Henry Cejudo

The former double champion Henry Cejudo returns to the octagon at UFC 298 this weekend. After his return from retirement fight and title bid to Aljamain Sterling, Cejudo has gone back to the drawing board, changing his team, including his head coach, as he looks to now face Sterling’s teammate Merab Dvalishvili.

Like Cejudo, Dvalishvili is a wrestling phenom, likely unmatched in the sheer number of takedowns shot in the UFC. Dvalishvili is on a 9-fight win streak, and in defeating Cejudo, he could defeat three straight former UFC champions as he is coming off of wins over Jose Aldo and Petr Yan.

Betting Odds

Henry Cejudo will be a slight underdog at +155 against the Georgian, Dvalishvili.

  • Henry Cejudo: +155 (BetUS)
  • Merab Dvalishvili: -185 (BetUS)

Fight Breakdown

Henry Cejudo is an Olympic wrestling champion, and that is still the greatest asset to his fighting style, although he has become an extremely well-rounded fighter. In terms of striking, he has adopted a karate-like stance, bouncing on his toes sideways with a loose and outstretched guard.

As a smaller fighter, this allows him mobility while working on the outside, and the long guard poses one more barrier his opponents have to break before working their way in. Cejudo maintains his range while feinting so that he can then break that gap on his own terms, mostly blitzing in with combinations, starting with cross punching, a Superman punch, or rear leg roundhouse kicks.

Although Cejudo has good kicks and likes to move and feint from the outside, his most dangerous distance is boxing range. Cejudo is very good at punching his way in with combinations and shifting back just enough to counter with big right straights when his opponents move in.

Cejudo was a champion at 125lbs, and is a smaller 135er, his lack of reach means he cannot afford to over-commit when evading shots because that leaves a greater distance to shift back in, so often his counters come by clashing in the middle with his opponents, and because he is usually more explosive it works. The same ability to meet his opponents down the middle, sets up his counter takedowns.

Cejudo has a nice single leg, elevate and drive to the cage but a lot of his best work comes from clinch trips. If he can get to at least over-under, and better yet double under-hooks, look for him to drag left and then turn back into either a deep inside or outside reap. Cejudo often ends up in top front headlock position with himself sprawled over his opponent’s head and likes to go to quarter nelson for control, and with the size differences at bantamweight, expect his opponents to be able to wrestle up into this position a little bit more often, especially a wrestler like Dvalishvili.

Cejudo does not usually look to threaten submissions, which could be detrimental as his opponents are able to attempt wrestle ups without much fear of getting caught in something, however Cejudo’s style and build do not really set himself up to well for front headlocks like darce chokes and anacondas anyway.

Dvalishvili, like Cejudo stands in a wide cocked stance and likes to blitz forward. He will be the slightly bigger fighter, but not as pronounced as Sterling. Dvalishvili is very basic in his striking diversity, electing to throw straights as he jumps in, and mixes up elbows and hooks only when his pressure forces his opponents to start standing in front of him more often.

The same explosion he uses to blitz into his 1-2 and 2-1 is what he uses for his takedowns, he will dive on single and double legs and look to chain wrestle from there. Henry Cejudo is a very technical wrestler and will mostly bail on shots he doesn’t feel he can complete juxtaposing- Dvalishvili is not discouraged but tends to shoot constantly with the belief that he can either chain secondary shots or reset and shoot again very quickly. This leads to him having very heavy wrestling-based fights but also a low takedown accuracy, as he essentially keeps shooting until one hit.

This also lends itself to Cejudo eventually and often having to work from a sprawl position. Dvalishvili also rarely attacks and finishes submissions, so it will largely be a free positional wrestling battle, and whoever can land more significant ground and pound should win. It’s important to note that Cejudo is especially difficult to takedown in space where he can sprawl, but against the cage, where that Olympic background doesn’t translate as well, plus the size disparity, he can be taken down with elevation takedowns, like whizzer kicks and high crotch takedowns.


It does make sense that the oddsmakers are backing Dvalishvili; both men’s primary skills are their wrestling, and Dvalishvili has size, momentum, and activity on his side. That being said, Cejudo has the superior striking on a technical level, especially in terms of just how many weapons he can mix in. For Dvalishvili, not much changes in terms of gameplan here, but he is a puzzle that Cejudo can adjust to and try to solve in camp.

I believe that as much as it would aid Cejudo to pursue a striking match we will see a lot of wrestling, and I think that Cejudo should take care to gameplan from that front headlock/sprawl position.

Coming down from five rounds fights in his last five fights, there’s no doubt that Cejudo has the gas tank to go a hard three, but he has to translate the pace and output to match Dvalishvili, which is another adjustment to make in preparation.

This fight is an interesting puzzle, and I think it is Cejudo’s to solve as long as he prepares accordingly. He has switched up his coaching staff allegedly, so that is also a factor to consider, but as the underdog I believe Cejudo has a very good chance of an upset.

Pick: Henry Cejudo to win (+155 at BetUS)

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