Cejudo (12-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC), a onetime title challenger, used his Olympic wrestling pedigree to deposit Pettis (16-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) on the mat and control him there, resulting in a shutout on judges’ scorecards.
The flyweight bout was part of the main card of today’s UFC 218 event at the new Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit. It aired on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.
The final scores were all 30-27 for Cejudo, who picked up his second straight win after a pair of setbacks to champ Demetrious Johnson and perennial contender Joseph Benavidez, respectively.
Just as significant was the cold water thrown on the idea of Pettis as fresh blood for champ Johnson. Had he defeated Cejudo, he would have picked up his fifth straight win and undoubtedly triggered calls for a title shot.
Instead, he was largely a sitting duck on the mat. And things didn’t go much better on the feet.
Cejudo gave Pettis just enough trouble in striking to catch his opponent off-guard at every shot. Even then, his technique was several notches above when it came to takedowns. Pettis’ efforts to set up submissions were shut down.
Pettis did his best work in the third round, which his corner told him in no uncertain terms was his final change to right the scales. In extended exchanges, he snuck in several crisp shots. And after an inevitable trip to the mat, he got back to his feet with 90 seconds to work.
But rather than let it hang out, Pettis waited for the perfect opportunity that never came. And for some reason, he decided a takedown attempt would be his final statement.
Cejudo stuffed that, too.
Up-to-the-minute UFC 218 results include:
Henry Cejudo def. Sergio Pettis via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Pettis (16-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC), who meets Henry Cejudo (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) in a potential flyweight title eliminator on Saturday’s UFC 218 pay-per-view main card following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, would likely be viewed as the obvious next contender for Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) should he emerge victorious.
The problem, however, is that the UFC has expressed interest in having bantamweight champ Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) drop down a weight class to fight Johnson in what would have to be considered the most significant matchup in 125-pound history. Pettis would be the odd man out if the promotion moves forward with those plans, but surprisingly, he said he’s OK with that.
“I’m 24 years old, I’m getting better and better, and if they want me to fight again before a title, I’m good with that,” Pettis told MMAjunkie at Thursday’s UFC 218 media day. “I’m building my resume, getting some money on top of it and getting some experience. T.J. vs. DJ, that’s an interesting fight, even for me. I’m a fan of the sport. It’s entertainment and it makes sense. It’s part of the business. I have no hatred towards that. I understand it. If they want me to build my resume and get to that DJ shot, I will. If I have a great performance against Henry Cejudo, maybe I can get there.”
Although Pettis’ title aspirations are strong, he knows his youth puts him at an advantage. Whether it’s one fight or 10 fights, “The Phenom” promises to flourish with every performance the same way he has to this point in his career.
He has a gargantuan task ahead at UFC 218, though, because outside “Mighty Mouse,” Cejudo is as good as it gets in the flyweight division. Cejudo said his power will be the difference in the fight, and brings that confidence following a knockout of Wilson Reis at UFC 215 in September. Pettis, however, said he’s not buying it.
“Most of his wins are by decision, besides his last fight,” Pettis said. “Wilson was there to get hit by that power. I’ve got five inches of reach on this guy. I’ve got movement. He doesn’t have that power there. He’s going to fall onto my sword and he’s going to fall into my striking.”
If all goes according to plan, Pettis said he hopes to be the one scoring the knockout win. He believes his style meshes well with Cejudo and insists he’s going to send a message to “The Messenger” on fight night.
“I want to get a knockout on my belt,” Pettis said. “First win by not decision. Whatever happens, happens. I’m going to go out there and push the pace. I believe my style is different now. I’m not longer a little boy. I’m a grown man. My style is going to make him come in and think he has the power. I’m going to hit him with something hard and he’s not going to expect it. If not, I’m going to pick that face away all night.”
“If Demetrious doesn’t fight T.J., I’ll welcome T.J. to the flyweight division,” Cejudo told MMAjunkie in advance of his meeting with Sergio Pettis (16-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) on Saturday at UFC 218, which takes place at Litle Caesars Arena in Detroit and airs on pay-per-view. “Because I know what it’s like to cut 10 pounds, and I know how much that stuff hurts.
