Following the end of the UFC’s TV deal with FOX, the promotion makes its broadcasting debut on ESPN in what is nothing less than a super fight.
The stage is set for the flyweight world title showdown between flyweight world champion, Henry Cejudo and his bantamweight counterpart, TJ Dillashaw, on Saturday, January 19th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.
Cejudo, who shocked the world when he defeated former dominant 125-pound champion Demetrious Johnson in August, will make his first title defense against Dillashaw. However, it was Johnson that was reportedly offered the Dillashaw fight before he took on Cejudo.
Having lost to the Olympian, he moved across to Asian promotion ONE Championship in a transfer deal, with welterweight star Ben Askren coming the other way.
Dillashaw will enter the bout confident of taking the flyweight title from Cejudo. Should the former Team Alpha Male star be successful in doing so, this could lead to the UFC’s 125-pound division being disbanded.
Coming off two impressive victories over Cody Garbrandt, Dillashaw appears to be the favorite among fans – and is certainly regarded as the likely winner among bookmakers – to take the strap.
Let’s take a look at the fight in a little more detail, including odds for both men. Additionally, there are another few interesting matchups on the card that deserve a closer inspection.
Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw – UFC Flyweight Championship Bout
The big story in this fight is TJ Dillashaw’s bid to become just the third fighter in UFC history to hold titles in two weight classes at the same time.
“The Viper” will join an exclusive club with just two other members: former featherweight and lightweight champion, Conor McGregor, and former light heavyweight champion and incumbent heavyweight king, Daniel Cormier.
Aside from bolstering his legacy as one of the best fighters in modern MMA – and perhaps one of the greatest fighters in UFC history – Dillashaw can also significantly increase his popularity and commercial appeal.
The decision to move down to challenge Cejudo came as little surprise to fans. Last summer, it was confirmed by Dana White that the Duane Ludwig-aligned fighter wanted to challenge former champ Johnson at 135, but a bout never materialized.
Of course, for Dillashaw to earn a second title, he will need to overcome a solid champion in Cejudo. “The Messenger” is an Olympic gold medal-winning freestyle wrestler with a 13-2 record in MMA.
His two losses came in the UFC, to Johnson and Joseph Benavidez, respectively. He is a fighter that has really improved in his last few fights and will be no pushover, that is for certain.
Betting fans should certainly take Dillashaw’s power into consideration. In his last two fights, he has looked extremely sharp as a striker and is not afraid to take the fight to his opponents.
The past few years have seen Dillashaw improve significantly on what was already a strong, varied skillset. It will be interesting to see just how many opportunities he has to showcase everything he is capable of. Cejudo will be looking to negate everything Dillashaw takes to the Octagon.
Tale of the Tape
In terms of height and reach, Dillashaw has a slight advantage. He is the bigger man, which is not always the best thing for a man moving down ten pounds to a lower weight class. Cejudo is used to fighting at flyweight and should feel more comfortable than Dillashaw in the weight cut and on the night.
Cejudo is a fighter that wanted to face Dillashaw. He called him out after his shock win over Johnson, and Dillashaw agreed to the fight.
This was a bout that the UFC wanted, and fans will certainly be looking forward to seeing how this one plays out. While there is always the potential for fireworks where Dillashaw is involved, the same can’t really be said for Cejudo.
With just one finish (that’s right, just one) in his UFC run, Cejudo is not a fighter known for explosive power. While he looked great in that finish against Wilson Reis in 2017, there are not many clued up fans who will be backing Cejudo for a knockout finish.
In fact, there are not many who will be expecting him to submit Dillashaw, either, given that he has no submissions on his MMA record.
Cejudo is, however, a very accurate puncher. He is well-conditioned and does not tend to be inefficient with his energy. “The Messenger” is an excellent wrestler and this is undoubtedly his biggest strength.
While his takedown accuracy is surprisingly lower than Dillashaw’s (35.85% to 37.5%), his takedown defense of 88.89% is better than Dillashaw’s 86.11.
Cejudo will not be able to bully Dillashaw and will be relying on beating him to the punch and taking him into the deeper rounds to win this one.
Dillashaw is not an easy man to take down or to hit. He has a solid chin and is tight on his feet. Cejudo certainly has his work cut out and will be hoping that Dillashaw’s weight cut does not go well, which could see him look a little drained come fight night.
Should TJ Dillashaw beat Cejudo and take the title, it seems highly unlikely that he will defend the belt. MMA Conspiracy theorists believe that a win for Dillashaw will also bury the division for good and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the UFC wants to put an end to the 125-pound domain. Regardless, Dillashaw is coming down to flyweight to take the title.
There is little to suggest that he will leave without it at the end of the night.
Comparatively, Dillashaw is the better fighter. He has the best skillset out of both men. He is bigger, stronger, and a much better striker. He pretty much has everything that you would want in a fighter and is also capable of some showstopping finishes.
Yes, Cejudo has been stopped by Johnson (in their first bout) but does have a decent chin overall. However, against Dillashaw, he will be going up against a more powerful and refined striker.
