Early Lean On Dillashaw For First UFC Title Fight Of 2019

Sunday, December 30, 2018 2:05 PM UTC

Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018 2:05 PM UTC

T.J. Dillashaw faces Henry Cejud on January 19 in the first major MMA action of 2019. Let's check out that matchup after a quick look back at UFC 232, the final big event of 2018 that was tough on some bettors.

The impossible happened at UFC 232, which featured upsets, finishes, the return of the king, and a new two-division champion cementing herself as the greatest women’s fighter of all time. If you were a bettor, however, it was a bit of a rough night. We liked a lot of the favorites for UFC 232 and they just didn't seem to show up.

The night started great with Uriah Hall coming from behind to win via KO in round 3 against Bevon Lewis, but then the wheels came off. An insane toe-eye-poke cost us with Cat Zingano when her fight with Megan Anderson was ruled a TKO. Ilir Latifi hit Corey Anderson with the kitchen sink and somehow his chin held up. Carlos Condit did everything we wanted in round 1 and almost snapped Michael Chiesa’s arm off with a beautiful armbar and somehow gave it away in round 2. Cris Cyborg came out with the worst game plan in history against Amanda Nunes and got KO'd stiff in a brawl that lasted 51 seconds rather than using her skill and size advantages over a longer fight. Jon Jones got us a little redemption in the main event, bringing our night to a 2-4 on the evening.

We now have plenty of time to get ready for the first action of 2019, so let's take a look at what's ahead.

T.J. Dillashaw vs. Henry CejudoSaturday, January 19; at Brooklyn, N.Y.

UFC on ESPN+1 on January 19 is the first major MMA event of the year and it will be headlined by a champion-vs.-champion fight when T.J. Dillashaw drops from 135 to face champion Henry Cejudo for the 125-pound strap. Dillashaw has shown himself to be one of the very best to ever step in the octagon with his dismantling of highly touted challenger and former champion Cody Garbrandt not once, but twice, and both by brutal KO. His speed at his home weight class is unmatched and the power he can muster for a fighter his size is remarkable. He is also a very skilled wrestler and seems to be constantly evolving his game to stay on top of his division.

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Cejudo is an Olympic gold medalist wrestler who has transitioned incredibly well to MMA. He was thrown to Dillashaw too early in his career and lost a five-round decision, but it only took him a few years to polish up his striking and show that he was worthy of another shot. In the rematch, Cejudo edged out a very close decision, taking the title and becoming only the second ever flyweight champion in UFC history. I had him winning that fight as a +350 underdog and it was a great night. On paper the wrestling advantage would likely go to Cejudo as he is an Olympian, but how much of that transitions to MMA wrestling, which is much different in use? Dillashaw is the larger fighter and the more polished striker of the two. Neither has cardio issues and I would give the power edge to Dillashaw.

As the line sits now Dillashaw is a -200 favorite with Cejudo a +175 underdog. We don't have to make a play just yet on this fight, so we are going to keep an eye on that line but my early lean is to Dillashaw. Cejudo did dethrone Dillashaw but it was a wrestling heavyfight against a man very close to his own size. Dillashaw can KO anybody in either weight class and I don't see him being taken down due to his size advantage. If Cejudo is forced to strike with a killer such as Dillashaw, I don't see the night going to well for him. The big question with Dillashaw is, can he make the weight? Dillashaw has always fought at bantamweight and this will be his first shot at flyweight. I am sure he will make the 125 limit, but how will it affect his performance? We regularly see fighters who cut too much weight gas out and suffer from depleted strength and explosiveness, and those are two of Dillashaw’s greatest assets. If he is slowed down or can't keep pace with Cejudo, this fight is very different.

Other notable fighters on the card include: Donald Cerrone, Greg Hardy, J.J. Calderwood, Ion Cutelaba, and Paige Van Zant! This card is shaping up to be exciting and a great kickoff to 2019. I just wish we didn't have to wait quite so long for it to arrive. As the fights get closer we will break down some of the other matches more in-depth and have some picks.

The only other major MMA action in the first month of 2019 is the conclusion of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix on January 26 in Los Angeles.

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