How does Henry Cejudo match up with Demetrious Johnson? Do you see him as a legitimate threat to take that UFC Flyweight Championship? Why or why not?
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Demetrious Johnson has been topping some P4P lists recently, and there’s great arguments to make that he currently is the best fighter on the planet. More impressive than his 10 fight winning streak since the flyweight division was established in the UFC is the fact that Johnson just keeps getting better. The champ hasn’t looked challenged in any of his recent fights, looking head and shoulders above the next best in the division when he beat Joseph Benavidez by first round knockout.
Henry Cejudo brings about as good of wrestling credentials as you can to MMA. The high school wrestling champ bypassed wrestling on the collegiate level to train with USA wrestling, and won a gold medal at the age of 21. That accomplishment made him the youngest American wrestler to ever achieve such a feat, as well as the first wrestler of Mexican descent to do so.
It’s that latter fact that probably makes the UFC prefer a Cejudo victory as opposed to Johnson retaining the title. The UFC has been very active in trying to establish a fan base among the Latino population. While Johnson is undoubtedly one of the best fighters in the world, his lack of charisma has done little to garner much fan attention in a division where doing so is already an uphill battle.
Unfortunately Cejudo just does not have the complete game yet to take the belt from the champ. Cejudo is a monster of an athlete, which he has demonstrated consistently in the first 10 fights of his career. Shockingly, the former Olympian has only been training MMA for a bit over two years. While he’s demonstrated the power to knock people out early on, a move into the big leagues has forced him to rely on his wrestling, taking him to decisions in his last six fights. It’s crazy that a fighter so new to the sport would be the next challenger for the belt, but a combination of Cejudo’s natural ability and a lack of legitimate alternatives is thrusting him into the spotlight much earlier than many fighters get there.
Cejudo is as legitimate of a threat to take Johnson’s title as anyone, but all that’s really saying is that no one is much of a threat to take Johnson’s title. Cejudo will have to go with his bread and butter to try to grab a hold of the champ in order to take the fight to the ground. It will be fun to see how Mighty Mouse responds to dealing with the highest level of wrestling he will likely ever see in his career. Have his skills grown to the point where he can hold his own against such an elite grappling, or will he try to keep the fight on the feet and use his technical striking? Regardless of what route he goes, expect Johnson to have a great game plan. He’s just got too many tools at his disposal to deal with Cejudo. The champ will retain, and will get one win closer in his attempt to break Anderson Silva’s record for consecutive title defenses.
Of course, this all may be moot if the Nevada Athletic Commission doesn’t “free Nick Diaz.” At which point, bring on Johnson v. Benavidez 3, because third time’s a charm?
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I think Johnson takes him apart. Nothing against any of the guys Cejudo has beaten, but if his performances against all of them are any indication, he’s not going to be able to do much of anything against Johnson. Cejudo is basically another version of Johnson, and he does most of the same things that the champion does. The problem is that he doesn’t do them as well. How can he be expected to compete with Johnson, let alone beat him, if he doesn’t have an advantage in any area? I know his wrestling is strong, but Johnson is no slouch in that area himself. I just don’t see an avenue of victory for Cejudo.
CASH NORMAN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
There isn’t any flyweight currently on the UFC roster that matches well with Demetrious Johnson. There is hype behind Cejudo due to his Olympic wrestling credentials, but while he won gold in the Olympics it will not translate to winning UFC gold. People seem to forget that Cejudo is very new to MMA and still needs time to develop, and to learn to transition effectively from one discipline to the other. Meanwhile, Johnson is a seasoned martial artist that transitions effortlessly from boxing to muay thai, and from muay thai to wrestling, then wrestling to jiu jitsu.
Johnson is on a totally different level than anyone in that division, and I could easily see him dominating Cejudo before submitting or even knocking him out. I’m not on the Henry Cejudo hype train, and do not believe him to be any type is threat to Demetrious Johnson’s title reign.
BRAD WALKER, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
It’s an interesting matchup on paper. Cejudo’s pedigree is definitely a great selling point that perhaps he can slow down Mighty Mouse’s attack with his wrestling ability. However, on the flip side, there have been a lot of challengers for Johnson who should have slowed down his pace, and he just races right through them with power, finesse, and skill that has of yet been unmatched in the division. He’s the most dominant champion the UFC has right now; Cujedo could certainly challenge that mold, but all presentable evidence says it’s just another challenge the champion will overcome with a miraculous showing. I am certainly intrigued by the possibility, but I in no way can pretend to know if Cujedo will legitimately put any stress on the present title reign of Johnson. He’s simply too damn good.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Cejudo may be the most physically gifted challenger to make a run at D.J.’s belt… yes, even more so than John Dodson. What guys like Dodson and Joseph Benavidez have that Cejudo doesn’t is years of training and experience in MMA. Cejudo made his MMA debut less than three years ago. Someone that inexperienced going against one of the best at making in-fight adjustments doesn’t sound like a winning formula to me. I’d feel better about Cejudo’s chances to land a kill punch if he had been able to finish any of his previous four UFC opponents, but every one of those fights went to decision. We haven’t seen much of Cejudo’s wrestling either. It’s not that I’m doubting his ability, but can he force his will on someone like Mighty Mouse in a MMA setting as opposed to a pure wrestling match? I have my doubts.
Where Cejudo is in luck is that he is still young in his MMA career, and would likely be able to work his way back to the title picture in relatively quick order if he were to fall short. By then he would be more experienced, and while I feel D.J. is in his prime right now, I don’t think think he would be by the time the rematch would potentially take place.