“I know if he’s going to take a crack at DJ, it’s a whole new ball game at 125. You’re not going to feel the same as at 135, and DJ seems to do very, very well at 125 pounds. So I wouldn’t mind welcoming him to the weight class as a home sweet homecoming for Dillashaw.”
But first, Cejudo has his eye on Pettis, who’s won his past four at flyweight and could be a title contender with a win. Another shot at Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) is Cejudo’s ultimate goal.
If he has to detour for another champ, however, all the better.
+ RFA flyweight title
+ Taekwondo black belt (2nd degree)
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt
+ 3 KO victories
+ 3 submission wins
+ 5 first-round finishes
+ Excellent footwork
+ Accurate jab and cross
^ Pulls and returns well
+ Dangerous head kicks
^ Strikes well off of the breaks
+ Improved wrestling ability
^ Good hips and wrist controls
+ Accurate and attacking guard
Cejudo, one of the most decorated wrestlers to step foot into the cage, is still looking to score championship glory in MMA. Coming off an impressive win over recent title challenger Wilson Reis, Cejudo will seek to state his case for a second chance at the belt.
Brother to former UFC champ Anthony Pettis, Sergio is paving a path of his own, and he too would like to capture UFC gold. And if Pettis means to get himself into the conversation at 125 pounds, he will first need to make good on the main-stage against the dangerous contender that is before him.
Coming from a traditional taekwondo base, Pettis has arguably done a better job than his brother in regards to translating this style to the cage. Although Pettis is not as flashy as his brother (nor does he have the highlight reel to compare), there is an economical flow to the way in which he mixes his punches and kicks, and he also works at a much more consistent pace.
Not only does Pettis work in his kicking attacks seamlessly, but his point-fighting style of footwork has complemented his boxing nicely, utilizing his heightened sense of range to fuel his pulls and returns. Still, despite having accurate jab-cross continuums he works well from, Pettis will need to respect the power that Cejudo will be firing back at him.
Consistently demonstrating a stick-and-move curriculum, the former freestyle wrestler displays a surprising fluidity, seldom throwing himself out of position. Favoring cross-hook combinations, he often punctuates his presence with hard kicks to the body.
Recently, we have seen Cejudo only improve. In his bout against Joseph Benavidez last year, the Olympic champion displayed an upgraded muay Thai arsenal from his time spent at CSA in Northern California.
When watching him against Reis a few months ago, Cejudo took things to a different level, coming out in a sharp karate stance that he picked up while working with the Pitbull brothers (Bellator’s Patricio and Patricky) in Brazil. Showing off an improved sense of range, Cejudo was able to time and counter his opponent precisely with palpable speed and power.
Regardless of Cejudo’s confidence in his striking, it is inside the clinch where he is most comfortable, and I will be interested to see how much he forces the issue in this fight.
Utilizing fundamental hand-fighting, Cejudo will subtly stifle his opponent’s offense inside as he delivers a healthy dose of hard knees whenever in close. When able to establish a body lock, the former freestyle wrestler is quick to hit his inside trips.
That said, Pettis can be difficult to pin down due to his footwork and spatial awareness of when to leave and when to stay.
Demonstrating good posture to go along with a consistent hand-fighting and underhook awareness of his own, I think that Pettis could surprise Cejudo if he stays disciplined in defense.
Working with Izzy Martinez for his past few camps, we have seen steady improvements to Pettis’ wrestling, especially in the transitional phases of his grappling.
Already possessing crafty leg dexterity and wrist controls, Pettis now shows more process and understanding to his actions, and he was able to successfully navigate out of some tight spots in his last couple of outings. Should these two end up exchanging inside of grappling stanzas, I will be intrigued to see how each fighter has progressed.
The oddsmakers and public feel pretty confident in the former Olympian, currently listing Cejudo -280 and Pettis +240 as of this writing.
