Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight contenders Henry Cejudo and Sergio Pettis will duel this Saturday (May 13, 2017) at UFC 211 inside American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
After putting together a run of 10 straight wins and earning a shot at the 125-pound strap, Cejudo came up short in his next two fights. Because of the quality of competition, that only dropped Cejudo down to the No. 3 spot in the division, but the Olympian still needs to bounce back here. Pettis has followed a unique career path. He was picked up by UFC at the age of 19 and showed some real talent, even if he hit some road bumps along the way. Now a 17-fight veteran at the ripe old age of 23, Pettis has hit his stride in the form of three straight wins, earning him this jump in competition.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Jussier Formiga (UFC Fight Night 78), Chico Camus (UFC 185), Chris Cariaso (UFC 185)
Key Losses: Demetrious Johnson (UFC 197), Joseph Benavidez (UFC TUF 24 Finale)
Keys to Victory: In most of his fights, Cejudo has looked pretty much the same. He’s clearly an incredibly strong wrestler — even if that skill set has yet to fully translate into the cage — and Cejudo’s stand up has been high-volume and enough to score rounds in his favor.
However, something changed in his last fight. Opposite Benavidez, Cejudo looked far more dangerous, throwing kicks and punches in bunches while maintaining some real power. It was a closer fight than most expected and actually raised his stock despite the justified loss.
In this bout, bringing in the effective aggression will be necessary. When Pettis is allowed to find his range and work technically, he really shines. However, in uglier fights, Pettis is far more prone to mistakes, and his habit of hanging around in the pocket to be hit pops up more often. Between his power punching and wrestling, Cejudo has the skills to pressure and suffocate the younger Pettis brother. It would also be wise for him to kick with Pettis, as it would help eliminate his reach disadvantage and prevent Pettis from really letting loose there.
Key Wins: John Moraga (UFC Fight Night 103), Chris Cariaso (UFC 192), Chris Kelades (UFC 197)
Key Losses: Ryan Benoit (UFC 185), Alex Caceres (UFC on FOX 10)
Keys to Victory: Pettis may be compared to his elder brother Anthony Pettis often, but he’s actually a very different athlete. On his feet, Pettis is less flashy but more measured, particularly with his rangy and tricky boxing. He’s less of a lightning strike submission threat as well, but he’s also proven a more difficult task for smothering wrestlers.
It’s imperative that Pettis remains confident and does not avoid exchanges with Cejudo. Olympic gold medalist or no, Cejudo has not yet shown an ability to take down any of his opponents at will. If Pettis fights like he cannot get close to Cejudo, it will doom him.
Instead, Pettis must take the center and establish his jab. In his last bout, Pettis did a fantastic job of landing the jab, pulling to avoid counters, and then returning with punch-kick combinations. Cejudo is an aggressive athlete, meaning it won’t be hard to bait him into swinging. Combined with his range advantage, that’s a real avenue to victory for “The Phenom.” Similarly, Pettis cannot be afraid to kick. Cejudo responds well to fighters who shrink from exchanges, putting real pressure on Pettis to stand his ground.
Bottom Line: It’s a pivotal fight for the Flyweight title picture.
For Cejudo, it’s a chance to get back on track. He’s not out of the mix or anything, but he’ll need at least several wins to get close to a rematch with “Mighty Mouse.” A win over Pettis isn’t enough on its own, but it’s a solid start.
Meanwhile, a loss would be disastrous and drop Cejudo significantly down the rankings.
As for Pettis, this is a huge opportunity for him. If he wins, he’s on the shortlist of potential contenders for Demetrious Johnson. In fact, he might just be at the top of that list. Either way, it would be the biggest win of his career by a considerable amount. Alternatively, a loss doesn’t lose Pettis much ground, as he’s a pretty big underdog trying to break into the title mix.
At UFC 211, Henry Cejudo and Sergio Pettis will open the main card. Which man will have his hand raised?