April 23rd, 2016 UFC 197 Flyweight Championship: Demetrious Johnson vs Henry Cejudo By @fightnomics Big Picture How do you measure dominance in MMA? First, it’s winning long enough to hold that rare title, becoming the best in the world for a given weight class. Then, once a title is won, you have to defend it. You have to take on all comers, each one the next most dangerous fighter around. And you have to keep doing it again and again. Demetrious Johnson had the nickname “Mighty Mouse” long before becoming the first ever UFC Flyweight champion, and yet it’s a far more appropriate nickname now that he is the longest reigning active champion. Since winning the inaugural Flyweight in 2012, Johnson has been a favorite in all seven successful title defenses, and somehow still continues to elevate his game. His most recent defense came against the speedy and powerful John Dodson, and yet Johnson seems a step ahead in a dominant striking performance. In fact, looking back through his UFC career, only twice has Johnson looked beatable, and both episodes occurred on the mat. Enter Olympic free-style wrestling gold medalist Henry Cejudo, an undefeated prospect who sailed to the top of the division in short order. Cejudo didn’t even have his first professional MMA fight until after Johnson had already won the UFC title, and yet that’s because Cejudo was doing equally impressive things on wrestling mats around the world. He’s a fresh face, and somewhat of an unknown prospect in terms of his MMA potential, and he makes a compelling adversary for Johnson who has not really been pushed to the limit during his title reign. Summary Stats:
Striking Matchup: While on feet, Johnson will have the advantages based on prior performance, continuous improvement, and a vast amount of cage experience. Johnson is typically a higher volume striker, and likes to utilize a varied attack with a high mix of leg kicks. He strikes in combinations, then quickly moves away before taking any counters. His accuracy is good, but his defense is best in class. So on a per exchange basis, Johnson is constantly scoring points and staying out of danger, all while dictating the pace of the fight. This scores very well on the scorecards. Cejudo, on the other hand, is more of a reserved power puncher. He uses very few jabs, but he has solid accuracy with his power strikes. Power strikers don’t typically set the pace of exchanges, and Cejudo usually throws less volume than opponents, which will be a problem for him with judges. He swings with intensity, but not enough to keep up with Johnson’s pace. There is however the possibility that he will bait Johnson’s entrances, and time a powerful counter that does some damage. Timing is everything. Grappling Matchup: Here’s where things get really interesting. Johnson’s lone and rare weakness has been on the ground, while unquestionably this is exactly where Cejudo’s greatest strength lies. And yet, to date anyway, we haven’t seen much of Cejudo’s wrestling in the cage. Johnson has been a little better than average both offensively, and defensively. Cejudo has been perfect on defense, but mediocre on offense. There will definitely be a battle here, and the real question will be: how well does Cejudo’s wrestling translate to MMA at this level, and can he impose his will on Mighty Mouse? Recently, we saw another fast-tracked prospect hold back on their true skills. Women’s Bantamweight Holly Holm eased into a title shot on some somewhat underwhelming performances, then unleashed beast-mode to knockout the previously undefeated and unstoppable Ronda Rousey. Perhaps Cejudo has been holding back on his best tools, hoping not to tip his hand until he’s on the biggest stage. If we see him able to land and hold a takedown in Round one, that will be a potential game changer that could alter the course of the fight. And leading up to that milestone will be a very strategic battle for position that might slow the pace of striking down while each fighter conservatively tests each other out. Fightnomics Pick: Johnson by Decision, the Over 4.5 rounds (Click for latest MMA odds) Fightnomics Play: Taking Johnson straight up with so much uncertainty is very expensive and risky. Expect a lot of action on parlays with Johnson and Jones that could drive the price even higher. But even if Johnson does get put in bad spots, he’s a skilled defensive fighter and that position battle could take several rounds to play out. The most likely scenario is that this fight goes to a decision, partially because Johnson is unlikely to get submission opportunities on Cejudo, and also because Johnson’s striking may be curtailed due to the threat of takedowns. Cejudo is also unlikely to become the first to ever finish Johnson in a fight, and yet both fighters should be able to stay active and able to defend themselves for all five rounds. This all points to a close decision and the most likely scenario. The numbers favor the incumbent champion as the more effective round-to-round winner, but also with Cejudo’s wrestling leaving the door open for an upset. Anyone playing Johnson should consider a hedge on Cejudo by Decision. For more statistical analysis of MMA, get the book “Fightnomics: the Hidden Numbers and Science in Mixed Martial Arts.”
Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links and MMA Odds Breaker will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on the links.