As someone who felt good about Pettis’ chances when the matchup was attempted the first time around – my opinion has admittedly changed since, primarily off of the strength of Cejudo’s last performance.
Don’t get me wrong: This is a winnable fighter for Pettis, who I could see sneaking his savvy kicking attacks over or under the shoulders of Cejudo. And if younger Pettis brother had five rounds to work within, then perhaps he could pull away on the scorecards.
But ultimately, I see Cejudo landing the more meaningful blows and likely hitting opportunistic takedowns along the way to a competitive but clear decision.
Officials from the UFC’s anti-doping partner, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), today announced a finding of no-fault after standout UFC flyweight Brandon Moreno failed a drug test.
Moreno (14-4 MMA, 3-1 UFC) failed a drug test for trace amounts of the banned substance clenbuterol. But after an investigation, USADA determined that the positive likely came from contaminated meat, an issue well-known to the anti-doping agency.
Consequently, USADA ruled Moreno ingested clenbuterol “without fault or negligence,” clearing him of a potential anti-doping violation.
“Consistent with numerous prior reported cases globally, the issue of illicit administration of clenbuterol to animals destined for food production can result in, under specific conditions, a positive sample from an athlete,” USADA stated in a press release sent to MMAjunkie. “Both USADA and WADA have issued specific warnings about this problem in China and Mexico.”
Moreno, a native of Tijuana, Mexico, failed an in-competition test in the early hours of Aug. 6, after a unanimous-decision loss to Sergio Pettis (16-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 114, which took place at Mexico City Arena in Mexico City. USADA then looked into his whereabouts prior to the fight, his dietary habits, and laboratory reports showing “very low parts per billion concentrations of the prohibited substance.”
“Based on this information, USADA concluded that the presence of clenbuterol in the athlete’s sample very likely resulted from clenbuterol-contaminated meat consumed in Mexico,” the release stated. “USADA’s investigation also took into consideration the negative results for samples collected from Moreno both before and after his positive test. As a result, Moreno will not face a period of ineligibility for his positive test.”
On WADA’s banned substance list, clenbuterol, a stimultant, is on a short list of “other anabolic agents” banned at all times. A first-time UFC offender would likely face a two-year suspension.
While Moreno escapes a sanction as the result of USADA’s findings, the anti-doping agency issued another warning about clenbuterol-tainted meat.
“While the risk of … testing positive for an athlete is extremely small, consistent with past athlete advisories, USADA reminds athletes to use the utmost care if eating meat in known high risk countries, including Mexico and China,” the release stated. “In line with WADA recommendations, USADA will continue to assess the presence of clenbuterol in an athlete’s sample on a case by case basis, taking into account all the evidence supporting the likelihood of such contamination.”
Moreno joins a list of fighters cleared by USADA for accidentally ingesting clenbuterol, including Mexican UFC veteran Augusto Montano and Chinese fighters Ning Guangyou and Li Jingliang.
Moreno’s loss to Pettis snapped a three-fight winning streak and temporarily dashed his hopes of getting into title contention.
MMAjunkie today spoke with Cejudo’s (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) manager, Ali Abdelaziz of Dominance MMA, and confirmed Cejudo evacuated from the fire and still intends on fighting Pettis (16-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) at UFC 218, which takes place Dec. 2 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. The card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.
“He woke up to the fire alarm, but he thought it was just a false alarm so he went back to sleep,” Abdelaziz told MMAjunkie. “He woke up at 4 a.m. to his room being filled with smoke. He had no choice but to jump (from the balcony) on the second floor. He landed on some fire and burned his foot. He’s safe.”
Abdelaziz said the damage to Cejudo’s foot isn’t overly severe. He confirmed there was no broken ankle, as sfchronicle.com first reported, instead described the damage as “scabbing and blisters.” The physical injuries will heal, but the disappointment of losing some significant personal items is likely to last much longer.
