Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight bruisers Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo went to war last night (Dec. 3, 2016) at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 24 Finale inside Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Benavidez has been grinding toward a third fight with Demetrious Johnson for some time. Last night, he had an opportunity to stomp out the No. 2-ranked contender in the division and extend his win streak to six, giving himself a strong argument for another title shot. On the other hand, Cejudo needed to bounce back following his first career loss. The wrestling specialist definitely had a tough opponent inside the cage with him, but the payoff would be huge if he pulled off the upset.
To watch Joseph Benavidez vs. Henry Cejudo full fight video highlights from TUF 24 Finale last night click here!
Neither man wasted any time. Benavidez scored first with a few really hard punches, but Cejudo returned and dropped him with a shot. Benavidez recovered quickly and immediately went back to trading, but a low blow from Cejudo called a brief halt to the action. A second one cost him a point just moments later. For the rest of the round, the fighters exchanged constantly. Benavidez moved around on the outside, countering and flurrying, while Cejudo bullied forward and threw big punches.
It was a very close round.
The second round continued at the same rapid pace. Both men landed solid blows, but it was Benavidez who seemed to be finding his rhythm more in the early going. Additionally, Benavidez was the one throwing a higher volume of blows. In a close bout, volume is very important. Cejudo’s kickboxing had improved greatly, and he was able to land some hard blows because of it, but Benavidez was just a slight step ahead.
Still, it was anyone’s fight heading into the third round.
The third continued to be a very tight competition. The exchanges were constant, and both men had the advantage in different combinations. Additionally, Cejudo’s attempts to mix it up with takedowns were unsuccessful, as he simply couldn’t hold his opponent down. It was a stand up war all the way through.
Both men were a bit fatigued because of the hard pace, but neither really took his foot off the gas. Ultimately, the main difference seemed to be that Benavidez’s combinations were more accurate, as Cejudo really wound up on his punches and missed more often because of it. At the end of 15 minutes, the scorecards reflected how close the battle was, as two of the three judges awarded Joseph Benavidez the decision win.
There were a ton of possible scorecards (see the official one here), but it seemed the consensus was that Benavidez either won the decision or the bout was a draw. Either way, this was a strong showing from both men. In Benavidez’s case, his experience on the feet won him the bout. He was just a bit trickier, and that allowed him to make his foe miss and make him pay enough to land more blows.
Besides his switch-hitting kickboxing, Benavidez’s scrambling was incredibly on point. Cejudo was able to land a couple brief takedowns, but Benavidez sprung to his feet so quickly that he negated that aspect of his opponent’s game. As Benavidez once told me, "the key to getting back up is to try really hard." He did just that, never allowing his opponent to settle and constantly working.
Following this win — an absolutely incredible battle with the No. 2 man in the division — Benavidez deserves his third shot at gold. There’s no one else that comes even close to deserving that opportunity, and frankly, he has as good a chance opposite "Mighty Mouse" as anyone else.
As for Cejudo, no one can reasonably critique him too harshly. He showed a lot of improvement and fought to the level of his opponent. He may not have won, and the single scorecard that awarded him the win confuses me, but he proved a lot of doubters wrong in this match up.
It actually inspires hope that he can continue to grow and potentially contend again.
Ultimately, Cejudo loaded up too often. Swinging wildly and missing is exhausting, and it’s the reason that Benavidez was the fresher man in the third despite all the hard body kicks the Olympian landed.