Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the hurt business for its first offering of 2019, as the promotion will kick off its multi-million dollar deal with ESPN with UFC on ESPN+ 1 tonight (Sat., Jan 19, 2019) in Brooklyn, New York. Headlining the inaugural event is a pivotal men’s Flyweight championship bout as division kingpin Henry Cejudo puts his belt on the line for the first — and possibly last — time against none other than Bantamweight champion, T.J. Dillashaw. In the co-main event, controversial figure Greg Hardy will make his official UFC debut as he faces off against Allen Crowder in Heavyweight action.
Dillashaw made weight, so all there is left to do is to scrap. “Viper” will look to become the fourth “champ-champ” in UFC history, and he’ll be doing it by being the first to drop down in weight. He’ll also be taking part in the first-ever main event for ESPN, so it’s kind of a big deal. Dillashaw has proclaimed himself to be the best fighter around, which is a pretty bold statement considering all the monsters competing today (like this guy). But, if he can take out Cejudo, win his second belt and essentially kill the Flyweight division, Dillashaw will rank right up there with the best. Indeed, Dillashaw is taking a big risk making the drastic cut down, but it could pay off big time if he can win his second title in as many divisions.
Cejudo, meanwhile, has gone on record saying this fight isn’t only about himself, stating it’s on his shoulders to save the 125-pound weight class and help the lighter fighters avoid having to pack on the weight to fight the bigger guys at Bantamweight. If he can beat Dillashaw, not only will he have a successful title defense to his credit should the division go away, but he will more than likely secure himself a title shot at 135 pounds.
Cejudo scored a huge mark on his resume after dethroning Demetrious Johnson, but if he can take out a champ in a weight class above, it’s a huge accomplishment, too. If you haven’t noticed, Cejudo’s attitude and persona have changed over the last few months, becoming more boisterous, flashy and downright more confident. Whether or not that nets him the big payday he’s looking for, well, that remains to be seen. That said, a loss will send his short-lived stint as champion tumbling down and essentially erase any hopes of getting an immediate title fight at Bantamweight.
As for the fight itself, Cejudo’s bread and butter is obviously in the wrestling department, though the Olympian knows a thing or two about swinging his hands. As for Dillashaw, he is without a doubt one of the most technical strikers in any weight class thanks to the years spent under the tutelage of Duane Ludwig. Each man knows what he has to do to win, now it just remains to be seen if Dillashaw will be affected because of the drop down.
To be able to watch the main card (and part of the “Prelims”) of the event, fight fans can take advantage of the seven-day free trial of ESPN+ by signing up here. After that, if you want to keep enjoying UFC events on ESPN’s streaming service, it will cost you $4.99 a month. Granted, it’s not a ton of money, but over the last seven years, other than having to pay for pay-per-view (PPV) or Fight Pass, fans were used to getting their fix for “free,” as FOX and FOX Sports 1 was included in most cable packages.
But, that was part of the package when UFC inked the five-year deal and everyone will have to get used to it. Still, it could be a bit inconvenient at first and it will take time to acclimated to it, much like everyone did with UFC Fight Pass ... right?
That said, I would’ve expected the promotion to kick off its ESPN deal on the mother channel. Nevertheless, UFC President Dana White took it upon himself to break down all the details on how to watch the ESPN+ 1 debut show:
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
Corey Sandhagen was paired up against Marioa Bautista after John Lineker was forced out of the event, while Glover Teixiera will now face off against Karl Roberson with Ion Cutelaba hurt. Also, Chance Recountree vs. Kyle Stewart was booked after Rountree’s original foe, Randy Brown, was forced out of the event.
Linker was forced out of his fight against Sandhagen because of an injury, adding to “Hands of Stone’s” ongoing injury issues. Meanwhile, Cutelaba was also bit by the injury bug and forced out of his Light Heavyweight showdown against Teixeira, which would have been one of his biggest tests to date.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Long-time UFC veteran Dennis Bermudez has been relegated way down to the opening “Prelims,” and he’ll look to climb out of there with a win over Te Edwards. Joanne Calderwood will look for her second straight win when she takes on Ariane Lipski, a dangerous opponent who will look to shine in her Octagon debut. Calderwood has been unable to get a good rhythm going to make the next jump, but if she can handle Lipski, it will go a long way.
