UFC Fight Night 143 Picks
UFC Fight Night 143 Picks
When: Saturday, January 19, 2019
Where: Barclays Center
Fight Night 143 in Anaheim features a fascinating pairing of UFC champions, with bantamweight king TJ Dillashaw battling UFC Flyweight titleholder Henry Cejudo in the main event. It’s momentous when two reigning champions do battle. Dillashaw will be going for his second UFC belt, dropping down to 125 pounds to take on Cejudo. The flyweight champ and former Olympic gold medalist is coming off a huge title-win over long-unchallenged kingpin Demetrious Johnson. Beating Dillashaw would give him perhaps the best back-to-back win sequence in lower weight division UFC history. Who comes out ahead in the main event of Fight Night 143?
Henry Cejudo, 13-2 (5 KOs, 8 Submissions), (+165) vs. TJ Dillashaw, 16-3 (8 KOs, 3 Submissions), (-190)
UFC Flyweight Champion Henry Cejudo takes on UFC Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw in the Fight Night 143 main event. While it was controversial, Cejudo, 31, was able to beat the long-reigning Johnson by split decision in August. It avenged a previous defeat and put Cejudo in line for super-fights like this. Dropping down to 125, Dillashaw, 32, is looking at a serious challenge, facing a vastly-skilled champion in a new division. But Dillashaw is no ordinary fighter, and now in his second stint as 135-pound champion, he’s established himself as the best bantamweight in history.
A few things stand out about this matchup and one is the weight. At this low a weight, ten pounds is a big deal. Without really knowing the ease in which Dillashaw made 135 pounds, his physique suggests that it wasn’t by a lot. You would figure a professional athlete of TJ’s caliber wouldn’t just be diving into the unknown as far as making 125 pounds is concerned. But at 135, you see a ripped athlete, and it’s hard to imagine where there are another ten pounds to be shed.
Another standout topic is where does Cejudo fall exactly on the spectrum-of-merit? At the end of the day, he’s a champion—a former Olympic gold medal winner in wrestling and as accomplished as a fighter can get. But there are a lot of people who think he should be 0-3 against the better opposition he has fought. He lost to Johnson, and Joseph Benavidez and many people felt he didn’t deserve the call against Johnson in the rematch. In nine UFC appearances, he has scored just one stoppage victory.
The word is that this will be the final flyweight fight in the UFC. Johnson was indeed a fine champion but fell into disfavor with the UFC, which may have hastened his demise. Cejudo winning the belt wasn’t enough to save the division. In other words, the division has fallen into disrepair, making Cejudo a lame-duck champion in a division that will soon be no more. So even if he defends this belt, he won’t be a champion—some reward for beating Johnson and Dillashaw, two of the more-illustrious champions in UFC history.
Dillashaw has been on a nice run of success, only interrupted by an iffy 2016 loss to Dominick Cruz. Cruz’ conqueror, Cody Garbrandt, entered into a prolonged rivalry with Dillashaw, resulting in two memorable knockout wins for Dillashaw. He is really a terrific fighter, great with his hands and galvanized by a perfect level of confidence and poise. Against a very-talented Garbrandt, his ability to be ultra-alert, but also relaxed and clear-thinking, gave him a big edge over his guns-a-blazing opponent.
Dillashaw does a lot of things in the octagon that should trouble Cejudo. There is no questioning that Cejudo is a supreme wrestler, the best one that Dillashaw has ever faced. But let’s not sleep altogether on Dillashaw’s wrestling chops, which are extreme. There is a divide in the wrestling skills of both men in Cejudo’s favor. And that could be a big factor in this fight.
That divide, however, becomes more of a Grand Canyon when breaking down their standup skills. Dillashaw is on another level. His movement is brilliant, both in setting up strikes or in thwarting his opponent’s advances. He is one of those MMA fighters you can actually project doing well in boxing, with his fluidity, suddenness of punching, and purposeful movement. Cejudo, contrarily, looks like a wrestler who took up striking later in life.
Another dimension of this fight, with it being five rounds, is stamina. Not to impugn Cejudo’s stamina, but Dillashaw is the like the Energizer bunny. And over a 25-minute distance, that’s a lot of energy for Cejudo to contain. Again, with only one stoppage victory win in the UFC, that wouldn’t appear to be a reasonable route to victory for Cejudo. Dillashaw has been stopped just once, back in 2011. And it’s hard to find a fighter who has improved more drastically since then than Dillashaw.
I just don’t see Cejudo being able to stifle Dillashaw for five rounds without adverse effect. I think the speed of Dillashaw will present problems for Cejudo, as will the diversity of the 135-pound king’s striking. At the end of the day, I don’t think there are many fighters in the UFC with more merit than Dillashaw, while Cejudo is a bit fortunate to be in this position. I’m going with TJ Dillashaw.
My Pick to Win: I’m betting on TJ Dillashaw at -190. I think he’s the better fighter and a good value at just -190. The weight-drop and Cejudo’s otherworldly wrestling loom as concerns, but Cejudo backers should have even more worry. I think there’s a good chance Dillashaw ends this one before the distance.