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High noon: How does Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone get the job done against Conor McGregor?

No man has won more UFC fights than Donald Cerrone but as he prepares to take on the biggest bout of his 14-year mixed martial arts career, we look at how the veteran American fighter can find success against Conor McGregor.

If there has been a knock on Cerrone throughout the 50 fights he has taken part in during his professional career, it is that he often stumbles on the biggest stage. The sole title shot he received in his career thus far saw him defeated just over a minute into the first round against then-champ Rafael Dos Anjos. He has come up short in a series of top contender bouts too, most recently evidenced by successive losses to 155lb standouts Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje last summer. 

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The problem he faces on Saturday night in Las Vegas is that fights just don't get bigger than against Conor McGregor - but what can he do to correct this?

Start strong

Cerrone admits that he isn't a fast starter in his bouts and instead tends to find his rhythm sometime in the second round. This won't work against the notoriously fast-paced Dubliner, who comes roaring out of the blocks seeking confrontation. For Cerrone to be successful he must stifle McGregor's forward progress and find success of his own early. Making McGregor respect his strikes is key.

Stay at distance

McGregor arguably has an ideal fighter's build. His upper torso is framed like a middleweight and his reach of 74 inches has flummoxed opponents incapable of closing that distance successfully. 'Cowboy', though, is one of the best kickers in mixed martial arts and he would be wise to do his best to keep the fight at kicking distance, rather than at the punching distance where McGregor does his best work.

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Avoid the Irishman's power

McGregor's power is far from being fake news. His entire game is predicated on engineering situations to land the left cross - a punch which was crucial to both of his title-winning performances in the UFC so far. He is adept at making his opponent walk into his shots so Cerrone will have to be constantly wary of McGregor's left, particularly when the American advances with attacks of his own.

Tire McGregor out

McGregor says that he is in impeccable shape coming into this contest but the fact remains that we have seen him tired in the Octagon on more than one occasion. Cerrone seems to be content to engage in a stand-up battle but he would be wise to push the fight to the cage every once in a while to catch his own breath, as well as stifling McGregor and forcing him into defensive grappling exchanges.

Don't get overawed

The eyes of the combat sports world will be fixed on Las Vegas on Saturday night. This is about as big as MMA can get, so Cerrone - a fighter who has admitted to experiencing nerves in the past - must walk to the cage in a good frame of mind and not allow the magnitude of the situation get the best of him. 

All of this is easier said than done, of course, but if Cerrone is to pull off a huge upset in Las Vegas on Saturday, the keys to success could well lie somewhere in the points above. 

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