On Janurary 19, the UFC will make its long awaited ESPN debut and the first card has a championship main event between flyweight champion Henry Cejudo and the bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw.
The “Champion vs Champion” monicure is of highlight material alone. Dig a little deeper though and you’ll see that if one king falls, so does their kingdom. If Henry Cejudo loses to TJ Dillashaw at the Barclays Center on the 19th of January, the flyweight division as a whole faces total liquidation. It seems like an attempt to shut down the shallow division in order to make way for a new division, one at 165-pounds. However, if Cejudo is the victor, he could make a strong case to keep his division whilst still adding the new division as well. TJ Dillashaw will be going down in weight in hopes to add another belt to his mantle and earn the title “Champ Champ” a title that only Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier and recently, Amanda Nunes have earned.
In the co-main event, former Dallas Cowboy, Greg Hardy will make his official UFC debut against Allen Crowder in an exciting heavyweight contest. In other main card action, Yancy Medeiros makes his way back to the octagon after a year layoff to meet the surging Gregor Gillespie in a promising lightweight bout. In the flyweight division, #2 ranked Joseph Benavidez will assist Henry Cejudo in keeping his division alive, taking on Roufusport product, Dustin Ortiz. Paige Vanzant also makes her long awaited return to the octagon to face Rachel Ostovich.
UFC Brooklyn is the beginning of a new era. See our staff’s predictions below.
Alexander Hernandez (#11) vs Donald Cerrone (#13) (Lightweight)
Hiram: This is a highly anticipated lightweight bout taking place. Cowboy will go back down to lightweight and debut against a young and talented, Alexander Hernandez. This is not an easy fight for Cowboy, Alex is very big for his weight class and strong. I see Hernandez pinning Cerrone against the cage and grinding out a well put together decision win.
Alexander Hernandez def. Donald Cerrone via unanimous decision.
Connor: This fight should be on the main card. Cowboy Cerrone is back with an incredible armbar victory over Mike Perry in his last fight, and then he made the move back down to lightweight where he feels he belongs. He is on a collision course for Alexander Hernandez, a young fighter with a lot of momentum. Hernandez made his UFC debut in Mach and burst onto the UFC scene. He looks to make a similar splash moving up in the rankings with a win over Cowboy. Cerrone has different plans obviously with the intention of proving he belongs at lightweight, as opposed to welterweight. Cerrone will look to put his name in the imaginary hat of fighters who deserve a shot at the title in the crowded lightweight division.
Donald Cerrone def. Alexander Hernandez via TKO in round 2.
Dreux: Barn Burner. Alex Hernandez is a dangerous fighter and if Cerrone has learned anything about young up-and-comers, it’s that he should not take them lightly. Shout out Darren Till. Hernandez sent Beneil Dariush to the upside down in his debut and then out grappled Olivier Aubin Mercier which made for a spectacular 2019. This seems like a tall order for Hernandez though as he’s not the type of striker to stifle Cowboy and his ground game likely isn’t as advanced either. I don’t really understand why Cowboy is the underdog here, he’s lost 4 times at lightweight in his entire UFC career. To who? Twice to former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos, Former LW Champion Anthony Pettis and Nate Diaz. Cerrone is always dangerous everywhere and he’s been in there with the best fighters in the world. Sure, he’s lost a bunch as of late. Alex Hernandez is not even close to the size of Darren Till, Leon Edwards, Robbie Lawler or Jorge Masvidal. If Cerrone doesn’t move his head, Hernandez has a lot of power and could hurt him in this. Hernandez will likely come out very hard and potentially win the first round but will fade the later the fight goes on. My guess is we’ll see The Fight of The Night in this one and some vintage Cowboy kickboxing that will lead to a submission at the tail end of round 2.
Donald Cerrone def. Alexander Hernandez via submission in round 2.
Glover Teixeira (#12) vs Karl Roberson (Light Heavyweight)
Hiram: This is a great light heavyweight matchup. I do think Glover will win, however I think his experience, boxing and jiu-jitsu will carry him through this fight.
