Before Anthony Pettis and Rafael dos Anjos take center stage, the flyweights take center stage on the main card and look to ignite the proper mood for fight watchers in Dallas, TX at American Airlines Center this weekend, March 14, 2015.
The Match Up
Flyweight Chris Cariaso +450 vs. Henry Cejudo -600
3 Things You Should Know
1. Henry Cejudo is the best blue chip prospect MMA has seen in years.
I can't really make it any simpler. Maybe "Cejudo is the next FLW champ" but you get the point. The thing about Cejudo is that his hype is not just about his pedigree. Yes, that's important. Gold in the 2008 Beijing games, gold in the Pan Ams in 2007, 2nd at the US Nationals, 4-time state champion, US Olympic trials champ, et cetera...are all important. But he's blended all of that talent from one sport into mixed martial arts in a way few fighters who have only fought in MMA their entire competitive lives could even imagine.
There's an Alpha Male phase shifting quality to his game, but what makes Cejudo unique is that he's not as erratic as them, and benefits immensely as a result. In fact, whatever it is they're doing with him at Fight Ready MMA appears to be some next level stuff, because Cejudo has quickly become a very polished product in the cage. There are other Olympians in this sport, but even with names like Rousey, Cormier, Romero, McMann, and Lombard, Cejudo still manages to stand out among the crowd.
2. There's an immense 'poor Cariaso' quality to this bout from fans and observers, as if Chris is a sacrificial lamb. Granted, he is, but never underestimate the guy who fought for a title*.
*Yea it was a "let's keep Demetrious Johnson warm" scrap, but he fought some respectable-ish opponents on his way to the title**. **Ok, so really just Louis Smolka, but give me a break, I'm doing my best not to trample over the man's record.
Course, Cariaso's record is solid when compared against the expectations of a journeyman. As a title contender it falls short obviously, but the sport has seen less deserving (even in the UFC). Granted, we'd like to set the bar higher but still. Cariaso is an above average journeyman, which makes this an excellent journeyman for Cejudo.
3. The odds could be worse, but any fight that has a great chance of going to a decision shouldn't be so lopsided.
Going back to my Alpha Male comment, one of the things that stands out the most when watching Cejudo fight is his sense of distance. For a lot of fighters, distance requires a binary approach; either you stay outside and travel far to get closer, or you stay in close and travel far to get outside. As in, stay at range to strike effectively, or close the gap to grapple effectively. Cejudo is immune to this simplistic way of fighting.
Instead he takes micro steps forward, keeping himself in range for either striking, or grappling. This allows everything he does to avoid becoming telegraphed. Dustin Kimura is not a great fighter, but he's a serviceable one, and Cejudo dominated every part of that fight (ufc espanol has the whole thing up for those who missed his debut).
He's got pop in his strikes. Though he opts for a right hand, his left hook is quicker, and his combinations are flat out scintillating. In general, he does a good job of staying active, even if one hopes he rounds out his striking a bit more. After all, with his wrestling, kicks aren't as high risk as they would be for others.
As for Cariaso, this just a tough stylistic matchup, nevermind the caliber of fighter. Cariaso is a volume kickboxer who favors his left leg, and is generally pretty well rounded. However, he doesn't have great takedown defense and certainly not the kind that could stop Cejudo. Nor will he avoid getting smacked a few times. If there's an x-factor here it's Cariaso's ability to stay effective in all three rounds. Cariaso's effectiveness on the feet could become pronounced if he's still there in the 3rd round as Cejudo potentially fades. Just don't bet on it.
Henry Cejudo by Decision.