By: Ty O'Keefe
Last Saturday's 25th anniversary event at UFC Fight Night Denver was the perfect setting for Donald Cerrone to rise from the dreaded ashes of Octagon doubt and make his mark on the promotion's prestigious record books with his opening-round, submission-win over Mike Perry.
While he now makes his home in New Mexico, Cerrone originally hails from "The Mile High City", giving him the UFC's version of home-field advantage. His recent struggles had caused many to question his future ahead of Saturday's co-main event, and Cerrone's surprising split from Jackson-Wink MMA, along with the gym's decision to train Perry instead of the UFC veteran, provided the perfect subplot.
However, for Perry, Saturday's meeting with the man he essentially replaced at one of the sport's most respected gyms was supposed to be his career-altering opportunity. Despite dropping two of his last three fights prior to UFC Denver, Perry was just four months removed from the biggest win of his career--a split-decision victory over Paul Felder at July's UFC 226. And since, Perry's overall popularity and often odd activity on social media has kept his name in the MMA headlines.
But things didn't work out for "Platinum", and his opening-round loss to Cerrone--a loss that's left him with a broken arm, has also left him with just one win in his last four fights. While Perry's UFC 226 win over Felder was impressive, it came at 170 pounds against a career lightweight, and it's no secret that "The Irish Dragon" also broke his arm early on in that fight. Unfortunately for Perry, that victory over Felder has now become far less meaningful due to the simple fact that a lot of folks will attribute the win to Felder's broken arm after watching "Plantinum" fall to Cerrone in the opening round of last weekend's co-main event.
Considering his UFC resume, and based purely on his performances in the Octagon, Perry was fortunate to have a position in last weekend's co-main event. Other than defeating Felder, his biggest win is a 2017 knockout victory over Jake Ellenberger that netted him the first of two consecutive "Perfomance Of The Night" bonuses. But including his loss to Cerrone, Perry now owns a very mediocre Octagon mark of 5-4, and moving forward it's going to be difficult for the UFC to justify placing him in a similar position.
With losses in three of his last four bouts, and no signature wins over top-15 talent beyond Felder, Perry is likely to find himself fighting an un-ranked opponent in his next Octagon outing--and there's nothing wrong with that. At the age of 27, the native of Flint, Michigan has youth on his side, and if he continues to progress under the watchful eye of Mike Winkljohn and the staff at Jackson-Wink MMA, Perry will have a very bright future.
During the next few months, Perry's overall popularity among hardcore fight fans will ensure that he remains relevant while his broken arm heals. As UFC commentator Joe Rogan has said since last Saturday's card, Perry has something special both in and out of the Octagon. In fact, after his record-setting win, even Cerrone appeared to acknowledge that intangible quality within his young adversary during a brief encounter in the bowels of Denver's Pepsi Center, telling Perry, "You lit the fire in me".
Perry had every right to believe that he'd march into Denver and steal the spotlight during last week's pre-fight festivities before earning a decisive win over an Octagon legend that would then give him the type of opportunity that Darren Till received after he defeated Cerrone. Obviously that didn't happen. But Perry can learn from this experience, and while a win over Cerrone would've at least done temporary wonders to his career, he now has an opportunity to gain something far more valuable.