Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sherdog’s Miscellaneous Awards for 2008

(Photo and Post courtesy of

Round of the Year

It was the kind of fist-filled fight about which grandparents tell their grandkids, and one round stood out above all the rest.

Former World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight champion “Razor” Rob McCullough and Donald Cerrone were at their hell-bent best during the first five minutes of their memorable match at WEC 36 “Faber vs. Brown” on Nov. 5 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla.

Theirs was an epic encounter, ignited by a blazing opening round -- Sherdog’s Round of the Year -- that featured blood, guts, five knockdowns and dramatic momentum swings fit for the highlight reel. That McCullough and Cerrone endured to fight a second and third round was nothing short of miraculous.

Less than 30 seconds into their showdown, McCullough fired the first significant salvo. He dropped Cerrone where he stood with a ringing right hand, only to watch him bounce back immediately to his feet like a human jack in the box. Carrying his left hand chest-high, Cerrone invited McCullough’s right hand with frightening regularity, and the former 155-pound titleholder was all too happy to oblige.

Precisely one minute later, McCullough split the South Florida air with an overhand right that connected and sent Cerrone crashing back to the canvas. Again, the resilient Greg Jackson protégé sprang instantly to his feet and waded into heavy fire with kamikaze courage. Glass Joe he was not.

“I had a lot to prove to myself, a lot to prove to the fans,” Cerrone said. “That was the old Rob, the Rob I wanted, the Rob that would bring the fight in my face the whole time. He was an awesome opponent. I need a fighter to push me like that.”

Then the tide turned in Cerrone’s favor. After he ate two more McCullough right hands -- one of which buzzed his chin -- Cerrone fired a straight right through his defenses and delivered the first of his three knockdowns with 2:40 left in the round. He pounced on his prey, moved immediately to mount and unleashed a torrent of ill-intentioned blows as McCullough struggled unsuccessfully to free himself. Blood flowed after the elbows and punches, as Cerrone assaulted McCullough for 61 seconds in full mount. Twenty two unanswered strikes found their targets.

“When I first got mount, I thought I was going to stop it,” Cerrone said. “He’s a tough dude. He did not want to lose. I definitely hit him with everything I had.”

Still, McCullough did not wilt. Eventually, he surrendered his back and reversed Cerrone during a scramble, landing in top position. Fans applauded his work.

After a brief 25-second pause in the action -- the referee had to retrieve McCullough’s mouthpiece -- the lightweights returned to their feet and Cerrone pumped a short, powerful left jab that planted his foe on his backside with 32 seconds to go in the period.

Time ticked away, and McCullough rose to his feet, only to eat a pair of knees and a straight right hand against the cage. He backpedaled in an attempt to elude Cerrone’s relentless attack, but the unbeaten lightweight nailed McCullough with another vicious right hand and put his back on the canvas one last time. McCullough spent the final 24 seconds of the round defending against the Cerrone onslaught in full guard.

Seated cageside in his analyst’s perch for the Versus network, UFC interim heavyweight champion Frank Mir summed up the feelings of roughly 5,200 fans in attendance once it became clear McCullough would survive to see round two.

“He’s gonna make it,” Mir said. “Thank God. I want to see another round.”

Rounds two and three provided their own drama, as Cerrone (9-0, 1 NC) notched a unanimous decision victory, remained unbeaten through 10 professional bouts and clinched a shot at lightweight champion Jamie Varner at WEC 38 on Jan. 25 in San Diego.

“He needed a war,” Jackson, said. “So many questions got answered. I learned so much from it. He took ‘Razor’ Rob’s hardest shots. He’s absolutely ready for Jamie Varner. He’s ready to go. Hopefully, we’ll fix all the problems that need fixing and get him stronger and stronger.”

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