Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its presence known to Brooklyn, New York, last Sat. night (Jan. 19, 2019) for its first-ever event on ESPN+. UFC Fight Night 143 proved to be an excellent card, topped with a super fight between Bantamweight and Flyweight champions TJ Dillashaw and Henry Cejudo. In addition, the rest of the main card and undercard featured a number of fan favorites — the UFC was hoping to impress to begin the new deal. Let’s take a look at the best techniques and performances of the night!
Flyweight Survives... Maybe
Leading up to last night’s main event, the future of the Flyweight division was uncertain. Hell, it’s still uncertain. However, the division was absolutely doomed if Dillashaw won the belt, immediately abandoned it, and jump back to 135 lbs.
Instead, Cejudo made short work of the Bantamweight kingpin, walking him down with hard right kicks before clubbing him upside the head with a right hand. Dillashaw fell hard and tried to scramble, but Cejudo continued to fire accurate punches straight into his jaw through the transitions. Dillashaw managed to regain his footing, but Cejudo pounced and sent him back to the mat with a left hook and more follow up punches.
The stoppage was perhaps a touch early, but as a Flyweight myself, my sympathy is limited.
Cejudo is a better fighter than he gets credit for. Even if you think he lost the fight with “Mighty Mouse,” it was an incredibly close contest with a pound-for-pound great. He follows up that excellent showing with an even better one, smacking around the champion of the weight class above his own.
There will be temptation for Cejudo to follow Dillashaw back to 135 lbs., which I hope does not happen. Dillashaw at Bantamweight would be a much tougher fight, but more importantly, the division needs a champion. It has one in Cejudo, but it also has the most legitimate challenger on the roster in Benavidez, who does hold a fairly recent win over the Olympian.
ESPN Gets The Full UFC Experience
The organization’s move to ESPN will hopefully bring about another set of eyes and more exposure for the sport. As such, there were high expectations for the first event: “Fight Night” events do not normally feature a super fight title match in the main or Donald Cerrone gracing the “Prelims” portion of the event.
It was a classic night of MMA. There were plenty of highlights, from the main event knockout to the opening rear naked choke of the night’s first fight. Young prospects showed improvement, and a few tricky veterans showed that experience is vital in this game.
Being MMA, it was not without controversy. Greg Hardy was already the most controversial figure of the event, but he added to his negative reputation with an illegal knee following a back-and-forth fight, finding himself on the wrong end of a disqualification loss. Otherwise, the absolutely terrible pacing that UFC fans are accustomed to was forced on more potential fans, although the ESPN+ was managed nicely.
- Gregor Gillespie defeats Yancy Medeiros via R3 TKO: The question leading up to this fight was if Medeiros could time a big shot on Gillespie, a man who has performed wonderfully but not been the most difficult to punch. Gillespie never gave him the chance, closing distance early and landing an endless series of takedowns. Medeiros’ takedown defense and scrambling abilities are both legitimately good; didn’t matter. Gillespie maintained an absurd pace, wearing Medeiros down and eventually finishing him from top position.
- Joseph Benavidez defeats Dustin Ortiz via decision: An excellent rematch from four years prior, Benavidez and Ortiz threw down in one of the most grueling wrestling matches in a while. Benavidez took the first round with a combination of calf kicks and clubbing hooks, whereas Ortiz stole a competitive second with a late takedown. All up for grabs in the final frame, Benavidez’s takedowns and top control were relentless. Ortiz never stopped scrambling and made it a fun fight, but “Beefcake” was a step ahead.
- Paige VanZant defeats Rachel Ostovich via R2 submission: VanZant’s well-deserved reputation as a talented-but-flawed fighter once again reasserted itself last night. VanZant looked a little better on her feet, but she still left herself open to the same overhand right-takedown combo multiple times. Luckily, Ostovich fell off the back mount in the second round, granting VanZant top position. Once there, VanZant was dominant: her ability to break down Ostovich from back mount was genuine skill! Not long after, she switched to an armbar and finished the fight probably a minute and a half after getting on top... so why didn’t she try to score a takedown from the beginning?
- Glover Teixeira defeats Karl Roberson via R1 submission: Teixeira is not the top contender he once was, but nor is the wizened Brazilian a fool. He did not initially take the path of least resistance opposite a short-notice but dangerous replacement in Roberson, who nearly knocked him out with elbows. Luckily, Teixeira routinely finishes anyone he’s able to gain top position against, and the powerful Brazilian was able to scramble his way on top. Advancing into mount with heavy strikes. this fight was no different, as Teixeira secured an arm triangle choke after smashing his foe a bit.
- Donald Cerrone defeats Alexander Hernandez via R2 TKO: Hernandez is a tough sumbitch with a deep gas tank, and he tried to overwhelm “Cowboy” like every past foe. The problem, however, is that rushing straight towards Cerrone hasn’t worked in at least half a decade. Cerrone’s addition of snap kicks and most vitally the intercepting knee paid dividends against an opponent always there to be hit. There is no level of conditioning that can survive dozens of body shots, meaning Hernandez’s hands slowly drifted down as his breathing labored, allowing a high kick to slip through.
- Alonzo Menifield defeats Vinicius Moreira by R1 KO: I don’t have too much to say on the technical end here, but Menifield possesses a strong wrestling background and right hand that is not to be trifled with. He’s a valuable addition to the 205 lbs. division.
- Cory Sandhagen defeats Mario Bautista via R1 Submission: Sandhagen was already one of Bantamweight’s absolute top-notch prospects following stellar displays of Dillashaw-esque kickboxing, body work, and conditioning, but the prospect continued to impress with new skills last night. Against a short-notice replacement, Sandhagen countered a takedown attempt with an inverted triangle, constantly attacking with different submissions until an armbar ended the bout.
- Geoff Neal defeats Belal Muhammad by decision: Quick, who’s the best fighter to emerge from the Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series? Three fights into his UFC career, Neal has made a compelling argument. The Southpaw’s left hand is like a piston, one that bloodied Muhammad badly and kept him from getting into any type of groove. This bout had a reputation ahead of time as a possible “Fight of the Night” affair, but instead Neal just showed off his skill and potential for a clear-cut win.
For complete UFC Fight Night 143 “Dillasahw vs. Cejudo” results and play-by-play, click HERE!