The Real Winners and Losers from UFC Fight Night: Cejudo vs. Dillashaw
Whether you call it UFC Fight Night 143, UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ 1 or UFC Fight Night: Cejudo vs. Dillashaw, you can call the event a defining statement for the flyweight division. Brooklyn showed up to Barclays Center in New York and witnessed a saving performance.
UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo welcomed the UFC bantamweight champion to 125 pounds and finished him in 32 seconds, potentially saving an entire division filled with talented fighters. In the post-fight interview, Cejudo posed a rematch with Dillashaw but for his 135-pound crown.
In the co-main event, Greg Hardy was disqualified after landing an illegal knee against Allen Crowder. The loss does nothing good for him or the UFC, but it perfectly exemplified Hardy's presence in this sport.
Along with those two fights, there were 11 more bouts. Beyond who got their hand raised and who did not, who were the real winners and losers?
Let's not belabor the point any longer. These are the true victors and true losers following the UFC's first event of 2019.
Winner: Every Single Flyweight
Yes, Henry Cejudo is a big winner. But every flyweight on the roster is part of his victory in retaining his flyweight championship.
After Demetrious Johnson was traded away to ONE Championship, it looked like the UFC could cut the division. Had T.J. Dillashaw defeated Cejudo on Saturday, perhaps the division would have been dissolved. The UFC would not have had much incentive to keep it around.
Instead, Cejudo destroyed Dillashaw inside of a minute.
Dillashaw bounced around but ate a big punch that dropped him to a knee. Cejudo pounced and finished. The bantamweight champion never got a chance to get going, and Cejudo saved his entire division emphatically.
Joseph Benavidez won earlier in the night, and after the main event, his next bout may be for the flyweight title.
Rarely do fights have such significance, but this title tilt had everything on the line for the men's flyweight class in the UFC. Jobs were saved. Families were fed. And each fighter owes Cejudo a debt of gratitude.
Loser: Greg Hardy
Did we expect anything less?
Greg Hardy entered as one of the most scrutinized fighters, and he hadn't even fought outside of Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series. This was his first official UFC fight, and he gave all of his critics more ammo after a disqualification.
Hardy's past, which includes domestic violence allegations, created an inherent bias against him. If he wanted to fix his image, he could have done so much more leading up to his debut. Following that up with a disqualification for an illegal knee will only reinforce the negative feelings surrounding him.
As Daniel Cormier and Stephen A. Smith said on the broadcast, the foul appeared to be accidental and not malicious. Hardy threw the knee as Crowder was on his way up, but his knee was still clearly down. It may have been mistimed. But it could have been intentional. We will never know.
What we do know is this was a total loss for Hardy and the UFC.
Winner: Paige VanZant
At one point in time, Paige VanZant was the fresh face of the UFC. She got her own Reebok deal, appeared on Dancing with the Stars and was given every media opportunity she could handle. Unfortunately, her performances inside the cage left a lot to be desired.
She helped recover a bit of that with a come-from-behind showing on the main card of the latest Fight Night event.
Rachael Ostovich was in full control of the fight. She completed several takedowns and landed several solid right hands. VanZant was surviving but not much more. In the second round, Ostovich thought she saw an opportunity to get VanZant's back but slipped off, and the entire fight changed.
VanZant was quick to take top position and then went after submissions. An armbar presented itself, and Ostovich tapped.
The 24-year-old VanZant takes a lot of criticism that has been brought on by her favorable treatment, but she has continually shown heart and grit throughout her fighting career. Those attributes helped her to find this win, and perhaps that heart should be her legacy. A never-say-die attitude should endear her to all who watch.
Now back in the win column, she may find herself in another prime spot to show her skills and work herself into the title talk.
Loser: Karl Roberson
When a fighter steps up on short notice, they are almost never a loser. Especially when they are facing a higher-ranked opponent.
That was the case for 28-year-old Karl Roberson, who took on Glover Teixeira with just over a week's notice.
So why the loser tag? Because he had this fight won.
As Teixeira sought a takedown, Roberson landed hard elbows that hurt his opponent. He went after a finish, but Teixeira grabbed hold, and Roberson couldn't separate or defend the takedown. The Brazilian made it look easy.
The reversal of fortunes was surprisingly quick and decisive. Roberson looked to have an upset win, and within another minute, the fight was over and the 39-year-old had the victory.
