The UFC machine has rolled into Pittsburgh, with a card that will no longer see Donald Cerrone take on Tim Means, but Alex Oliveira instead. The consensus seems to be that Cerrone should have an easier time with Oliveira, but don’t be surprised if his fellow “Cowboy” provides a stiff test.

Donald Cerrone

Originally, Cerrone was booked to take on Means, who’s been bombing his way up the welterweight ranks lately. Means has been flagged for a potential anti-doping violation, however, and was pulled from the card. Oliveira agreed to step up and face Cerrone in the headliner.

“Cowboy”, the American one, not the Brazilian one, is certainly used to fighting opponents on short notice, and of all different types. So the change should’t faze Cerrone at all.  The Jackson-Wink MMA fighter was eager to fight again, after he was quickly taken out by lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos in December. Prior to that, Cerrone had won eight straight bouts, and had muffled the narrative he underperforms in big fights. More on that in a moment.

Alex Oliveira

Oliveira hasn’t been buzzing the MMA world in the same way that Means has been, but he has put together a nice run of his own. Since he was submitted by Gilbert Burns in 2015 (no shame in that), Oliveira has rebounded with three straight wins.  Most recently Oliveira KO’d Piotr Hallmann.

Who You Got?

If you look at the betting lines, Cerrone is a pretty big favorite to win tonight’s bout, and that’s not surprising. After all, this is a man who has defeated the likes of Myles Jury, Eddie Alvarez, Benson Henderson (yes, barely ), and Edson Barboza since 2014. Oliveira has looked impressive since arriving in the UFC, but he hasn’t defeated any top contenders yet.

But, one could make the case that this bout has turned into a pretty pivotal one for Cerrone, as a result of Means withdrawal. If Cerrone had faced Means, and lost, it would have be easy to shrug it off. Means is the bigger man, and has been running through opponents lately who aren’t named Matt Brown. Cerrone could return to 155 with his standing pretty much intact.

If Oliveira wins tonight, however, that won’t be the case. This “Cowboy” has been competing at 155, so a loss for Cerrone would be a significant setback. Especially when you consider that he’s coming off a disappointing performance against RDA. Now, will any of this get to Cerrone? Maybe not. But it’s going to be interesting to see how things play out.

Bottom line? Cerrone should win. But anytime you face someone who’s as dangerous as Oliveira, who has little to lose, things can get dicey.