Henry Cejudo can add UFC gold to his resume after an upset victory over Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson via split decision in the co-main event of UFC 227 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Saturday.
Cejudo got off to a rough start, as his left ankle appeared to roll in the early going of Round 1, forcing him to switch stances and impacting his movement. Johnson didn't look to capitalize early on and gave Cejudo the opportunity to recover, though.
By the end of the round, Cejudo was moving well and attacking once again:
The second round saw the pace pick up for both fighters. Mighty Mouse began attacking Cejudo's legs with kicks, but the challenger countered with multiple successful takedowns, making a strong case to give him the round.
Holding down Johnson would prove to be a different challenge entirely for Cejudo. Mighty Mouse showcased his scrambling abilities in the third round while continuing to chip away at Cejudo's base with leg kicks.
After four rounds, it was clear that Cejudo had improved enough to create a competitive bout with the champion. MMA analyst Jordan Breen gave The Messenger credit heading into the fifth and final round:
The fifth did little to add clarity to the scoring. The two each had moments, with Cejudo throwing hands and scoring takedowns and Johnson establishing his kicking game and refusing to take damage on the ground.
However, it was the Phoenix native who did just enough on two of the judges' scorecards to get the nod.
Cejudo becomes just the second flyweight champion and ends the most impressive title reign in history. Mighty Mouse won the inaugural title fight in the division in September 2012 and defended his title a record 11 times.
One of those title defenses included a first-round TKO win over Cejudo.
The 31-year-old attributes that performance to a simple lack of experience. He went into that fight with just three years of professional experience.
"The losses I have had [in my athletic career], I have learned from them and I have gotten better—a lot better—as a result of what I learned," Cejudo said, per Kevin Iole of Yahoo. "When I fought Demetrious Johnson the first time, I had only been fighting for three years, period. It was just three years in MMA, no amateur fights, straight to the pros and in three years, right to the best in the world. Looking back at it now, that [UFC 197] loss wasn't based on ability. I had the ability. It was based on experience."
For a long time, the flyweight division hasn't really had a big fight to promote. Johnson's dominance was thorough and ever-changing but didn't create much drama.
Now it would appear he has the rival he needs to actually build interest in a rematch.
Of course, a change in the guard means opportunity for others in the division. While Johnson had multiple wins over top-10 opponents in the division, there are more matchups to make for Cejudo.
Regardless of whether the UFC decides to give Johnson an automatic rematch, UFC 227 signifies a new age for the 125-pound division.