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UFC 238: Henry Cejudo vs. Marlon Moraes Toe-to-Toe Preview - A complete breakdown

Phil and David breakdown everything you need to know about Cejudo vs. Moraes for UFC 238, and everything you don’t about moving on from the shadow of DJ.

Henry Cejudo vs. Marlon Moraes headlines UFC 238 this June 8, 2019 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

One sentence summary

David: Bantamweight: King of the Speedsters

Phil: Of mouse-killers and magic men


Record: Henry Cejudo 14-2 | Marlon Moraes 22-5-1 Draw

Odds: Henry Cejudo +120 | Marlon Moraes -130

History / Introduction to the fighters

David: I think this might actually be happening. I was a huge fan of Demetrious Johnson. Like any MMA fan worth their weight in carbon. The loss to Cejudo wasn’t just a case of having issues with the decision. It was also about Cejudo’s potential title reign. Where DJ looked primed to do brilliant, and magical things no matter what the matchup, Cejudo came across like every other “wrestle-boxer”, just nickel and diming his way to victory. Except here I am, really warming up to Cejudo’s title run. Yea, there’s very little to learn from Dolla Dolla Billashaw getting Killashawed in like, two seconds, but still. We talk a lot about how quick finishes don’t tell us a lot. And that’s true. But it’s not meaningless. Even the smallest sample sizes can be markers for broader samples.

Phil: Cejudo’s mini-Tito schtick has grown on me. I wouldn’t exactly describe it as “endearing” but he tries so damn hard that it does at least engender a wry smile. A plush mouse, and snake, and crown, AND magician’s outfit? The man knows no boundaries. If a few weird asterisks float over his UFC career, then it’s also hard to argue that Cejudo hasn’t made the absolute most of it. Did he deserve to beat DJ? Perhaps not, but he worked his ass off and improved out of sight between their first fights. Was the Dillashaw finish a little anomalous? Sure, but career bantamweights haven’t been able to do any better.

David: Moraes is that prospect that comes around every once in awhile. This prospect has a ton of promise. But the UFC doesn’t give a single fuck and throws them to a pack of wolves armed with shoulder cannons. Moraes prevailed, and got revenge on the perennially-underrated Raphael Assuncao. Is he ready for the title? No doubt. But he’s young in UFC years.

Phil: It’s fitting that Moraes comes from the same gym as Eddie Alvarez, as he followed the same basic path through the division: getting turned away by its premier gatekeeper in his first fight, then racking up multiple wins in order to get to a title shot. With all due respect to the Underground King, however, Moraes has been a good deal more impressive than his gym-mate: since that somewhat slow-paced win over Dodson he’s reeled off three fights in under a round total. The stakes might be a bit weird and continuity has been frazzled (what’s new) but you’d struggle to find a more interesting pure style clash out there than these two men.

What’s at stake?

David: It’s kind of a big deal if Cejudo loses. Not only does it seem to signal the beginning of a potential round robin of golden fisticuffs, but, I don’t know. Moraes will make for a fun champion, but it’s all one big comedown for a division that had DJ in its ranks.

Phil: If Cejudo wins it’s a pyrrhic victory for the flyweights. Will it save the division? It will not, as it’s basically dead already. But the survivors could point to Cejudo winning and say: see? We could have made it. All we needed was a chance.

Where do they want it?

David: From wrestle-(sometimes)boxer to boxer-(sometimes-wrestler), Cejudo hasn’t always generated the most consistent rhythm in the cage. I still don’t feel like it’s quite gelling in complete harmony, but that harmony is progressing, and it’s yielding brutally good results. On the surface, Cejudo isn’t terribly complicated. He has some excellent boxing mechanics. Those mechanics don’t always come together to create a cohesive attack. But he’s got such a ridiculous core strength, it doesn’t matter. It’s a little like Usain Bolt’s physics. Bolt isn’t fast because he has great upward leg strength. He’s fast because the force and timing with which his feet hit the ground generates 4-5 times his body weight. It’s all about force and timing. Same with Cejudo. Each straight right, jab, body kick, and takedown create something like that bounce effect. Cejudo doesn’t attack. He pinballs. Like some baby Juggernaut, he’s impossible to contain in singular moments. Unless someone shuts the lights off...

