Post-Fight Thoughts: Demetrious Johnson -vs- Henry Cejudo 2
On a somewhat uneven fight card, in terms of fight quality, the co-main event of UFC 227 was a closely contested bout that produced a rather shocking result. Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson, the only champion the UFC's flyweight division has ever known, lost his title as the result of a somewhat controversial split decision. It was a very close fight, and I can see room for some differences in scoring, though I think 4-1 for Henry Cejudo — as one judge had it — is completely indefensible. At no point in the fight did I have Cejduo outstriking "Mighty Mouse," which is what would have had to happen in order to give him more than 2 rounds.
Personally, I had the fight 3-2 in favour of Demetrious Johnson; I thought he won the first, third and fifth rounds with superior striking and defence. Henry Cejudo clearly won the second and fourth rounds, the result of securing takedowns and maintaining top position for several minutes in what were otherwise uneventful rounds. As no point did Cejudo appear to have Johnson hurt, or in danger of being submitted, but did win the round based on control — and in those frames Johnson had little to no offence of his own. Prior to the scores being read aloud, I thought it was clear who won each round even if the fight was very competitive throughout.
That said, the reality is that Henry Cejudo is now the UFC flyweight champion. Demetrious Johnson was as professional as one could be given the position he was put in, handing over a belt he had defended 11 times previously — smashing almost every title-related record in the books in the process — and didn't undermine Cejudo's win or make a spectacle of himself. Even non-gamblers on social media seemed more incensed that "Mighty Mouse," who seemed to take everything in stride. In the wake of this loss, the inevitable claims that Johnson was overrated have already been made. I don't think that's legitimate critique, however; Johnson has consistently fought the best competition the flyweight division has had to offer.
The reality is that Johnson has been performing at an elite level, at the very top of his division, for 6 years now. It's only a matter of time before a fighter picks up a loss, for one reason or another. Henry Cejudo is an Olympic calibre athlete who is still developing as a fighter. Demetrious Johnson steamrolled Cejudo in their first encounter, but that didn't tell us much about either man that night — there was no time to gather useful data. Johnson landed a crippling body shot early, and notched a quick finish. This time out, the two were much more evenly matched — even with Cejudo looking to have rolled his ankle in the opening minute of the fight — and neither man ended up in real danger at any point.
I think it does a disservice to Henry Cejudo to say that Demetrious Johnson was overrated coming into their rematch. Unless one assumed Johnson to be literally unbeatable, it was all but impossible to overrated such a tenured, talented fighter. I expected a close fight, one that went to the scorecards, but figured "Mighty Mouse" would notch another clear victory. I expected Cejudo to fade in later rounds, and thought Johnson would be more successful with his stand-up. Neither of those two theories came true, as Cejudo's stamina was on point throughout every round, and Johnson looked markedly uncomfortable in the boxing exchanges.
Given the length of Johnson's title reign, and the dominant wins that made up so many of his title defences, one would expect a rematch to be scheduled ASAP. Had Johnson won, the UFC likely would have pushed for him to move up and fight the 135-pound champion — the winner of the UFC 227 main event — but that's no longer on the table. For no other reason than spite, I could see the UFC trying to book Cejudo versus Dillashaw first, rather than running this fight back immediately. Whether that fight can be made is anyone's guess, as Cejudo is hardly as enticing an opponent as a champion who has held their title for over half-a-decade.
Still, it's 2018 and the UFC has a disturbing fixation on champ versus champ fights, and has no qualms over minting interim titles with only the slightest provocation. Also, given the fact that Johnson routinely clashed with the UFC over his refusal to fight Dillashaw in the past, and has never been a big draw are all factors working against him. In a just world, Demetrious Johnson would be penciled in for a rematch with Cejudo already, but life isn't far and MMA doubly so. The rematch is the most likely next step, but it's not a foregone conclusion by any means.
Published: August 5th, 2018.