Glover Teixeira def. Karl Roberson via unanimous decision.
Connor: This fight is hard to pick, but I think I see what the UFC is trying to do here. Roberson is a young fighter who has been up and down after joining the UFC after his win on DWTNCS. There has been a high turnover rate in the 205-pound division as of late, with younger fighters moving into the top ranks pushing out some of the older fighters in the division, such as Shogun Rua and Glover Teixeria. Glover is always hard to rule out of a fight, he comes into this fight with a great deal of experience and skills at all levels. I feel like Texeira finds a way to stay relevant in this fight.
Glover Teixeira def. Karl Roberson via unanimous decision.
Dreux: This is a bit disappointing because originally Teixera was slated to meet a dangerous young prospect in Ion Cutelaba but the Moldovan pulled out late last week with an injury. Roberson will be coming up from 185-pounds to meet a seasoned vet and dangerous all-around fighter in Teixera. Now, Roberson is a hot prospect in himself, he’s got top-notch kickboxing and earned his biggest victory of his career in 2018, beating Jack Marshman. Will he out work Teixera? On short notice? Seems unlikely. Teixera is 40 and has been on a skid lately, getting throttled by Alexander Gustafsson and outpointed by Corey Anderson, but those two fighters alone are well above the competition Roberson has ever fought. Robertson needs to hope that Glover takes him lightly and he can’t overwhelm him with pace and speed but still at that it’s a long shot. I don’t think Roberson will have the power to put away Glover and his ground game isn’t near Glover’s either. Glover got caught by Jared Cannonier in their meeting but I just can’t see him being put away in this.
Glover Teixera def. Karl Roberson via submission in round 1.
Paige VanZant vs Rachael Ostovich (Flyweight)
Hiram: This is a highly anticipated matchup between these two high-level strawweights. It is a perfectly matched fight.
Paige VanZant def. Rachael Ostovich via unanimous decision.
Connor: Paige VanZant makes her long awaited return to the Octagon after a layoff from multiple surgeries on a broken arm she endured in her last fight. She also broke that arm, and still did not tap to an armbar attempt, that 90% of fighters would have. She also trained on that arm when it did not heal after the first surgery, and was considered broken the entire time between surgeries. My point is, VanZant is tough… tougher than tough. She will never give up on a fight, that being said, Ostovich has an excellent ground game and will look to take the fight there to attempt to finish PVZ.
Paige Vanzant def. Rachael Ostovich via unanimous decision.
Dreux: The return of PVZ is set after nearly two years out of the cage. Her last outing was a big upset loss to Jessica Rose-Clark in her debut at 125-pounds. This is big a step down in competition for her after fighting Clark, Rose Namajunas, Bec Rawlings, and Michelle Waterson. She will meet Rachael Ostovich who has been in the news lately for her domestic violence scenario with her husband. Ostovich is a solid grappler but to be frank, that’s about it. I don’t see this being a very competitive bout, PVZ should, and I’m being cautious with the word- should, be better anywhere the fight goes. PVZ will bring a high-paced, electric and exciting bout to ESPN and she’ll take this one home early.
Paige VanZant def. Rachael Ostovich via TKO in round 1.
Joseph Benavidez (#2) vs Dustin Ortiz (#8) 2 (Flyweight)
Hiram: This is a long awaited rematch. I don’t see much changing in the second fight, I still believe Jospeh is the better fighter and I feel Dustin hasn’t not improved much.
Joseph Benavidez def. Dustin Ortiz via KO in round 3.
Connor: Big fan of Joe Benavidez, shout out to him. He has a victory over the current 125-pound champion, Henry Cejudo, who defends his title later on in the fight card as the main event. Benavidez also was the winner by KO twice in his last fight, if you are confused, watch his fight vs Alex Perez. Ortiz has some momentum in his corner riding a nice winning streak and has shown the ability to finish fights and go the distance. This is a rematch of a 2014 fight between these two, in which Benavidez took the victory via unanimous decision. With many talks about the future of the men’s flyweight division, this could be an exciting fight that shows the potential of the 125-pound division and keep the future of it alive in the UFC. At the least, this is a great audition for wherever the next hotspot is for the flyweight division, but hopefully they get to stay in the UFC.