Cejudo was in the area to attend Ronnie Lott’s celebrity fundraiser at Mayacama Golf Club in Santa Rosa, Calif. Abdelaziz said “The Messenger” was able to escape the hotel room with only his cell phone and was forced to leave behind the gold medal he won in the 2008 Olympic games, other awards from his wrestling career, an iPad, clothing and more.
After going through the experience, Abdelaziz said Cejudo, No. 3 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA flyweight rankings, leaves today for Brazil to begin his training camp for No. 6-ranked Pettis alongside Bellator standouts Patricio and Patricky Freire.
Many consider the UFC 218 fight between Cejudo and Pettis as a title-eliminator in the 125-pound division. Cejudo said following his second-round knockout of Wilson Reis at UFC 215 in September that he’s gunning for a rematch with champ Demetrious Johnson, who handed him a first-round TKO loss at UFC 197 in April 2016.
“I’m the one (to defeat Johnson),” Cejudo said. “I know I’m the one. I have the style, I have the wrestling. I know I’m the one to beat Demetrious Johnson. No disrespect to these fighters, no disrespect to any of them. Anybody has that fighter’s chance, but I believe I have the style to eventually beat him, and I truly do believe that.”
Deadly fires in Southern California caused mass evacuations on Monday, and it appears they may have seriously impacted one high-profile UFC fighter.
Henry Cejudo (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC), who is scheduled to fight Sergio Pettis (16-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) at December’s UFC 218 event, reportedly suffered a broken ankle while jumping off a second-floor balcony during an evacuation. The news comes from sfchronicle.com.
“UFC fighter Henry Cejudo didn’t evacuate from the Fountaingrove Inn in Santa Rosa and broke his ankle jumping from a second-story balcony,” the report reads.
Cejudo and his manager, Ali Abdelaziz, did not immediately respond for comment today when contacted by MMAjunkie. UFC officials haven’t made a formal announcement regarding the the status of the bout.
Matheus Aquino, a manager to Bellator standouts and Cejudo training partners Patricio and Patricky Freire, wrote on Twitter that the report was accurate (via Twitter):
UFC 218 takes place Dec. 2 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass, though the final bout order hasn’t been finalized.
If Cejudo, No. 3 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA flyweight rankings, did in fact suffer a broken ankle, it’s likely he wouldn’t be recovered in time to compete against No. 6-ranked Pettis in what many considered a title-eliminator in the UFC flyweight division.
So now Johnson has records and highlights that may never be topped. Who knows, he might even be on the verge of breaking through to another level of popularity with fans, since even the most curmudgeonly flyweight hater has to admit that he’s something special now.
Opportunity is in the air for the champ. But if he squanders it now, it may never come again.
Realistically, there are two options for Johnson’s next fight: 1) He can fight another flyweight, continuing his reign of terror over all 125-pound men, or 2) He can fight a bantamweight, essentially accepting a weight handicap as a means to test his skill.
If he goes with door No. 1, we’re probably looking at a fight against the winner of Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis, who are set to square off in December. The problem is, Johnson has already beaten Cejudo – easily – and he’d be a huge favorite to do the same to Pettis, who’s still a work in progress at 24.
This is a side effect of Johnson’s greatness. He’s dominated his own weight class so thoroughly that any fight in that division now comes with at least the perception of a low degree of difficulty. It feels like he’s walking a tightrope that’s six inches off the ground. He looks good doing it, and he manages to pull off some amazing tricks on his way across, but it never feels like he’s in any real danger.
That brings us to the second option. Johnson’s been reluctant to go back up to bantamweight without the promise of a big payday, and he balked at welcoming a bigger fighter to his division because he worried that a problem on the scales might prevent him from breaking the title-defense record.
Both those concerns seem less like dealbreakers now. Johnson already has the record, so a failed weight cut wouldn’t be such a big deal. And the UFC could sure use a champion-vs.-champion superfight right about now, since there aren’t too many marquee attractions on the calendar past early November.
