Despite the recent rumblings speculating that the UFC is poised to dissolve the promotion’s men’s flyweight division before the end of the year, we are set for an apparent “Bon Voyage” fight between recently crowned champion, Henry Cejudo and bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw. It is confirmed the two champions will fight for the 125lbs title at UFC 233, with Dillashaw attempting to join Conor McGregor and Daniel Cormier as the organisation’s only other “Champ Champ”.
Prior to the fight announcement, all roads seemed to wind towards a move up to bantamweight for Cejudo after he outscored once-flyweight kingpin, Demetrious Johnson, adding to his Olympic freestyle wrestling gold medal in Beijing in 2008 and his current 125lbs strap.
Dillashaw was eager to contest for the title when “Mighty Mouse” was still the best flyweight in the world and considered by many as the greatest pound for pound fighter in MMA, but the record holder for most title defences in UFC history was sceptical whether or not the Colorado-based striker was capable of cutting to the 125lbs limit. His opinion was not too deniable considering how shredded Dillashaw is when he steps on the scales ten pounds heavier.
Henry Cejudo’s quest for his premier MMA title was nothing short of blistering. Falling out of love with wrestling after claiming gold at the Olympic Games, Cejudo began his professional career just five years ago. An April 2016 pairing with DJ ultimately proved too much too soon for the Arizona native as he was stopped with knees from the clinch early in the first.
A rather dubious decision defeat to Joseph Benavidez soon followed, forcing Cejudo to climbs the ranks once more. A well rounded and notably karate styled Cejudo met Wilson Reis in his Octagon return and showed eye-catching striking to finish the submission specialist in the early stages of the second round. Next for Henry Cejudo was a title eliminator against Sergio Pettis, outpointing the tricky youngster to set up a second title tilt.
In his eventual title fight, Cejudo ate an early leg kick from Johnson and described how a trapped nerve led to his hobble throughout the round (similar to Michael Chandler’s injury in his premier clash with Bellator lightweight champion Brent Primus). “The Messenger” executed takedown after takedown to narrowly outpoint Demetrious Johnson, and immediately issued an open challenge to Dillashaw, who fought Cody Garbrandt in the main event later that night.
Former Team Alpha Male protégé T.J. Dillashaw fought through a hellfire to eventually reclaim his bantamweight crown after his controversial loss to Dominick Cruz in early 2016. Now under the tutelage of Duane ‘Bang’ Ludwig, T.J. has evolved into an incredibly poised striker and has based his camps at high altitude in Denver.
Brazil’s Raphael Assuncao was first in line for Dillashaw who avenged his decision defeat to the well-rounded contender before meeting Raphael’s compatriot John Lineker at UFC 207, breaking the heavy hitter’s jaw on his way to a so far unmatched dominant win over the Paraná favourite. A clash with the sworn enemy and then-champ Cody Garbrandt at UFC 217 was booked, and despite getting dropped in the final seconds of the first round, T.J. stumbled back to his stool and managed to sneak a left high kick to sit Cody on his butt in the second. Subsequently, he managed to clip Cody badly in a later exchange and reclaimed his title with ground and pound.
Subsequently, a rematch with Cody was booked for UFC 227 and a wild Garbrandt once more left his chin exposed and paid the price with his consciousness as Dillashaw finished him in the opening round.
UFC 233 is certainly hotting up as we approach the end of the year, with Cejudo and Dillashaw expected to headline a card which features the return of Dominick Cruz against the aforementioned Lineker and the UFC bow of Ben Askren as he meets Robbie Lawler.
Other notable bookings include lightweight clashes between James Vick and Paul Felder and Russia’s Islam Makhachev meets Brazil’s Francisco Trinaldo. The promotional debut of the highly regarded former KSW champion Ariane Lipski will occur as well as Joanne Calderwood welcomes her to the Octagon. An exciting Women’s bantamweight bout between Marion Reneau and Yana Kunitskaya has also been booked for January 26th at the Honda Centre.