Henry Cejudo is probably the most underrated fighter in the UFC. I all but counted him out and possibly thought he would get released after his two-minute defeat at the hands of Demetrious Johnson in their first fight. I was very critical of Henry after beating Johnson in a razor, angel hair close decision over the summer. It seemed wrong of Cejudo to call for a super fight with current bantamweight king TJ Dillashaw. I mean you won the belt three minutes ago in a controversial decision, you have exactly zero title defenses, who are you to call for a super fight? I was thinking we were much closer to a Cejudo-Johnson trilogy than a Cejudo-Dillashaw super fight.
Things changed when the often overlooked superstar Johnson was traded away by the UFC to ONE championship leaving Cejudo without a real dance partner. It all makes sense now, the UFC wants to dissolve the flyweight division. It’s not without merit either, I mean how many grown men walk around at 125 pounds? The division has exactly zero household names and is utterly star-less. Even Mighty Mouse Johnson at the height of his other worldly game could not draw a single bit. The division is a complete non starter. All that being said, I have a feeling in my gut that Henry Cejudo pulls this off. Here’s how and why:
125 Pound Elephant in the room
Have you seen pictures of Dillashaw lately? Dude looks depleted. Mind you, TJ fights at 135 and walks around in the mid 150s, realistically if people fought at their natural weight Dillashaw is a featherweight. All that being said, the weight cut is a factor. Just imagine Dillashaw who hasn’t been 125 pounds since what? High School cutting down that far. Weight cuts are dangerous. They leave your body seriously devoid of water and you’re prone to weakness and that big knockout blow. Cejudo has the power and TJ is going to be completely devoid of water in all of his vital organs, including his brain. Major factor.
Cejudo is by no means a knockout artist, in fact of 15 fights thus far in his career, he’s stopped, 5 opponents. That could end up playing in his favor, I mean look at Cejudo’s fight style, he hangs in the pocket, plants his feet look for counters and obviously the takedowns. Think of a seriously depleted TJ in a 5 round war with a gold medal wrestler whos comfortable at this weight? Advantage Cejudo.
Dillashaw likes to live on the edge
Let’s not forget, if Dillashaw does not get saved by the bell in round 1 of his first fight with Cody Garbrandt we very well may not be having this discussion at all. Dillashaw is a very unique fighter, that bang Muay Thai style is heavy on kicks and oddly big on hands down type approach. Dillashaw has been hurt in fights before. Even in Garbrandt part 2, Dillashaw took damage. He had a nice mouse under his eye to show for it after knocking Garbrandt out. The difference is, Cejudo will not be emotional like Garbrandt was. Cejudo is going to hang back and wait for the counter punch, or the takedown. As much as Dillashaw talks about his MMA wrestling game, Cejudo is a gold medalist, the advantage is to Cejudo on the ground. My guess by analyzing all of Dillashaw’s fights is that he is going to leave some openings and be a little reckless. Especially if he doesn’t respect Cejudo’s power. That is a mistake.
Cejudo is fighting for a purpose
Cejudo has been the underdog his whole life. I love this angle. The world is expecting Cejudo to be obedient and hand the belt over to Dillashaw. What better story can you come up with than the underdog holding serve and winning? Cejudo has said all week he is fighting for every flyweight on the roster, their families and their livelihoods. Cejudo is supremely motivated and he has proved the doubters wrong before.
How does it play out?
Listen, Dillashaw is one of the best pounds for pound fighters in MMA today. He is going to have his moments, and my best guess is he is going to get the better of the exchanges early. Dillashaw will do less “feeling out” than Cejudo. Dillashaw will be the aggressor early, but wait for Cejudo will score takedowns and land counters. Cejudo knows TJ will be aggressive early and patience is a virtue for the former Medalist. I expect this to be five rounds. I can’t see Cejudo allowing the big shot to land that allows Dillashaw to get the stoppage. Conversely, I don’t see TJ getting lazy enough or reckless enough to allow Cejudo to land a big shot.
The likely event is Cejudo and Dillashaw grind to a 5 round decision. The fight will be back and forth between takedowns, scrambles and ground and pound. All of that favors Cejudo. My pick: Cejudo in a close decision over Dillashaw and that is going to open up more interesting questions about the future of the flyweights and the future of both Dillashaw and Cejudo. Bravo to the UFC however, this is going to be an excellent event on their maiden voyage on ESPN. Let’s just hope Dillashaw makes weight.