UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw is one victory away from becoming just the fourth fighter to simultaneously hold two titles in two separate divisions.
Dillashaw looks to cement his legacy with an accomplishment of this magnitude at UFC Fight Night 143.
The brash, lethal world champion hasn’t shied away from embracing the role as the “bad guy.” Dillashaw plans to end Cejudo’s reign as flyweight champion as well as the division as a whole.
“UFC wants to get rid of the division and they hired me to go down and close it and get another belt in the process,”Dillashaw said during an interview on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show. “It’s a win-win for me, man. They are paying me a fuck load of money to kill the 125 division and collect a second belt. It’s game time,”
As Dillashaw takes on Cejudo, the youngest Olympic gold medalists in U.S.A. freestyle wrestling history, he must focus on these three keys to victory:
1. Angles and Intelligent Pressure
Using intelligent pressure and movement are going to be key in diminishing Cejudo’s confidence. As we saw in Dillashaw’s fights against Garbrandt, the bantamweight champion’s movement was essential to staying off the canvas. With a calculated wrestler like Cejudo, TJ must bring forward a lot of pressure as well as cut off angles during his exits to prevent Henry from initiating a clinch or giving him a clear takedown attempt. This is nothing new for Dillashaw as pressure, movement and tricky angles are a staple in his training with Duane Ludwig and his Bang Muay Thai approach.
“I can’t tell you exactly which way I’m going to finish him, but my pressure is going to be too much,” Dillashaw said via MMAFighting.com. “I’m too well-rounded that I can take the fight anywhere, and he’s going to want to fold. He doesn’t have that competitive edge that I have.”
2. Mix in Take Downs
As crazy as it sounds, and contrary to the game plan of staying on his feet, it is likely we will see Dillashaw take Cejudo down. We probably won’t see the same mauling and top pressure on the ground from Dillashaw as we have seen in previous fights but it will allow him to look for submissions. Mixing in takedowns isn’t so much to prove that he can hold his own on the ground, but to disrupt Cejudo’s offense with the constant threat of a takedown. Again, Dillashaw will want to utilize his angles as he shoots for takedowns as well—the awkward and unorthodox angles that Dillashaw works from will make it much trickier for Cejudo than that of a typical wrestler. A few takedowns will make his feints much more effective and will set up his devastating power shots, namely his head kicks.
Though the lifelong bantamweight seems to have the advantage on the feet, Dillashaw is still more than confident with his “MMA wrestling” abilities. In a recent JRE MMA Show, Dillashaw asserted as much:
“[Henry Cejudo] wants to claim himself as the greatest combat athlete ever: ‘I’m a UFC Champion, I’m a gold medalist’. I’ll go out there and beat you in wrestling. MMA wrestling is completely different. I’m the better athlete, I can beat him anywhere.”
3. Pace Himself
Dillashaw has always been a high output fighter—using his superior striking and problematic angels to overwhelm his opponents. Regarding this match-up, TJ has to remember is this is a five-round fight at a lower weight class than he’s ever competed in. Dillashaw has not made the cut to 125 pounds since he was a senior in high school, though he seems unfazed by the draining cut, sitting a comfortable ten pounds away from the limit days out from the official weigh-ins.
All of that being said, Dillashaw should take his time and refrain from trying to force a stoppage too quickly. In the opening rounds, he should simply focus on trap-setting and confusing Cejudo. It can be argued that Cejudo is the better wrestler, more accomplished at least, but Dillashaw is the better, more accomplished mixed material artist. TJ should focus on keeping his man guessing to set up a stoppage in the later rounds rather than gassing himself out looking for a quick knockout.
Saturday night, it’s Champ vs. Champ. Will Dillashaw cement his legacy as one of the few UFC ‘Double Champs’ or will Cejudo shock the MMA world once again?
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