Joseph Benavidez def. Dustin Ortiz via KO in round 2.
Dreux: To me this is a very exciting matchup. These men have fought before with Benavidez getting the nod, however both men have grew since their first meeting. Ortiz blew through Matheus Nicolau and showed big improvement in his hands. After Benavidez lost to Pettis, I thought it was near the end for him truthfully. I thought he won that fight to be fair, but it shouldn’t have been that tight in the first place. In his last fight he took out a big prospect in Alex Perez to remind flyweights he’s still a dangerous man. I can’t pick Ortiz in this, Benavidez is still tough and really has only convincingly lost to Demetrious Johnson. I see a replica of the first fight here except I think Ortiz will find early success before Benavidez outworks him.
Joseph Benavidez def. Dustin Ortiz via unanimous decision.
Gregor Gillespie (#15) vs Yancy Medeiros (Lightweight)
Hiram: I have to go with Yancy on this one. He is truly improving and is able to train with featherweight champion, Max Holloway.
Yancy Medeiros def. Gregor Gillespie via unanimous decision.
Connor: Medeiros has an impressive resume in the UFC, but was most recently stopped by Cowboy Cerrone, which is nothing to be upset about. Gillespie is a little different as he comes in undefeated as a pro, but does not have quite the quality of fighters on his record as Medeiros. Gillespie has shown that he loves to finish fighters, and has the ability to do so early or later, with submissions, or by KO. Gillespie has a great ground game and tends to take the fight there often. Gregor is relatively new to the UFC with only 4 fights but has been on the roster since 2016. This will be a good challenge to see here he stands in the division.
Gregor Gillespie def. Yancy Medeiros via submission in round 2.
Dreux: One of Wai’anae’s sons returns home after a year long layoff and in his way is a very difficult fight with Gregor Gillespie. This is a big fight for both men but for different reasons. This is a big jump up in competition for Gregor and if he wins it could shoot him into the top-10 of the ultra competitive lightweight division. Yancy hasn’t fought in a year and in his last outing he was TKO’d by Donald Cerrone in the first round so he will need something significant here to keep his stock up. This fight is tricky because Yancy Medeiros is the more experienced fighter with higher quality of bodies, has the size and reach advantage and has a striking advantage. Gregor Gillespie is special though and he does not stop coming forward, ever. If Yancy can keep Gregor on the outside and pick his shots, he should be able to land something sharp and potentially end the fight, Yancy is that powerful. Now, if Gregor can bully Yancy, get inside, land some shots and use his superior wrestling to maul Yancy, it could be a long night for the Hawaiian native. I expect this fight to be a war truthfully, if Cerrone/Hernandez isn’t fight of the night, this one will be. Coin flip:
Yancy Medeiros def. Gregor Gillespie by TKO in round 3.
Allen Crowder vs Greg Hardy (Heavyweight)
Hiram: This was a simple one for me. The UFC is clearly looking to make Hardy a star, giving him the right fights. He’s been reckless and on a streak of finishing fights early.
Greg Hardy def. Allen Crowder via KO in round 1.
Connor: Greg Hardy has his past, which is well documented, and everyone has opinions on that. Hardy is fighting, so that is what we are going to talk about. He hits like a mac-truck. This will be his first fight in the UFC outside of the contender series, so he will be tested against a higher level of competition. Crowder is also a contract winner on the contender series back in 2017, and did not fight in 2018. His last action was his UFC debut, where he was finished by KO early in round 1. Crowder is light for the heavyweight division, giving up 20-pounds in this fight, and has shown that he needs to work on his striking defense. This fight should be a way for Hardy to win some fans over and gain some popularity.
Greg Hardy def. Allen Crowder via KO in round 1.
