One of the featured bouts of UFC Fight Night 78 is an important flyweight contest between #5 ranked Henry “The Messenger” Cejudo and the #3 ranked Jussier Formiga. The winner of this contest will likely face Demetrious Johnson for the UFC Flyweight Championship. Henry Cejudo (9-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC, -500 favorite) Cejudo is perhaps the most talked about flyweight on the UFC roster. After all, he is only the third Olympic gold medalist that has competed under the UFC banner. “The Messenger” became the youngest American to win an Olympic gold medal in wrestling in 2008, when he was only 21 years old. After failing to make the 2012 Olympic trials Cejudo decided to focus on a career as a mixed martial arts fighter. After compiling a 6-0 record, he was signed to the UFC in 2014. The Mexican-American’s debut came in December of 2014 against Dustin Kimura at 135 pounds. He dominated Kimura for three rounds and took home a decision win in front of a hometown crowd. Cejudo’s next two contests were fought at 125 pounds, which is a more natural weight class for him. The only reason he did not start at 125 pounds is because he had problems making 125 pounds prior to his arrival in the UFC. With his weight issues behind him, Cejudo fought Chris Cariaso and Chico Camus in March and June of this year, respectively. He beat both by dominant decision and is likely one fight away from receiving a title shot against reigning UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson. Obviously, Cejudo has one of the best wrestling pedigrees in the sport. He has a tremendous double-leg, but he also has several other variations of takedowns, such as single-legs, and especially takedowns from the clinch. Further, Cejudo is especially strong for the weight class and it is very difficult to get out from under him once he is on top of you. Additionally, the 28 year old uses his strength really well to hold his opponents against the fence and knee their body and legs. As far as his striking is concerned, it is pretty good for someone with only 9 professional fights. Cejudo has fast, powerful hands and he puts his combinations together well. Further, he is adept at finishing his punching combinations with hard, slapping kicks to his opponent’s body and legs. He has shown improvement every fight with integrating all phases of mixed martial arts into his game. I expect Cejudo to continue to improve at a rapid pace, considering his youth, inexperience, and desire to be the best. Jussier Formiga (18-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC, +400 underdog) The 30 year old Formiga was once considered the #1 flyweight in the world, although that was before the UFC added a flyweight division to their roster. He has compiled a 4-2 record in the UFC since signing with the promotion in 2012; with his only losses coming to top contenders John Dodson and Joseph Benavidez. Formiga is currently on a three fight UFC win streak, as he defeated Scott Jorgensen, Zach Makovsky, and Wilson Reis during that stretch. His win over Jorgensen was controversial, however, as Formiga clearly head-butted him, which rocked him and made it easy for Formiga to latch on his patented rear-naked choke. The UFC has not said if Formiga will get a shot at the belt if he beats Cejudo, but I would imagine beating four top guys in a row would at least put him in consideration. Formiga is a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt under Andre Pederneiras, who owns and runs the famed Nova Uniao gym in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The gym is home to some of the best fighters in the world, such as UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Also, Renan Barao, Claudia Gadelha, Thales Leites, and Eduardo Dantas. The Brazilian is a grappling whiz with ever improving wrestling. That is very important, obviously, because his jiu jitsu would not be as effective if he could not get his opponent to the mat. Once Formiga establishes top position he is a slick guard passer and has a knack for taking his opponent’s back very quickly. While his jiu jitsu is top-notch, his striking is not. Formiga basically just strikes to close the distance so he can grab a hold of his opponent or attempt a takedown. His strikes have little power and he does not throw combinations well. Additionally, he works at a glacial pace on the feet, often throwing only one strike at a time and never seems to possess any sense of urgency. Thoughts This matchup favors Cejudo in multiple ways, and the odds indicate that. Formiga’s only logical way to win this fight is to get Cejudo’s back in a scramble and choke him out. I find that to be unlikely. Cejudo is a massively better wrestler than Formiga and also holds a sizeable advantage on the feet. I can see Cejudo grinding out a decision by oustriking Formiga on the feet and pressing him up against the fence and using dirty boxing. I can also see Cejudo earning his first knockout victory in the UFC, as he has fast, powerful hands, and Formiga does not have the greatest chin. Prediction: Henry Cejudo defeats Jussier Formiga by unanimous decision
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