Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight talents Henry Cejudo and Dominick Cruz will collide this Saturday (May 9, 2020) at UFC 249 from inside VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
I am baffled that this match up is happening, yet remain at least a little intrigued by it. Cejudo’s recent run of victories has been pretty incredible, as he dispatched divisional greats to capture and defend the Flyweight title before climbing to 135 pounds and ending Marlon Moraes’ own vicious streak of wins. Then, unfortunately, he began calling out older fighters on losing streaks.
Despite being injured for a majority of the last four years, Cruz is miraculously healthy (knock on wood) and ready to fight in precisely the unique three-week period that would allow him to jump into a title fight ... or perhaps he’s just concealing his injuries due to the massive opportunity.
Either way, no one really knows what to expect. Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: T.J. Dillashaw (UFC on ESPN+ 1), Demetrious Johnson (UFC 227), Marlon Moraes (UFC 238), 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: Take another glance at the above section — Cejudo has put together a remarkable resume in the last couple years. The Olympic gold medalist has done so on the strength of both his wrestling and vastly improved kickboxing. Really, everything just seems to be clicking well for “The Messenger.”
During the run up to his Flyweight title win, Cejudo really switched up his striking style, adjusting his stance to more a Karate style and relying on counters more often. He’s been a more straightforward club-and-wrestle fighter in his last three bouts to great success, but it’s time to focus on movement once more.
Cruz is going to run around like usual, but Cody Garbrandt showed Cruz can be countered if patiently tracked. Cejudo has the ability to replicate that game plan by stalking Cruz and exploding occasionally, which forces Cruz to fire back lest he fall behind on the cards. When Cruz steps in to punch, Cejudo has a fair chance at clubbing him.
Cejudo has another advantage here with his wrestling background. Cejudo is going to be largely impossible to take/hold down, which means he can more freely fire low and body kicks as Cruz circles. Those kicks can really slow Cruz down if landed consistently, making it easier to track down the evasive “Dominator.”
Key Victories: TJ Dillashaw (UFC Fight Night 81), Urijah Faber (UFC 132, UFC 199), Demetrious Johnson (UFC on Versus 6), Takeya Mizugaki (UFC 178)
Key Losses: Cody Garbrandt (UFC 207), Urijah Faber (WEC 26)
Keys to Victory: Cruz is a definite innovator, one of the first to put so much emphasis on footwork and false starts. As a result of his unique style, two elements of Cruz’s greatness are commonly forgotten: amazing wrestling and an endless gas tank.
Assuming Cruz is close to his previous level of fitness and skill — an admittedly huge, largely baseless assumption — there’s a reason many of his peers are confident in his abilities to frustrate Cejudo. Cruz will be significantly taller and longer, which will definitely benefit him while kickboxing at range.
In truth, Cejudo is still a touch unproven at Bantamweight. Marlon Moraes’ powerful kicks proved a nearly impenetrable wall ... until the Brazilian fatigued. Cruz may be able to back Cejudo off with his running low and high kicks, which may not land as hard as Moraes’ lightning strikes, but still have serious impact.
Cruz’s jab, a long underrated weapon, will also be pretty important here. The more effectively Cruz is able to establish his distance weapons, the more likely he’ll be able to avoid Cejudo’s own power shots.
Weirdness aside, the Bantamweight title is on the line!
Even in 2020, Cruz’s name carries major weight. Cejudo has a real opportunity to bulk up that already impressive resume further by adding the former champion to his list of victories. Hopefully, a win here would also fulfill Cejudo’s desire to face legends, rather than active top contenders.
A loss, meanwhile, could send Cejudo back to Flyweight? It’s hard to say for sure, but he’d definitely have options.
Alternatively, this is really Cruz’s final chance at recapturing gold. He’s not going to return in another four years following consecutive losses to another instant title shot (right?!?). The only way back to the title if he were to lose here is consistently making it to the Octagon, which simply hasn’t happened for him.
On the plus side, what a hugely legendary moment it would be for Cruz to return in style and take out “Triple C” — it would certainly solidify his reputation as the Bantamweight G.O.A.T.!
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 249 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+/Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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At UFC 249, Henry Cejudo and Dominick Cruz will go to war at UFC 249. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?