Dreux: After what seems like years, Greg Hardy will finally make his official UFC debut against the 7-3 Allen Crowder. Not too sure what many people are expecting out of Crowder in this, he is a big guy and he is athletic but he wades in with robotic striking and his chin up in the air which will be problematic when fighting a guy like Hardy who carries dynamite in his hands. Hardy is still green in MMA and we haven’t seen too much of his ground game which is where Crowder might have an advantage. I don’t think this fight will last long enough for us to find out though. Hardy’s three pro fights have all ended before the one minute mark of the first round and I expect this to be similar. I’ll give Crowder a minute though, anything after that is simply a formality.
Greg Hardy def. Allen Crowder via KO in round 1.
Henry Cejudo (C) vs TJ Dillashaw (C-Bantamweight) (Flyweight)
Hiram: This was a hard fight to pick against. I feel TJ will be okay moving down since he has his strength and conditioning coach that also trained Juan Archuleta (a four weight champion). TJ is the better striker has beaten bigger men. He also has high-caliber wrestling and without Henry’s Olympic wrestling, it’s going to be hard for Cejudo to stand toe-to-toe with Dillashaw. Although I don’t think it will be easy, people we’ll see how much he has improved since his fight with Johnson.
TJ Dillashaw def. Henry Cejudo via TKO in round 3.
Connor: TJ feels he is tasked with “shutting down the flyweight division”. This may be true as the talks around the dissolving of the 125-pound division have been floating around the UFC for a while, but rumors are more prevalent now than ever. Dillashaw has been talking the talk as he claims he wants to out wrestle Cejudo, who won Olympic gold as a wrestler. Dillashaw looks to move down to become a double champ, which two belts seems to be the fashion trend in the UFC as of late. Henry Cejudo just beat Demetrious Johnson, the greatest flyweight of all time, and should be in UFC Hall of Fame when the time comes. Cejudo has to have the advantage as TJ makes the trip into his world, but it is important to note that Cejudo is very strong for the division and could probably fight up at bantamweight if he wanted to make the move.
Henry Cejudo def. TJ Dillashaw via unanimous decision.
Dreux: Since this fight was first announced, I immediately sided with TJ. I still am but as the fight nears, questions are starting to linger. How will the weight cut effect TJ? Will he have his speed? Power? Cardio? I’m assuming all the tools will be in order as he has a solid group of guys in Sam Calavita and Duane Ludwig who will make sure he is physically at his best for the UFC’s debut on the ESPN network. Dillashaw has all of the tools to shut Cejudo down and put him away early and though I expect that to happen, Henry Cejudo is a dangerous fighter. Let’s not forget that he most recently defeated Demetrious Johnson who was considered to be the P4P fighter in the world and he is the only Olympic gold medalist in history of the UFC. However, this is a very difficult fight for Cejudo. The striking edge will go to TJ although Henry has improved by margins in his kickboxing and boxing, almost taking on a Lyoto Machida/Conor McGregor esque stance. He showed brilliant footwork and accuracy along with solid punching power against Wilson Reis and Joseph Benavidez that helped take the fight against Demetrious Johnson. With this being said, TJ Dillashaw is just on a different level. His fakes and feints are incredible, the way he enters and exits on angles that usually have his opponents off balance or in vulnerable stances (Cody Garbrandt 1). Dillashaw will use bluffed jabs and tricky punches to get his opponents to overreact and catch them in the process. On paper, Cejudo would have the wrestling advantage in this and he should. It will be interesting to see if he can get inside on TJ, get him to the mat, keep him down and land quality shots because if there’s one thing TJ is known for it’s that he will download every single second of the previous round and apply to the following. The key for Henry in this fight will be to try and slow TJ’s striking and movement down by constantly shooting, constantly making TJ scramble, constantly making TJ carry his weight before ultimately fading. I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen though. TJ is better than Henry essentially anywhere the fight goes, besides wrestling where he is still wildly competitive, coupled with a size and reach advantage I can see this being a short night for the Olympian. Look for TJ to feel it out early and land some hard shots before finishing the fight with a barrage of punches similar to the Renan Barao fight.
TJ Dillashaw def. Henry Cejudo via TKO in round 2.
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