Quite simply, Dillashaw is the greatest bantamweight in MMA history. He has surpassed Dominick Cruz in this regard. With wins over four different champions who were in the top 4 pound-for-pound fighters on the planet – and a talent for beating previously undefeated fighters – Dillashaw is a proven killer. His resume is one of the best in the UFC, regardless of weight.
Where weight does come into the picture, however, is what worries some. It is extremely rare for champions to move down divisions in MMA.
If Dillashaw is not extremely disciplined and has any problems with the cut, this could affect his ability to fight at the same tempo as he is used to.
This should not be disregarded when placing a bet on Dillashaw, but what should make you feel better is that he is extremely professional and disciplined.
I believe that Dillashaw (+180) is going to take the fight to Cejudo (-210) from the first second of the first round. He will not want to give the flyweight champion any space whatsoever.
If Dillashaw wants to end this fight early, he certainly has the power to do so, as witnessed by his destruction of Cody Garbrandt in his last two bouts.
Yes, a poor weight cut could have him feeling a little weak on the night, but according to reports, his weight cut is going well. That being said, if betting on the bout, it could be an idea to see how that weight cut goes.
If Dillashaw weighs in on the button – and shows no signs of any difficulties in the process – I believe he will win this one convincingly. After all, this is a fighter in his prime that has never been as confident.
While it would be foolish to ignore the fact that Dillashaw is moving down 10 pounds, it would be even more witless to see this bout as a foregone conclusion. Cejudo is the only fighter to beat former pound-for-pound number 1, Demetrious Johnson, in 14 fights.
He is an excellent wrestler and has some other dangerous qualities that can realistically trouble Dillashaw.
Cejudo shocked the world with his title win over Johnson. He is improving as a fighter, but so is Dillashaw. It appears that the mutiny with Team Alpha Male following his decision to leave the gym with former head coach, Duane Ludwig, made him a better fighter and improved his mental strength. He is one of the best fighters on the roster and bookmakers seem convinced that the fight will go his way.
Dillashaw Will Want to Finish This One Early
The bantamweight world champion fought just twice in 2017 and 2018, with two impressive stoppage victories over the former champion, Cody Garbrandt.
He will be heading into this bout looking to do the same over a much smaller man than “No Love.” Dillashaw will also be looking to impress in the first title fight broadcast on ESPN, so everything is set up for him to deliver.
I believe he will do just that. I cannot envisage Cejudo being able to take the shots that Garbrandt did and Dillashaw will not respect the former Olympian’s power as he did Garbrandt.
This one, for me, will not be a classic title fight but a dominant performance for TJ Dillashaw that ends in a knockout for the 32-year-old in the 2nd round.
Prediction: TJ Dillashaw (-210) to Win by Knockout
UFC President Dana White took some flak when he confirmed that he had signed former Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys defensive end, Greg Hardy, to the promotion. Hardy was found guilty of assaulting an ex-girlfriend in 2014, which seemed to rub up many the wrong way.
The decision to book Hardy on the same card as Rachel Ostovich, a fighter that was recently beaten up by an ex-boyfriend, was seen as controversial, to say the least.
Despite the drama and controversy, the fight will go ahead. Hardy is priced at a very short -515, and this is largely accountable to the fact that his 3 professional fights to date have ended in first round knockouts.
His 3 amateur bouts also went the exact same way. Hardy has power, without a doubt. Crowder is 9-3-0-1 (NC) and has been knocked out in each one of his losses. Given that he seems to have been matched up with Crowder for one particular reason – and he has been stopped three times in three losses – the ascendency is with Hardy here.
Prediction: Greg Hardy (-515) to Win by Knockout
Gregor Gillespie will be fighting in his home state of New York when he takes on former Hawaiian welterweight, Yancy Medeiros, on the undercard of the big fight. Gillespie submitted Vinc Pichel in the co-main event at UFC Utica, adding to his flawless 12-0 record that includes 10 stoppages.
The Long Island-native can raise his profile once more with a win over Medeiros.
Medeiros drops back down to 155-pounds for this bout, following a successful run at welterweight that was halted by Donald Cerrone in February 2018. Medeiros is 15-5, with 12 of his wins coming by stoppage (including submission).
While Medeiros will be hoping to make it a winning return at lightweight, Gillespie’s recent form of 5-0 shows that he is a fighter truly in the ascendency right now.
Prediction: Gregor Gillespie (-525) to Win by Submission
The UFC will be keen to ensure that the first televised title-fight on the ESPN deal goes smoothly. More than this, they will be hopeful that it is a night of fireworks in Brooklyn.
With Dillashaw looking likely to stop Cejudo, Hardy taking that knockout power into the ring, and Gregor Gillespie capable of stopping a fight at any moment, it looks as though the promotion might get their wish.
This card will certainly deliver in the excitement department, with a number of solid matchups making it an intriguing one. With a little slice of history potentially on the line for Dillashaw, fans are being treated to an event that could have easily been a pay-per-view rather than a free, televised card.
From a gambling perspective, it certainly poses a couple of questions regarding where to put your money. Regardless of what happens on the night, this event is set to kick off the UFC’s traveling roadshow in style in 2019. It should be a good night for one and all.