Donald Cerrone, the lunatic that he is, likes to say that he doesn't know where his opponent works best, and frankly, he doesn't care. It's not really a boast as much as a statement. He doesn't study film. He doesn't pour over pages of notes and tendencies. Heck, he doesn't even watch opponents' fights in passing.
As for the rest of it... well...
"It's funny. This will be the one fight that I honestly cannot tell you that I know nothing about my opponent," Cerrone said, chuckling to himself ahead of his UFC Fight Night 59 trilogy bout against Henderson, which he accepted on less than two weeks' notice because he's a crazy human being who flat doesn't give a damn.
"I know a lot about Benson. Good dude. Friend of mine. Those fights, that was... f**k, years ago, man. I don't know, what do I take away from those? I take the losses that I got from them. I wouldn't take this fight on short notice, one, if I wasn't a complete s**t-bat loon, and two, if I didn't think I could beat Ben. So I'm excited, confident, and plan on going out there Sunday night and whipping the s**t out of him."
Cerrone's dalliance with the last second means that he'll start 2015 by fighting on back-to-back UFC events after easily dispatching the previously undefeated Myles Jury on Jan. 3. That win extended Cerrone's current hot streak to six straight and inched him to the precipice of title contention.
But if all of it wasn't risky enough, Cerrone's odds are only exacerbated by the fact that he has twice fallen before in this spot. Henderson eked out a ‘Fight of the Year' decision over Cerrone back when the two lightweights were stars of the WEC's blue cage, then submitted him with a quickness in the 2010 rematch.
"You know, the second fight sucked," reflected Cerrone. "Not making excuses, but I wasn't there, man. Just mentally, it was a weird time in my career. But the first fight, I feel like I gave it hell, you know? Some people say I won, some people say he definitely won. But just taking it to him, in the back of Ben's mind, he knows, ‘f**k, this dude's coming.' I already fought him to the death once. I gotta do it again, because I know he's not stopping and I'm not quitting."
Much has happened since that second match-up. Both men have firmly established themselves has two of the top fighters in the world, and both currently find themselves ranked within the top-five of the UFC's media-generated lightweight rankings.
Henderson, in particular, captured the UFC title following the dissolution of the WEC, then tied B.J. Penn's hallowed mark by defending it three times, making it hard for "Cowboy" not to take notice of his old rival's success.
"Ben's kicking game has come a long way," Cerrone said. "Now I see him using his kicks [and] he likes to wrestle off of other people's kicks, if that makes any kind of sense. He's come a long way, but so have I. My wrestling has come full circle, so that's one thing that I think is going to play a big factor into this fight. You might even see me taking Ben's ass down. So I'm pumped. I'm excited. It's been a long time coming, this fight. Whether people talk about it or not, in my mind, someday we were going to cross paths again.
"I though it was going to be for the belt, but here it is on 10 days' notice. Even better. No time to think, no time to worry. Just go out there and let reaction take over and fight."
No shortage of ink has been spilled and hands wrung over the needless risk Cerrone is taking, wagering his six-fight win streak on a Hail Mary shot against the former champ. But ultimately that's just how "Cowboy" rolls.
And besides... what if his gamble is just crazy enough to work?
"I don't have a formula for the title shot. But I mean, if I beat Ben... who's left?" Cerrone said. "I don't know. I have no clue how this is going to work. No idea. Don't care. I'll get that belt. This is the year."