The point is, now feels like the time for something special. And since Johnson’s record is a testament to his consistency and longevity when it comes to the task of beating up flyweights, watching him beat up one more probably isn’t going to feel all that novel.
Now’s the time for a new challenge, one he might actually fail at.
If not, he risks letting his success become so common that we take it – and him – for granted.
If victorious on Saturday at UFC 216, Demetrious Johnson will have sole possession of the UFC title-defense record with 11. He’ll also have his eye on which opponents could bring him his 12th and 13th title defenses.
In UFC 216’s pay-per-view co-headliner at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, flyweight champ Johnson (26-2-1 MMA, 14-1-1 UFC) looks for the record when he meets Ray Borg (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC).
The bout, which was rescheduled after Borg fell ill during his UFC 215 weigh cut, could allow Johnson to move past Anderson Silva and set a new record for perhaps MMA’s most prestigious record.
“It would mean the world (to get the title defense record),” Johnson said during a media luncheon on Monday (watch it above). “Obviously there hasn’t been another champion out there to have this many consecutive title defenses year after year.
“It’s not just that; it’s always staying healthy, always improving and trying to go out there and finish my opponents. I’m passing all my drug tests. If I get past this, No. 11, and I’m healthy, I can do another one – maybe 12 or 13 – then we’ll go from there.”
Johnson, who’s No. 1 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA flyweight rankings (and No. 2 pound-for-pound), will have cleaned out most of the division if he gets by No. 5-ranked Borg. But before a possible move up to 135 pounds – he’s thus far put it off because he’s focused on 125 pounds, and because he wants bigger paydays if he moves up – “Mighty Mouse” said his current division has some worth challengers.
“I think Sergio Pettis has more of style that will give Henry Cejudo fits because he’s been around the block a little more,” Johnson said. “It’ll be a good fight. I think (the winner is next in line). Obviously Henry Cejudo just came back and got in the winner column. Pettis, he’s on a three-fight win streak, and if he wins this fight, I think he’s the No. 1 contender in the flyweight division. He has four fights in a row.”
And after that? A move to bantamweight is possible, though Johnson eventually realized there could be one more 125-pound opponent: unranked and undefeated Magomed Bibulatov (14-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who meets former title challenger and No. 11-ranked John Moraga (17-6 MMA, 6-5 UFC) on Saturday’s UFC 216 early prelims on UFC Fight Pass prelims.
“I can’t think of another athlete – maybe Magomed Bibulatov,” Johnson said. “I can’t think of how many he has in a row, but we’ll see what happens.”
Fellow flyweight Henry Cejudo (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) had barely cooled off from his assertive UFC 215 display over Wilson Reis when Pettis (16-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC), fresh off a big win of his own, took to Instagram to issue a polite but clear callout to the ex-title-challenger.
“Congrats Henry Cejudo on the performance,” Pettis posted on Saturday. “I recall you saying you owe me for the last time we were scheduled. Detroit (UFC 218) in December?”
As Pettis said, the two were set to meet before, but a hand injury forced Cejudo to withdraw from last May’s UFC 211 during fight week. Since then, Pettis has added a fourth win to his current streak with a UFC Fight Night 114 decision over Brandon Moreno. Cejudo, in turn, snapped a two-fight skid with his second-round knockout of Reis.
Pettis had also taken other opportunities to make it known – albeit less kindly – that his interest in Cejudo stands.
It’s convenient, then, that Cejudo is also interested in the matchup. While he did express his desire for another stab at champ Demetrious Johnson, who knocked him out at UFC 197 in April 2016, the Olympic champ also knows that’s probably not next in the cards for him.
In comes Pettis.
“I like that fight,” Cejudo said at the post-fight conference. “I know he’s one guy that wants me, and so do I. I’ve just got to sit down with my team. I don’t make decisions on my own, but absolutely, I want to fight the best guys out there.”
Of course, we know better than trusting matchups to happen before both players are in the cage. But, all in all, it seems like the UFC matchmakers are not going to have a problem with this one.