On January 19, 2018, Henry “The Messenger” Cejudo and T.J. “Killashaw” Dillashaw will face off for the flyweight UFC championship title in Brooklyn, New York in UFC Fight Night 143. Cejudo will make his first title defense against the reigning bantamweight champion Dillashaw, as Dillashaw attempts to become the fourth UFC champion with titles in two different weight classes.
In the past year, Dillashaw has had a more impressionable fighting record than Cejudo. Killashaw is going into this fight with two consecutive knockouts defending his bantamweight title against Cody Garbrandt. Dillashaw knocked out Garbrandt the first time in the second round at UFC 217 (Nov. 2017). In their immediate rematch at UFC 227 (Aug. 2017), Garbrandt defiantly absorbed a barrage of strikes from Dillashaw and then a decisive knee to the face that stopped the bout with 50 seconds left in the first round.
Dillashaw hasn’t taken a loss in over two years (since Jan. 2016 against Dominick Cruz by decision). With his recent fighting record in mind, one would think that Dillashaw has a greater-than-good chance at getting a second belt. But an Olympic gold-medalist wrestler like Cejudo won’t make it easy for him in the slightest. Dillashaw has faced and won against strikers and BJJ (Brazilian jiu-jitsu) masters, but never has he faced a wrestling-based fighter like Cejudo.
In his rematched fight at UFC 227 against previous flyweight champion, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, it was Cejudo who came out victorious. In that fight, Cejudo was able to land strikes and complete take-downs despite briefly staggering in the first round because of an awkward ankle placement. Yet, by the end of the fifth round and by a controversial decision, Cejudo became the new undisputed flyweight champion.
— UFC (@ufc) August 5, 2018
UFC 227 displayed an improvement in The Messenger’s striking ability, seeing that he was able to complete takedowns set up by accurately placed punches; and considering that he was able to do so against a fighter as fast and elusive as Johnson, serves as a testament to his wrestling prowess, his ability to improve, and his reputation as arguably the greatest wrestler in UFC history. Nevertheless, Dillashaw does have an impressive wrestling background as well and it’s safe to say that he’s been training to counter Cejudo’s takedowns the day the fight was finalized.
Although, Dillashaw is the more proficient striker he is at some disadvantages coming into UFC 143. Firstly, he is cutting 10 pounds to make weight at 125 pounds. That weight loss is going to be a lot harder for him because he’s also 32 years old. In combination, it’s unknown what toll that could have on Dillashaw’s body. Come weigh-in day it will become more transparent as to what kind of shape he’s in and what expectations can be made. Secondly, that weight cut could drain Dillashaw’s cardio, to which Cejudo would respond to in the later rounds with his wrestling, guaranteeing victory by decision or submission.
With everything taken into account, I believe that Cejudo will retain his championship title. Dillashaw’s speed won’t come as a shock to Cejudo who’s had experience against quick fighters like Johnson; and if Dillashaw can last into the later rounds, then Cejudo’s takedowns will prove to be a real obstacle for the challenger and determine the direction of this fight.