The significance of the bout alone adds spice and intrigue to it. Dillashaw is bidding to become just the fourth fighter in UFC history, following Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier and Amanda Nunes, to hold two belts simultaneously.
But given Dillashaw’s interest in also going after the featherweight title, there are seriously significant historic implications to Saturday’s bout at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, beyond it being the first in a rich deal for the UFC with ESPN.
The first order of business for Dillashaw was actually making weight, which he did with apparent ease and a grin on his face. Dillashaw, who told Yahoo Sports earlier in the week that he thought dropping to flyweight was “crazy but apparently not as crazy as a lot of people do,” ate a meal the night before and weighed in at 124.6 pounds.
He is stronger at flyweight, Dillashaw said, than he was at bantamweight, which will add to an already imposing arsenal.
To win the belt, though, Dillashaw has to avoid the fate that befell the legendary former champion, Demetrious Johnson, when he lost to Cejudo on Aug. 4 in Los Angeles.
Cejudo, a 2008 gold medalist for the U.S. in freestyle wrestling, was able to take Johnson down three times and keep him on the mat for long stretches. In terms of pure wrestling, there is little doubt that Cejudo has the edge on Dillashaw.
Few, though, incorporate all elements of MMA — punching, kicking, kneeing, wrestling and grappling — better than Dillashaw. His ability to flow from one to the other quickly and easily creates doubt in his opponent’s mind and allows him to dictate the style of the fight.
After getting knocked out by Johnson in their first meeting at UFC 197 in 2016, Cejudo adjusted and adopted a wider stance that better allowed him to control the center.
His vulnerability, there, is to kicks, with his lead leg stiff and well out front. Dillashaw is a great kicker and will look to chop down the leg. Dillashaw is the more polished striker, and has great lateral movement, so Cejudo will probably look to explode and take Dillashaw down.
These are two of the greatest athletes in the UFC, so each man is going to have some success. But Dillashaw’s diversity is what figures to carry him.
He’ll hack away at Cejudo’s front leg in an attempt to slow him, but as he’s doing that, he figures to be letting his hands go and keeping a jab in Cejudo’s face.
Cejudo can’t afford to turn the bout into a boxing or kickboxing match, because that would play heavily into Dillashaw’s hands.
But as Dillashaw works at the low kicks, he’ll have the ability to go up quickly, and whether it’s with a knee or kick to the head, make a move that will change the course of the fight.
After a tactical and intense opening three rounds, look for Dillashaw to finish Cejudo in the fourth, perhaps with a head kick.
And after that, listen to hear Dillashaw call out featherweight champion Max Holloway.
He wants to do things nobody has done in this sport before, and I’m not going to be the one who bets against him.
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