Henry Cejudo will attempt to enter champ-champ territory on Saturday night as he faces Marlon Moraes for the UFC bantamweight title at UFC 238.
It should not be understated exactly how big of a task this is for the former Olympian.
Marlon Moraes has been nothing short of incredible since leaving his 135lb belt in WSOF in favour of a shot at the bright lights of the UFC.
A minor hiccup in the form a divisive split-decision defeat to Raphael Assuncao rained on his debut parade to a certain extent but as soon as his second outing came about, the run of wins that led him to this spot began.
Each of these wins showcased an increasingly dangerous version of this dynamic finisher and with every highlight reel knockout, he only strengthened his claim to the shot at the title he has now been presented with.
Standing across the octagon from him will be Henry Cejudo – a champion who remains one of the most underrated fighters on the roster today.
I already delved into my thoughts on Cejudo and his ascent to the top of the game in recent years and I’m not going to get into it too much here.
With that being said, if he can pull this off and take home a second UFC title, there is a very important conversation we need to have about his position within combat sports as a whole.
As I’m sure you all know, he’s an Olympic gold-medalist – one who flaunts it quite relentlessly, yes, but an athlete of the highest calibre nonetheless.
A three-fight streak that includes the heads of Demetrious Johnson, TJ Dillashaw, and Marlon Moraes and the capture of two UFC titles is a run that could be held up against anything put forward by any currently-rostered fighters at this point.
The question is whether he can do it.
Moraes is an absolute savage, a fighter who deserves his spot on the pound-for-pound rankings and a gold belt around his waist.
He’s the favourite going into this one and in many ways, he should be.
With the size advantage over the comparatively less dangerous flyweight king, one would imagine that the physical differences should be enough to allow Moraes to get another win here.
Not to say that the Brazilian is not also very technically astute, because really he is.
And while it might not be the obvious pick or the pick that comes from anywhere but a gut feeling, I’m going to side with the guy who has proven himself to be capable of going from a three-minute TKO defeat to Demetrious Johnson to a five-round decision win in the space of two years, the guy who holds the mindset necessary to take home the top prize in a sport as gruelling as Olympic-level freestyle wrestling.
Moraes should win this fight, but I’m going to take a punt on Cejudo being a special, special talent.
Prediction: Henry Cejudo by decision
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena