashad Evans in his loss to Machida and now has been preparing Cerrone for Ratcliff, disagrees. He believes, despite the success of Machida, that karate is successful only when incorporated into a well rounded mixed-martial arts game.

“Karate is useless in MMA,” he said. “Most people who say they do karate moves, actually do kickboxing.

“…If you fought traditional karate you would get killed, as the early UFC showed.”

The difference between karate and kickboxing?

“Leg kicks and where they keep their chin. Karate people keep their chin up, kickboxers keep their chin down,” Jackson said.

 After struggling with takedown defense in losses to Varner and Ben Henderson, Cerrone said he is looking forward to keeping this one standing up.

One of Ratcliff’s highlight-reel moves, which can be found on YouTube, is a spinning hook kick that knocked out an opponent in his second professional fight.

“Kickboxing is just another form of karate, it just has flashier kicks,” Cerrone said. “I’ve done a lot of kickboxing — I had guys (in camp) working on spinning heel kicks.”

While Ratcliff has won three of his four fights in the WEC, this will be his first time facing the bright lights of the main event. A victory over one of the company’s most exciting fighters with everyone watching provides impetus.

“Is it extra motivation? Of course. Of course I want to put a show on for the fans and the critics. But I got a guy in front of me who wants to take my head off. That’s motivation enough,” he said.

Cerrone, meanwhile, remains just a step or two from the top of the lightweight (155-pound) division.

“My mind-set is the same as always. It gets me back in line for another shot, so hopefully I can get through Ed and get another shot at Varner or Henderson.”