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‘Cowboy’ quickly returns to the cage

Lightweight mixed-martial arts fighter Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone gestures during the Jan. 2 weigh-in for UFC 182 in Las Vegas, Nev. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun/AP Photo)

Lightweight mixed-martial arts fighter Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone gestures during the Jan. 2 weigh-in for UFC 182 in Las Vegas, Nev. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun/AP Photo)

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone works hard, and he plays hard.

Between fights, the Albuquerque-trained MMA lightweight fighter can be found riding horses on his ranch. Or snowmobiling. Or wakeboarding (whatever that is). Or driving really fast cars really fast.

Between his last fight and his next fight, however, Cerrone barely gave himself enough time to brush his teeth.

Well … OK. A span of 15 days does leave some time for that. It’s rare, however, if not downright foolhardy, for an MMA fighter to fight twice within such a short time.

That could be seen as doubly silly considering the quality of Cerrone’s opposition tonight on a “UFC Fight Night” card at the TD Garden in Boston. Benson Henderson (21-4) already has beaten Cerrone twice, by unanimous decision in October 2009 and by submission (guillotine choke) some six months later.

It’s the recent past, not the ancient past, that gives Cerrone confidence.

Since his second loss to Henderson, Cerrone (26-6) has won 15 of 18 fights. Since his last loss, to Rafael Dos Anjos in August 2013, he’s 6-0. He’s coming off a highly impressive victory by unanimous decision over Myles Jury on Jan. 3, dominating a fighter who entered the octagon with a record of 15-0.

The Cowboy that Henderson roped and hogtied in the past, he says, is not the Cowboy the Glendale, Ariz., fighter will face tonight.

“I wouldn’t take this fight,” Cerrone told ufc.com, “if I wasn’t, for one, a (expletive) loon, and two, if I didn’t think I could beat Ben.

“I’m excited and confident, and I plan on going out there (tonight) and whipping the (expletive) out of him. That’s how I feel overall.”

Cerrone took tonight’s fight after Henderson’s scheduled opponent, Eddie Alvarez, withdrew with an injury. Cerrone’s lack of specific preparation for Henderson, he believes, is balanced by the fact that until Jan. 5 Henderson was preparing for Alvarez.

“Ben is a dangerous guy,” Cerrone told nesn.com. “I shouldn’t take him on short notice, but it kind of works against him, as well. He doesn’t expect me on short notice.”

Henderson, like Cerrone – the two are friends outside the cage – said he was neither surprised nor fazed.

“Taking a fight on however many days it was, it was a business decision,” Henderson told nesn.com. “It was a business gamble.

“We’ll see if it pays off for him. I’ll make sure it doesn’t.”

The Cerrone-Henderson fight has second billing tonight behind a featherweight fight between Conor McGregor (16-2) and Dennis Siver (29-9).

The main card, to be televised on Fox Sports 1, is scheduled to start at 8 p.m.

Flyweight Joby Sanchez (6-1), who like Cerrone trains at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink MMA, is scheduled to face Boston-based Tateki Matsuda (10-6) in a preliminary fight.

The Sanchez-Matsuda fight can be viewed online via UFC Fight Pass, starting at 4 p.m.

MALDONADO LOSES: In Las Vegas, Nev., Albuquerque boxer Fidel Maldonado Jr. was knocked down four times in losing to New Yorker Amir Imam by fifth-round TKO Saturday night at the MGM Grand.

Maldonado, who floored Imam with a straight left hand in the third round, is 19-3 with 16 knockouts. With the victory, Imam (16-0, 14 KOs) became the WBC Continental Americas super lightweight (140-pound) champion.

WILDER WINS: In Saturday’s main event at the MGM Grand, Deontay Wilder became the first American to win a piece of the heavyweight title in nearly a decade, defeating Bermane Stiverne by unanimous decision to capture the WBC championship belt.

JONES FINED: UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who trains at Jackson-Wink, has been fined $25,000 by the mixed-martial arts promotion for violating its code of conduct by failing a drug test.

Jones tested positive for the main metabolite of cocaine one month before his fight against Daniel Cormier on Jan. 3. He was allowed to fight because cocaine is not a banned out-of-competition substance under World Anti-Doping Agency rules.

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