Phil: In his early UFC career Cejudo was basically just someone who walked into the clinch and beat people up there. Unlike many wrestling converts, he had no fear of mixing it up in the pocket, which allowed him to leverage his striking and athleticism in multiple ways, but it also led himself into his crushing loss against Demetrious Johnson. In the time since, he looked to learn some actual striking, and developed much more of a karate-based striking game: lots of movement, pulling opponents onto the big cross, and peppering them with the body kick or clinching up should they choose to fight defensively. It’s not a tremendously deep game, but Cejudo’s incredible self-confidence and durability makes it work- he’s perfectly capable of just tanking damage coming back at him. He’s still an incredible wrestler (if a little inert from top position), able to hit singles and doubles at will, although his most high-percentage move is his bodylock to inside trip. In general his ability to hit trips and reaps against Moraes should pay dividends, if he can catch the Brazilian’s kicks. In terms of how Cejudo approaches this fight, it’s an interesting one: if he goes for his range kickboxing style, Moraes may just carve him up from the outside with kicks. Is it time to jump into the fire and just try and pressure and exchange? Because that approach is also not without its risks.

David: I was a little skeptical of Moraes. Everyone loses to Raphael Assuncao. So it wasn’t his initial debut that gave me doubts. It was his general rhythm. He has an active, but droopy base. He’s quick with his hands, and his attack, but he’s not a broad speedster. That’s not a good sign for fighters in small divisions. Just like a lack of power is a death knell at heavyweight, lighter weights require a minimum necessary when it comes to speed. He’s slowly evolved a higher-octane game. Part of it’s in the details. He shakes, and shimmies his punch combinations with incredible alacrity. Not because he has good mechanics. Although that’s part of it. But because his counters are so brutally quick. This keeps his opponent showing respect at all times. He includes a ton of other attacks, bringing the violence by going wide to counter one-note, straight-line fighters. For this bout, it will come down to whether Cejudo’s straight line can power right through Moraes’ angular attack.

Phil: Moraes is quickly climbing the ranks as perhaps the most devastating finisher in the UFC. It’s one thing for a heavyweight to be dunking on ranked contenders in sub-minute timespans, but for a bantamweight to do it in the 2019 iteration of the division no less? Moraes has cleaned up his boxing a little, with an increased alacrity for punching in combination, but it’s obviously that kicking game which is the real threat. He’s perhaps the best in the UFC at countering punches by booting out the lead leg or slipping his shin under the opponents ribs. With a consistent kick attack, he does get them caught reasonably often, but has shown the ability to kick off and limp leg out. His wrestling remains something of a question mark, in part because his distance control and footwork has been so good.

Insight from past fights

David: I said it above, and I’ll say it again. When it comes to speed in this division, you need some sort of minimum necessary. Moraes has that in his speeds, but can he generate momentum? Can he act fast trying to catch his prey? You can just be fast at the lower weights. You have to fight fast. There’s a crucial difference. The latter can adjust, maintain momentum, or slow momentum against competing speed. The former can’t. Cejudo isn’t perfect. I can easily see Moraes catching him when Cejudo gets too comfortable in the pocket. But I’m looking at five rounds as a base for analysis. And I gotta think Cejudo will own the force and timing advantage, which to me, is everything.

Phil: The Dodson fight is the most concerning one from Moraes’ perspective. It’s one thing to get outpointed by Assuncao in your first fight, but his struggles with the pure footspeed of Dodson (especially the fairly tepid version of Dodson who has been at bantamweight of late) doesn’t speak well for his ability to track down someone like Cejudo, still less should his time on the feet be limited by Cejudo’s wrestling ability.


David: I didn’t follow the trash talk in this one.

Phil: I don’t know how Moraes defends takedowns. The last time someone really went for one against him he kicked Aljamain Sterling’s head off. Could he do that to Cejudo? I guess he could Cejudo’s head is big as hell. It doesn’t seem sustainable though.


David: 50/50. Moraes has the hand speed to switch bricks on Cejudo and bust him over his melon head. But what are the chances Moraes can physically break said melon? Slim, IMO. I think the more likely scenario is that Cejudo grinds Moraes down, with the occasional punch scare when Moraes is able to muster the offense he has left. Henry Cejudo by Decision.

Phil: A tough one. The aforementioned lack of info on Moraes’ TDD is concerning, although he does train alongside Frankie Edgar and Zabit Magomedsharipov. Assuming (and it’s a big assumption) it holds up, he’s just a more dynamic fighter, hitting harder and dealing more attritional damage. Cejudo’s defense against kicks just didn’t look all that great in the Johnson fight. Marlon Moraes by unanimous decision.

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