One of the biggest upsets in UFC history took place this past Saturday at UFC 227 when Henry Cejudo ended Demetrious Johnson’s five-year reign as the UFC flyweight champion with a narrow, split decision win to take the title and dethrone the champion. It was by far the biggest win of Cejudo’s career to date and it’s the kind of win that will define his legacy in the sport. One of the most decorated amateur freestyle wrestlers to ever compete in mixed martial arts, Cejudo has finally broken through and shown the world the potential many thought he had when he entered MMA as a former Olympic gold medalist.
The fight with Johnson was hard-fought and difficult but Cejudo got the job done, and he deserves all the praise in the world for going out there and defeating a fighter many thought was unbeatable at 125lbs. Cejudo was able to use his wrestling chops to keep the fight standing when he wanted to and when he needed a takedown he was able to land it and control Johnson on the ground to help him win rounds. The striking was close but the judges must have felt Cejudo was the more effective striker as well as he won three of five rounds on two of the judges’ scorecards. Considering how Johnson had looked unstoppable for such a long time, the fact Cejudo was so effective in both the standup and the grappling against arguably the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time was extremely impressive, and it shows the level of improvements Cejudo has made since his journey into MMA began back in 2013.
Since making his pro MMA debut five years ago, Cejudo has a 13-2 record in the sport with a 7-2 record in the UFC that includes wins over ranked fighters such as Johnson, Sergio Pettis, Jussier Formiga and Wilson Reis, with his lone career defeats coming to Johnson the first time they fought as well as a controversial split decision loss to Joseph Benavidez. When Cejudo began his career he was pretty much just a wrestler who would look to take down his opponents and hold them there or use his ground-and-pound to get the win. That’s when Cejudo was a wrestler masquerading as a mixed martial artist. But his improvements and evolution the last few years has been incredible to watch, and Cejudo has quickly turned into one of the most well-rounded flyweights in the sport. Considering he is only 31, “The Messenger” is right in the middle of his prime, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t make further improvements and become an even better fighter.
Not many people believed Cejudo would be the man to dethrone Johnson, but he went out and did just that, and now that he has a win over Johnson on his resume, it’s fair to wonder just how far Cejudo can go in this sport. He’s already the UFC flyweight champion and he looks like someone who can hold the belt for a long time. But he also said immediately after he won the title that he would be interested in moving up to 135lbs to fight TJ Dillashaw for the UFC bantamweight title. That’s something Johnson refused to do, and in my mind, Johnson’s refusal to fight in a different weight class hurts his legacy as one of the sport’s all-time greats when many other of the so-called “GOATS” like Georges St-Pierre, Daniel Cormier and Anderson Silva bounced between weight classes. Cejudo still has some unfinished work to do at 125lbs, but the fact he is already calling out the bantamweight champion is a good sign and shows just how much ambition he has in this sport. He’s confident in his abilities, and considering his rapid rate of improvements, there’s no reason to think Cejudo can’t get even better than he already.
I’m excited to see what Cejudo can do as the flyweight champion and what he can do if he ultimately does decide to move up in weight. Right now, he looks like someone who has the potential to be an all-time great. With his wrestling base to go along with an improved striking attack, not to mention tremendous cardio and a solid chin, Cejudo has all the skills necessary to make a run up the P4P ladder. Obviously, he still has a ton of work to do, and he still has to prove the fight with Johnson wasn’t just a fluke. But considering his pedigree in combat sports, we have reason to believe Cejudo has what it takes to get even better. The guy is an amazing talent and the win over Johnson should show everyone he has what it takes to be a special athlete in this crazy sport that we all know and love. Now, we’ll just have to wait and see what the UFC has in store for his next matchup.
How far do you think Henry Cejudo can go?