Also going down on the undercard is a highly-intriguing Lightweight showdown between long-time veteran Donald Cerrone taking on the the up-and-coming prospect Alexander Hernandez. Alex hasn’t been shy in talking down to “Cowboy,” which is rather silly considering how long Cerrone has been in the sport and what he’s done during his time. Now, Hernandez will have to back up his words against one of the most seasoned veterans around. And you know “Cowboy” is dying to make the young buck eat some crow. Plus, if Cerrone can pick up another win, it will help his case in his hunt for a fight against Conor McGregor.
Lipski will make her Octagon debut against Calderwood, in what should be an entertaining affair. “The Violence Queen” lives up to her moniker, as eight of her last nine victories have come via stoppage. The Muay Thai specialist has the chance to gain some notoriety by taking out the well-known Calderwood.
Alonzo Menifield will bring his perfect professional mark (8-0) and heavy hands to the eight-sided cage for the first time when he takes on Vinicius Moreira, who will also be making his official debut after leaving his mark on Dana White’s “Tuesday Night Contender Series” (DWTNCS).
Mario Bautista and Kyle Stewart will also look to make the most of their short-notice opportunities in their Octagon debuts. To get a more detailed look at all of the UFC newcomers, click here to check out our very own Patrick L. Stumberg’s “New Blood” piece.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Paige VanZant’s stint as the “it” girl for UFC didn’t last too long, as “12 Gauge” has dropped two straight (three of four overall since 2015). That could be a major sticking point as to why Reebok opted not to renew her sponsorship. Now, VanZant will look to avoid dropping three in a row when she faces off against Rachael Ostovich in main card action. Ostovich, for as talented as she is, can’t seem to find a groove, alternating wins and losses since 2014. VanZant should have a leg up on her when it comes to having a more well-rounded game. That said, Ostovich will come in determined to put on a good performance to help her move forward after getting tangled up in an alleged domestic violence case.
Interest Level: 8/10
This card is actually pretty good. Not only do we have a legit “super” fight between two champions — which could also be the final 125-pound fight inside the Octagon — but we also get to see if Greg Hardy can shine on the biggest stage.
The former NFL player is trying to shed the stigma that still follows him after a troubled past, and judging by this interview, he’s doing pretty good so far. Still, co-headlining a major UFC event in his first fight will be a tall task, and Crowder — despite coming up short in his UFC debut — is a legit threat. UFC has taken heat for allowing Hardy to fight and giving him such a big stage from the jump, but if Hardy impresses and keeps his head straight, he could prove to be valuable asset for the promotion.
An intriguing Welterweight scrap between undefeated (12-0, 5-0) contender Gregor Gillespie and the always-entertaining Yancy Medeiros will also get some love on the main card. And it should be a barn-burner, as Medeiros is known for his preference to keep it standing, while Gillespie is happy to oblige. Medeiros is hoping to bounce back after getting smoked by Donald Cerrone a few months back, and stopping Gillespie ’s momentum will be huge. For Gillespie, taking out Medeiros in impressive fashion sets him up for bigger and better things down the road.
Also, Joseph Benavidez will look for his second straight win after inking a new UFC deal when he takes on Dustin Ortiz in 125-pound action. It won’t be easy, as Ortiz has been pretty hot as of late, winning three straight. That said, Benavidez does hold a win over Ortiz, defeating him via unanimous decision four years ago.
Much of the headlines for this event circled around Ostovich and her alleged domestic violence case, which briefly put a halt to her fight against VanZant. Determined not to let that incident get her down, Ostovich opted to remain on the card after getting doctor’s clearance. Regardless, we should be in for an entertaining night of fights.
UFC On ESPN+ 1 Full Fight Card:
ESPN+ 1 Main Event:
125 lbs.: Flyweight Champion Henry Cejudo vs. Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw
ESPN+ Main Card (10 p.m. ET):
265 lbs.: Allen Crowder vs. Greg Hardy
155 lbs.: Gregor Gillespie vs. Yancy Medeiros
125 lbs.: Joseph Benavidez vs. Dustin Ortiz
125 lbs.: Rachael Ostovich vs. Paige VanZant
205 lbs.: Karl Roberson vs. Glover Teixeira
ESPN Prelims (8 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Donald Cerrone vs. Alexander Hernandez
125 lbs.: Joanne Calderwood vs. Ariane Lipski
205 lbs.: Alonzo Menifield vs. Vinicius Castro
135 lbs.: Mario Bautista vs. Cory Sandhagen
ESPN+ Prelims (6:30 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Dennis Bermudez vs. Te Edwards
170 lbs.: Belal Muhammad vs. Geoff Neal
170 lbs.: Chance Rencountre vs. Kyle Stewart
Remember that MAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 143 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN “Prelims” undercard bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
For more upcoming UFC events click here.