Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) kicked off its venture with the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” last night (Sat., Jan. 19, 2019) by staging UFC on ESPN+ 1: “Cejudo vs. Dillashaw” in Brooklyn, New York. The event featured a Flyweight title fight that saw division kingpin Henry Cejudo take out Bantamweight champion, T.J. Dillashaw, in a little more than 30 seconds via knockout (see it again here). In the co-main event, Greg Hardy made a less-than memorable UFC debut after getting disqualified in the second round for delivering an illegal knee to the head of Allen Crowder (watch it), who was clearly a downed opponent when he ate the shot (recap).
Biggest Winner: Henry Cejudo
“The Messenger” made an emphatic statement by absolutely running through Dillashaw in just 32 seconds, shocking “The Viper,” fight fans in attendance and pretty much the world with his performance. Was it an early stoppage? Yes, as Dillashaw was still aware and fighting for a takedown before the over-zealous official put an end to the much-anticipated super fight. To that end, Henry could’ve very well continued the onslaught and ended the fight five or 10 seconds later. Or, TJ could’ve completely recovered and we could've went on to see a full 25-minute fight. And make no mistake, it was clear that TJ was very hurt.
Still, in a title fight, it needs to be crystal clear and both the champion and challenger need to have a fighting chance and get finished with no question in a situation like that. Something, I’m sure, any champion will appreciate and prefer. Unfortunately, the referee on duty jumped the gun and robbed fight fans, Dillashaw, and even Henry, to an extent. Having said all that, Cejudo is the victor and he can now boast to have beaten Demetrious Johnson and Dillashaw in back-to-back outings. And let’s not take nothing away from Cejudo, he looked calm, cool, collected and aggressive when he needed to be in that short outing and took care of business. And while a bantamweight title fight wasn’t guaranteed prior had he won, it most definitely should be now that he got a controversy-filled victory, which he shouldn’t be faulted for one bit. Next time, though, let’s have a more-experienced referee calling super fights. Please.
Runner Up: Donald Cerrone
Alexander Hernandez wasn’t shy in running his mouth and trying to degrade one of the most beloved, experienced and entertaining fighters in the history of the sport. Cerrone, however, made him eat his words with a dominant performance. As expected, Alexander came out of the gates swinging, looking for a knockout early. Cerrone has been there, seen that, so he adjusted to the fast-paced action from the jump. Once Cerrone figured out "The Great's" timing, Donald played the patient game and picked his shots carefully, picking apart the young up-and-comer while busting up his face in the process. And if you know anything about “Cowboy,” you were just waiting for him to unleash the head kick, which he did in the second round, clipping his foe with perfectly-placed strike to the head.
From there, Cerrone jumped on his wounded opponent and unleashed a barrage of strikes to put an end to the fight. That is now 22 wins inside the Octagon for Donald, putting him two ahead of former Welterweight and Middleweight champion, Georges St-Pierre. By the way, he also won $100,000 in post-fight bonuses, and likely secured a big money fight against Conor McGregor. Not a bad night for the longtime veteran.
Honorable Mention: Gregor Gillespie
If you want to see domination, all you have to do is watch Gillespie manhandle Yancy Medeiros. I mean it was a mauling. Granted, to some people who only want to see strikes on the feet, it wasn’t the prettiest site, but Gregor put on a clinic by isolating Yancy to the point that the Hawaiian landed only one clean blow in the entire fight before putting an end to the fight via strikes.
Gregor now moves to 13-0, 6-0 inside the Octagon. Currently ranked at No. 15 in the Lightweight division, “The Gift” can expect a huge bump in the coming week, which means bigger, better and tougher fights moving forward. And I’m sure he’s up to the challenge, though he is sticking to his guns of never calling anyone out. Sooner or later, though, he’s going to have to do so.
Biggest Loser: Greg Hardy
I’m putting Hardy in this spot not for the fact that he “lost,” but more-so in the manner that it all went down. Coming into the fight, Hardy knew he had to fight twice as hard to even get accepted on the big stage due to his well-documented troubled past. Furthermore, many had mixed opinions when it was announced that Greg would co-headlined the first-ever UFC on ESPN card in his debut. Still, “The Prince of War” was determined to prove his doubters wrong. Unfortunately for the ex-NFL player, it simply didn’t work out the way he expected and now he has another black cloud over him.
After failing to capture a first-round knockout win as he’s been accustomed to, Hardy looked visibly tired. But that’s to be expected when carrying such a big frame and exhausting all his strength looking for a quick finish. After going to the second round for the first time in his career, it was obvious Hardy was trying to find answers for questions he hadn’t faced yet. Then came the illegal knee, which Hardy is adamant was not intentional. I blame it on inexperience. Hardy was having more trouble against Crowder than he expected, so when he saw what he thought was a clear opening, he went for it, clipping his foe with a knee to the side of the head to take him out of the fight.
And sure, he may have “panicked” a bit, which lead to the rookie mistake. If you take a closer look at Cejudo vs Dillashaw, Henry — for a split second — almost went for a knee when TJ was fighting to get up. But “The Messenger” held back, showing his experience, something Hardy just don’t have yet. Now, all of Hardy’s Critics will surely grab on to the disqualification and use it to discount him further. Just click here for proof.
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