Did Henry Cejudo save the flyweight division?
Henry Cejudo fought for all the little men in the UFC last Saturday night. With rumors that the 125-pound division is going to be abolished by the UFC, Cejudo produced a stunning 32-second demolition of reigning bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw in the main event of UFC Fight Night 143.
Dillashaw had been eyeing a second world title and even during TJ’s first reign as bantamweight king, he had been calling out former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson to move up in weight for a super fight between champions. Johnson never accepted Dillashaw’s offer opting instead to clean up his weight class. “Mighty Mouse” was able to achieve that as he repulsed one challenger after another. But in doing so, Johnson made the flyweight division very predictable and somewhat boring. That’s when Henry Cejudo came along.
Dethroning “Mighty Mouse”
After getting knocked out by Johnson in their first encounter, Cejudo worked his way back to the top of the rankings and earned another crack at the flyweight gold. This time around, he made sure he learned from his mistakes. “The Messenger” was able to walk away with a split decision victory in the rematch and in doing so, he dethroned “Mighty Mouse” and became the new UFC 125-pound champion. Right after winning the title, Cejudo called out Dillashaw and that’s why we’re here right now.
Dillashaw obliged but instead of the usual super fight where the smaller fighter moved up in weight for the challenge, it was Dillashaw who opted to move down in weight class as he wanted to win a second world title in as many divisions. But Dillashaw’s plan to join Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier, and Amanda Nunes as the only concurrent two-division champions in UFC history didn’t work out as he was upset by Cejudo.
Many expected Dillashaw to run over Cejudo given his natural size advantage and striking but that did not happen as the fight went the opposite way. It was Cejudo who caught Dillashaw early in the first round and dropped him three times during the fight. The last big blow seemed to really hurt Dillashaw and that was the reason why the fight was eventually stopped. Of course, Dillashaw protested because he felt the fight was stopped too early and that while he was hurt from some of Cejudo’s punches, he was still in with a chance.
Despite the loss, Dillashaw is still the favorite to close out the current year as UFC bantamweight champion. According to the bookmaker Betway as of 1/21/19, Dillashaw is the +100 favorite to remain as 135-pound king at the end of the year. Interestingly though, Cejudo is third on the oddsmaker’s list along with former champion Dominick Cruz at +600 behind Marlon Moraes who is at +400. These are just future odds really, but the fact that Cejudo is on the list means there is a real possibility that the flyweight king is moving up in weight.
Keeping the Flyweight Division
But Cejudo may prefer staying in his own backyard rather test the waters at 135-pounds. Remember that during Thursday’s press conference, Cejudo tried to cut a deal with UFC President Dana White. The flyweight king proposed that if he beat Dillashaw on Saturday, the UFC would keep the flyweight division. However, White was non-committal, telling Cejudo “we’ll see what happens”.
Well, what happened was Henry Cejudo knocked out TJ Dillashaw in 32 seconds. Of course, TJ protested the stoppage, calling it premature. So did Dana, who echoed TJ’s opinion – but then what did you expect? White sent Dillashaw on an unofficial mission to eradicate the flyweight division. That did not happen.
After putting the belt around Cejudo’s waist, White almost immediately left the octagon. Cejudo was calling for “Uncle Dana” and it appeared like he was going to ask White to keep the 125-pound division. Instead, White was nowhere to be found, leaving the fate of the flyweights still in the balance.
Henry Cejudo talked about resurrecting the flyweight division and his victory over Dillashaw last Saturday night surely put him on the right track. Before Cejudo, the 125-pound division was dominated by Demetrious Johnson for such a long time that it had become too boring. With DJ getting traded to ONE Championship, Cejudo has just breathed fresh air in that weight class.
TJ Dillashaw wants a rematch at the same weight while Cejudo called out Dillashaw for a rematch at 135 pounds. I’m not sure what direction White wants to go after Saturday’s results but if I were him, I’d keep the flyweight division and ride Henry Cejudo’s star.