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UFC on ESPN+ 1 card: TJ Dillashaw vs Henry Cejudo full fight preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champions T.J. Dillashaw and Henry Cejudo will battle in a Flyweight clash TONIGHT (Jan. 19, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 143 inside Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

It may not be the “super” fight that fans are asking for, but tonight’s main event is a battle of special talents nonetheless, featuring the best the lighter weight divisions have to offer. Fresh off a hugely impressive — if still controversial (watch it) — upset win over Demetrious Johnson, sending the long-time champion off to Singapore. For his first title defense, Cejudo will face another remarkably difficult foe. Dillashaw has proven himself time and time again as an amazing technical fighter and stud athlete, but this move to Flyweight is an interesting one. This is likely to be a grueling, five-round contest, meaning Dillashaw’s preparation and how his body reacts at a lighter weight may be the deciding factor.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

T.J. Dillashaw

Record: 16-3
Key Wins: Cody Garbrandt (UFC 227, UFC 217), Renan Barao (UFC on FOX 16, UFC 173), Raphael Assuncao (UFC 200), John Lineker (UFC 207)
Key Losses: Dominick Cruz (UFC Fight Night 81), Raphael Assuncao (UFC Fight Night 29)
Keys to Victory: Dillashaw has a fair argument as the sport’s best kickboxer. A collegiate wrestler, Dillashaw teamed up with Duane Ludwig and grew tremendously as a result, creating his style of kickboxing that focuses on punch-kick combinations and stance switches.

Against Cejudo, I’d like to see Dillashaw kicking often, primarily to the body and legs. He’s known to hunt for the high kick a bit too much, but the goal should really be to break Cejudo down over the course of the fight. There is some risk of Cejudo catching kicks and attempting takedowns, but Dillashaw has yet to be held down... ever.

Kicking is worth it.

The other key to victory is Dillashaw’s combination of feints and countering the counter. Dillashaw’s comfort on offense and ability to hide his entrance will be very helpful against Cejudo, and Dillashaw should be able to find follow up offense when Cejudo tries to counter as well.

Henry Cejudo

Record: 13-2
Key Wins: Demetrious Johnson (UFC 227), Sergio Pettis (UFC 218), Jussier Formiga (UFC Fight Night 78), Wilson Reis (UFC 215)
Key Losses: Demetrious Johnson (UFC 197), Joseph Benavidez (UFC TUF 24 Finale)
Keys to Victory: An Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Cejudo’s wrestling pushed him over “Mighty Mouse” to score a close split-decision win, but it felt like one. Cejudo’s MMA wrestling never looked smoother, and his kickboxing was good enough to keep him competitive as well.

Opposite Johnson, Cejudo used an active right kick, body-head combinations, and focus on answering back to keep things close on the feet. As a result, his occasional takedowns were enough to shift rounds into his favor and win the fight. While the big picture strategy — keep things close standing and then score some takedowns — remains the same, a couple things need to change.

First and foremost, Cejudo cannot plant his feet and answer with counters every time Dillashaw attacks. Dillashaw is far better than Johnson at landing a combination, evading the counter, and landing again; he will make Cejudo pay badly if the Olympian is not smart with his counters.

In addition, I’d like to see Cejudo wrestle offensively more often than he did against Johnson. Dillashaw’s cardio at 125 pounds is a major question mark, and there’s no better way to find out than some good ol’ clinch grinding. Plus, unlike with “Mighty Mouse,” Cejudo doesn’t have to worry as much about Dillashaw hurting him from the clinch so long as Cejudo is the one pressing Dillashaw into the fence.

Bottom Line: It’s a very high-level contest with major stakes.

For Dillashaw, the stakes are entirely personal. A win makes him the latest double champ, an impressive accomplishment no matter the circumstances. A loss, meanwhile, is hardly embarrassing given the opponent. Realistically, either result sends him back to Bantamweight to defend his original crown.

Stakes are much higher for Henry Cejudo, the man who risks losing his title and possibly his entire division. Think of that situation: Cejudo is taken out by the Bantamweight champion, loses his belt, and is forced to go to Bantamweight, where he’s even less likely to defeat Dillashaw. That’s a harsh reality Cejudo just may face.

Consequently, a win also carries major implications. For one, Cejudo may not become a double champ, but defeating Demetrious Johnson and T.J. Dillashaw? That’s a hell of a resume already. Aside from that, Cejudo dispatching off Dillashaw provides the strongest argument for keeping the division around.

At UFC Fight Night 143, TJ Dillashaw and Henry Cejudo will battle over the Flyweight crown. Which man will leave the cage with a new belt?

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