Crash Course to UFC 197: Demetrious Johnson vs. Henry Cejudo
Everything you need to know about this weekend’s UFC 197 fight between Demetrious Johnson and Henry Cejudo.
Demetrious Johnson is one traffic stop—involving someone else, not him—from being No. 1 in the SI.com pound-for-pound MMA fighter rankings. He’s in second place at the moment, behind only Jon Jones, who has spent the last year fending off law enforcement rather than other fighters. But while “Bones” has been dealing with the aftereffects of his felony hit-and-run conviction, “Mighty Mouse” has kept a steady eye on the road ahead.
When Johnson faces Henry Cejudo in the co-main event of UFC 197 on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (10 p.m. ET, PPV), it will be the flyweight champion’s eighth defense of the belt he earned in September 2012. The UFC’s first and only 125-pound titlist, the 29-year-old Johnson (23-2-1) has not lost since his 2011 attempt to take the bantamweight strap from Dominick Cruz.
Cejudo wasn’t even in the sport when “Mighty Mouse” became champ. However, the Arizona fighter, also 29, has a resume that shines like gold: In the 2008 Olympics he became the youngest American wrestler to win a gold medal in freestyle wrestling, capturing top honors at 55 kilograms (121 pounds). Since making his MMA debut in 2013, Cejudo has won all 10 of his fights, the last four in the UFC. He is No. 3 in SI.com’s flyweight rankings.
In addition to the pay-per-view telecast of Saturday night’s five-fight main card—which is headlined by the return of P4P king Jones, against late replacement Ovince Saint Preux—four prelims will be shown on Fox Sports 1, starting at 8 p.m. ET, and the event’s first three bouts will be available on the UFC Fight Pass streaming service at 6:30.
From the day in January 2013 that Cejudo announced his intention to compete in MMA, he’s been viewed as an eventual contender for a championship. But which championship?
Though his wrestling weight was 121 pounds, the man known as “The Messenger” made his debut not at flyweight but at bantamweight. Eventually he made the move to 125 pounds—or at least he attempted to. Twice he missed weight while competing for a regional promotion. And when the big show signed him and scheduled his debut for UFC 177 in August 2014, Cejudo had to pull out of the bout with Scott Jorgensen on fight night because of weight-cutting complications.
“He’s got a history of doing this,” UFC president Dana White told reporters at the time. “It’s not his first time, and if he stays at that weight, it won’t be his last. He can come back and try at a heavier weight or not try again.”
Cejudo’s debut with the UFC ended up at bantamweight, and after defeating Dustin Kimura in that December 2014 bout, he got the OK to try 125 pounds again. He has made the weight every time since, and has won all three bouts, most recently beating No. 5-ranked Jussier da Silva in November.
The timing was perfect, because Johnson was just a couple of months removed from his latest title defense, a dominant decision victory over John Dodson. That was his second win over Dodson, who was No. 3 in the division before a recent move to bantamweight, and “Mighty Mouse” also has two wins over No. 2 Joseph Benavidez. He’s defeated No. 4 Ali Bagautinov, No. 7 John Moraga, and No. 8 Kyoji Horiguchi as well. The champ has all but cleaned out the 125-pound division.
Last Five Fights
|Johnson (23-2-1)||Cejudo (10-0)|
|9/5/15 John Dodson W UD 5||11/21/15 Jussier da Silva W SD 3|
|4/25/15 Kyoji Horiguchi W Sub 5||6/13/15 Chico Camus W UD 3|
|9/27/14 Chris Cariaso W Sub 2||3/14/15 Chris Cariaso W UD 3|
|6/14/14 Ali Bagautinov W UD 5||12/13/14 Dustin Kimura W UD 3|
|12/14/13 Joseph Benavidez W KO 1||1/31/14 Elias Garcia W UD 3|
Tale of the Tape
|Aug. 13, 1986||BIRTH DATE||Aug. 18, 1986|
|Madisonville, Ky.||BIRTHPLACE||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|Parkland, Wash.||FIGHTING OUT OF||Phoenix, Ariz.|
* Official weights announced at the weigh-in (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)
Other Numbers to Count On
871: Significant strikes by Demetrious Johnson, tying him with B.J. Penn for ninth all-time in the UFC, according to FightMetric statistics.
59: Takedowns by Johnson, fifth all-time in the UFC. Henry Cejudo, the Olympic gold medalist wrestler, has never been taken down in a UFC fight.
74: Percent of strikes avoided by Cejudo. This percentage would place him second in UFC history, behind only Georges St-Pierre, but Cejudo has only four fights in the promotion, not enough for him to qualify among the stat leaders.
Demetrious Johnson KO’s his toughest challenger:
Henry Cejudo makes his UFC debut:
Put these guys in singlets and Johnson might be in trouble. Back in the day, the champ finished in the Top 3 two straight years in the state high school wrestling championships in Washington. But those mat accomplishments pale in comparison to Cejudo’s Olympic gold.
This is not wrestling, though. In MMA, the less decorated wrestler often gets the best of an opponent on the mat. Georges St-Pierre, for instance, regularly had his way with foes whose resumes suggested they would be superior grapplers. Just last year, Jon Jones had a pretty good night coming to grips with Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier.
So if this fight ends up on the canvas, “Mighty Mouse” might do fine. And if he and Cejudo stay on their feet, the champ’s quickness in dodging everything thrown his way and attacking from all angles gives him the edge. “The Messenger” has never seen anyone like him.
Johnson is the favorite, with a money line ranging from -385 (bet $385 to win $100) to -440 (bet $440 to win $100) at various sportsbooks. The line on Cejudo ranges from +270 (bet $100 to win $270) to +363 (bet $100 to win $363).
Cejudo is undefeated with an Olympian resume dipped in gold, but his road to the title fight took him through Dustin Kimura, Chris Cariaso, Chico Camus and Jussier da Silva. Johnson has faced far stiffer competition. Does Cejudo pose the kind of threat to the champ that Joseph Benavidez and John Dodson did? No and no. “Mighty Mouse” is about to show Cejudo what a level change really means. Johnson by submission.
“No one thought I could win the Olympics at my weight; I was ranked 31st in the world. I went out and won the Olympics and became the youngest to ever do it. This is the way I see MMA. It’s a rerun. That’s all there is to it.” — Henry Cejudo, in an interview with MMA Junkie.
“He’s a great wrestler. But other than that, we’re not wrestling—it’s a mixed martial arts competition, and I’ll be prepared.” — Demetrious Johnson, addressing reporters at a EA Sports launch of the UFC 2 video game.
The Rest of the Card
Jon Jones vs. Ovince Saint Preux, light heavyweight (main event); Anthony Pettis vs. Edson Barboza, lightweight; Robert Whittaker vs. Rafael Natal, middleweight; Yair Rodriguez vs. Andre Fili, featherweight.
Preliminary card (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1): Sergio Pettis vs. Chris Kelades, flyweight; Danny Roberts vs. Dominique Steele, welterweight; Carla Esparza vs. Juliana Lima, strawweight; Glaico Franca vs. James Vick, lightweight.
Online prelims (6:30 p.m., UFC Fight Pass): Walt Harris vs. Cody East, heavyweight; Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Clint Hester, light heavyweight; Efrain Escudero vs. Kevin Lee, lightweight.
Mike Goldberg will handle blow-by-blow and Joe Rogan analysis for the main-card telecast on pay-per-view as well as prelims on Fox Sports 1 and the UFC Fight Pass. There will be an hour-long postfight show on Fox Sports 1, starting at 1 a.m. ET.