Winner: Donald Cerrone
Welcome back to lightweight, Cowboy.
No. 11-ranked contender Alexander Hernandez was supposed to have his coming-out party against the aging Donald Cerrone. The vet would have absolutely none of that on Saturday in the featured prelim bout on ESPN.
Cerrone was accurate and made use of every angle. Hernandez ate the shots well, but they quickly showed their damage. The 26-year-old's lack of refinement was highlighted as Cerrone carefully picked his shots and mixed up the strikes to continually pelt his opponent.
In the second round, Hernandez slowed down a bit. That difference was just enough to allow for Cerrone to end the fight. A brutal head kick put Hernandez on the mat, where Cerrone followed up with ground-and-pound until the referee stepped in to save the young gun.
Gatekeeper? Not so much.
In addition to the win, Cerrone called out Conor McGregor. The biggest star in the sport accepted the challenge via his Twitter. A bigger win than the fight itself.
Capping off the UFC's first showing on ESPN by potentially earning a fight against McGregor was the best-case scenario for Cerrone. Mission accomplished.
Loser: Ariane Lipski
The Queen of Violence left Brooklyn as a big loser.
A loss in your UFC debut is not the end of the world. Look at bantamweight contender Marlon Moraes. It's about how you lose. And Ariane Lipski was dominated in a way that didn't inspire confidence in her as a title threat.
On the canvas, against an opponent not known for her grappling, Lipski was completely handled. Is there any confidence moving forward that the upper end of the division couldn't do the same? No.
Lipski is young, athletic and talented. She can improve over time and become the threat many thought she would be on the outset. However, this entrance into the UFC was a failure for her and ruined some of the hype she had garnered. That's a big loss.
In a new division without a lot of depth, she may not get the time she needs to grow into a contender.
Winner: Joanne Calderwood
Joanne Calderwood entered the cage as the No. 10-ranked flyweight but also as a significant underdog to the former KSW champion Lipski. After eating a couple well-placed punches in the opening few seconds, Calderwood utilized her growing skill set to dominate.
Calderwood is known for her striking skills, but under the tutelage of John Wood, her jiu-jitsu has become a serious threat.
Lipski was always a step behind on the ground. Calderwood was also able to find more success with her striking after the first round, keeping Lipski out of range to showcase her full tool kit and put herself in the mix at 125 pounds. In the post-fight interview, she called out flyweight contender Jessica Eye.
Upending the much-hyped Lipski may earn her that title eliminator after a statement-making showing for the Scottish star.
Winner: Cory Sandhagen
Cory Sandhagen had a little bit of hype within the MMA community but largely entered Saturday as an unknown. It is safe to say that after the latest UFC Fight Night, Sandhagen made a major move up the ranks against Mario Bautista.
It was the first UFC fight on ESPN's flagship station after a few fights on the ESPN+ service. And once the fight was on the ground, Sandhagen put on a clinic.
Transitioning from submission to submission, Sandhagen searched for an opening. Finally, the armbar presented itself, and he got the tap.
The official time of the stoppage came at 3:31 of the first round, and it was a perfect way to kick off the UFC's latest television partnership. Sandhagen's quick submission showed how great the ground game can be and gave new fans a look at the exciting world of MMA.
It was a big performance with big results.
UFC Fight Night: Cejudo vs. Dillashaw Full Results
- Henry Cejudo def. T.J. Dillashaw by TKO at 0:32 of the first round.
- Allen Crowder def. Greg Hardy by DQ at 2:28 of the second round.
- Gregor Gillespie def. Yancy Medeiros by TKO at 4:59 of the second round.
- Joseph Benavidez def. Dustin Ortiz by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
- Paige VanZant def. Rachael Ostovich via submission (armbar) at 1:50 of the second round.
- Glover Teixeira def. Karl Roberson via submission (arm-triangle choke) at 3:21 of the first round.
- Donald Cerrone def. Alexander Hernandez by TKO at 3:43 of the second round.
- Joanne Calderwood def. Ariane Lipski by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27).
- Alonzo Menifield def. Vinicius Moreira by TKO at 3:56 of the first round.
- Cory Sandhagen def. Mario Bautista via submission (armbar) at 3:31 of the first round.
- Dennis Bermudez def. Te Edwards by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26).
- Geoff Neal def. Belal Muhammad by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27).
- Chance Rencountre def. Kyle Stewart via submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:25 of the first round.