UFC’s return to Chicago, Illinois, will feature some of the most exciting bouts of the year, including Tony Ferguson’s return against Donald Cerrone, Valentina Shevchenko’s first title defense, and Henry Cejudo’s journey to his second world title against arguably the most dangerous opponent that he has faced so far.
UFC 238’s main event has much significance in many different ways. Cejudo’s last performance against then-bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw was nothing but spectacular, finishing who many considered to be the greatest bantamweight of all time in just 32 seconds. With Dillashaw’s drug test failure news breaking after their fight, it solidified Cejudo’s win even more and has set up this upcoming opportunity for the former Olympic gold medalist to win his second title in the UFC.
While the main event has the bantamweight strap on the line, it is not necessarily entirely about the 135-pound division. If anything, there is more at stake for the flyweight division in this fight, and as unfair as it may sound, it’s entirely on Cejudo’s shoulders.
For the longest time, or, as long as it existed, the flyweight division was never under the microscope of the majority of the fans, being called ‘too boring’ at times. The trade of trade of Demetrious Johnson immediately after his title loss to Cejudo to ONE Championship made it seem like the organization did not value Johnson too highly, despite holding the record for most consecutive title defenses in the history.
However, that wave of continuous low regard for the flyweights seemed to have changed with the beginning of Cejudo’s reign in the division. As the headliner of the first ever ESPN card of the UFC, Cejudo did not disappoint when he finished Dillashaw in a blink, allowing people to open their eyes to the excitement that flyweights could bring, especially considering how exciting Dillashaw was to watch.
But by no means has things turned around completely for the division. There are still questions regarding whether or not flyweight division will stick around in the UFC, but in a recent interview with Brett Okamoto from ESPN, Dana White said: “Cejudo might be that guy that people actually care about.”
It is extremely important for the flyweight division that Cejudo beats Marlon Moraes this weekend for a couple of reasons. Some people might think that it doesn’t truly matter if Cejudo wins the bantamweight title, because he will still have his flyweight belt regardless of the result, but here’s why that is not the case.
Cejudo has not only been the ambassador for the flyweights for the past couple of fights, but he has been the ambassador of exciting performances and overcoming extreme challenges. Cejudo was a sizable underdog heading into his rematch with Johnson, and justifiably so. He was stopped in a stopped in a disappointing fashion for his standards in their first meeting back at UFC 197, and nobody truly tested Johnson since his first fight with John Dodson. And it would be fair to say that not many people thought Cejudo would be able to defeat Dillashaw, let alone in the style that he did it in. But Cejudo was able to shock the world and prove his pre-fight words to be true.
Now Cejudo faces one of the most devastating finishers in the UFC currently in Moraes, who have finished three of his last four fights against top-notch opponents, the likes of Aljamain Sterling, Jimmie Rivera, and most recently, Raphael Assuncao. Since his last loss, which came against Assuncao back in 2017, Moraes has looked quite unstoppable and proved himself to be one of the most powerful fighters in the division. If Cejudo is able to not only beat, but finish Moraes this Saturday, which no one has been able to do since 2011, it would be a statement win for not just Cejudo himself, but the flyweights as well.
Also, Cejudo has said that he is willing to defend both belts if he is able to win the second title, which Dana White also seems to believe to be true, and intrigued enough to let it happen. This would provide spots on the UFC roster for the flyweights to stick around and continue working for their dreams.
On the contrast, what would happen if Cejudo loses? Well, no one knows for sure except Dana White, but it would create a very risky situation for the flyweights to be in. Maybe Cejudo would be forced to move up to bantamweight permanently while most of the flyweights lose their jobs, or maybe most of the flyweights would be cut except for a few to continue making title fights until things are completely figured out. Not the most pleasant situation to think about, nonetheless.
Cejudo has a lot of pressure on his shoulders, and a lot at stake, but we have seen ‘The Messenger’ come through difficult challenges before, but this Saturday possibly highlights the most difficult one of them all.
UFC 238 takes place on June 8, at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, and will air exclusively on ESPN+ for fans in the United States.
Jaewon Paik is an MMA writer mainly contributing with editorials and feature articles. He is also a contributor at FanSided and CombatPress, and has formerly contributed over at MMALatestNews. He currently studies over at Ohio University.