Henry Cejudo and TJ Dillashaw will meet in the UFC Brooklyn headliner for the flyweight title tomorrow night and with that in mind, here’s our prediction.
This is severely under-rated super-fight between two of the very best fighters in the lighter divisions and an absolutely cracking headliner for the UFC’s debut on ESPN.
A lot has been said about the stakes and the future of the flyweight division but all of that aside, stylistically speaking, there’s enough action to look forward to when the cage doors close to make this an enthralling pairing.
TJ Dillashaw’s surging form of late has seen him comprehensively shut down his rivalry with former-teammate Cody Garbrandt with a pair of impressive victories by stoppage. His loss to Dominick Cruz by way of a razor-close decision didn’t exactly deprive TJ of any of the wind in his sails and in the time since, he has gone 4-0 – looking better and better with every outing.
He brings fluid, creative, and unpredictable striking to the table, tied together with an unorthodox style of movement that had drawn comparisons to the approach of the former champ Cruz but in truth, the differences between the two are plentiful.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the flyweight king Henry Cejudo’s Olympic gold medal in wrestling would define his makeup as a fighter but his striking has come along in leaps and bounds in recent fights.
Adopting a more karate-esque stance akin to something you’d expect to see from Lyoto Machida and Conor McGregor, Cejudo’s most polished win came in the form of his second-round TKO of Wilson Reis at UFC 215. His wrestling is, of course, still there whenever he wishes to use it – and when he does it’s as good as you would expect.
Still, Dillashaw is certainly not Wilson Reis and will present Henry with several different looks for the get-go.
A lot of people are writing off the flyweight champion, something that is more a testament to the skills of the man coming down in weight to take his belt more than anything else but in my opinion, the drop itself will be the defining factor in this fight.
The same Dillashaw that fought Cruz and Garbrandt will not be the one who makes the walk to the octagon to fight Cejudo. I do imagine though that TJ will make the 125lb limit and the title will be officially contested. The man is as competitively driven as any athlete on the roster today but I do feel as though this cut will be his undoing.
It’s important to note that the TJ Dillashaw that defeated Cody Garbrandt, John Lineker, and Raphael Assuncao was too big to cut to 125lbs.
This cut has been the result of weeks and months of dieting and preparation – meticulous preparation but dramatic, to say the least.
Like I said before, the guy who turned in all of those phenomenal performances since losing to Cruz in 2016 is not going to be the same fighter who steps in against Cejudo on Saturday.
10lbs relative to a bantamweight’s body-weight is a lot more than say a heavyweight cutting 10lbs to make the 265lb limit and I think that we’re going to see a compromised Dillashaw in there.
Now, that’s not to say he couldn’t go in and absolutely dominate from start-to-finish but I think he has stacked the deck in his opponent’s favour.
We’ve seen Dillashaw looking invincible at times inside the octagon. His fights with Renan Barao and more recently with John Lineker showcased the Bang Muay-Thai product at the peak of his powers, in the type of form that saw him doing very little wrong.
Conversely, there have been times when TJ has looked hittable, overly-aggressive, and frustrated.
Garbrandt managed to tag him in both of their fights – knocking him to the canvas at the end of the first-round at UFC 217. And while Dillashaw recovered superbly and Cody holds phenomenal power, it is very much worth noting.
It’s also worth mentioning that his sole TKO loss came to the powerhouse former flyweight title-challenger John Dodson in their Ultimate Fighter finale showdown.
The weight-cut Dillashaw has forced himself to endure is going to tax him to some degree. We might see the results of this on Saturday or we might not, but if one thing is for sure, it’s that an arduous weight-cut can leave you prone to being knocked out.
We’ve seen Cejudo display genuine power in the past – with his aforementioned victory over Wilson Reis showing his piston-like precision with that right-hand.
Call me crazy, but I think the flyweight champ cracks him early.
That chin has been tested at bantamweight in the past and I just think TJ’s competitive nature has forced him to bite off more than he can chew with this one.
He had no way to be certain of how this experiment would work and affect his body upon signing the fight and I just think that his worst fears will be confirmed in dramatic fashion.
A rematch at bantamweight could have a very different result but if I’m nailing my colours to a mast here, I’m taking Cejudo to flatten him early.
Prediction: Henry Cejudo by first-round TKO
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena