MMA in 2019 got off to a big start on Saturday night as the UFC’s debut on ESPN saw a dominant win for Henry Cejudo in the latest champion vs. champion bout.
With bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw moving down in weight in order to become a double champion – and cement the end of the flyweight division in the process – it was Cejudo who was in control of the fight en route to a quick finish.
Starting at an electric pace and refusing to allow Dillashaw to settle, ‘The Messenger’ fired off kicks and strikes before a push to the ground and a punch behind the ear marked the beginning of the end. With Dillashaw on wobbly legs, Cejudo piled on the pressure and a flurry of punches caused the referee to stop the contest fairly.
The UFC’s new ESPN era also saw big wins for new faces like Gregor Gillespie, Corey Sandhagen and Geoff Neal while familiar ones like Donald Cerrone, Joanne Calderwood and Joseph Benavidez came up victorious too.
With some big winners at UFC Fight Night 143, here are five fights to make with a select bunch of victors:
Henry Cejudo vs. Joseph Benavidez
With a 32-second win over TJ Dillashaw, Henry Cejudo has to have saved the flyweight division and he now has to continue at the 125 lbs limit.
While the UFC will no doubt look to make a rematch for Dillashaw’s bantamweight title, Cejudo must stay around in a talented division and be selfless for the time being.
With Joseph Benavidez winning a hard-fought bout earlier on in the night and already holding a win over the current champion, a Cejudo – Benavidez title fight would help to keep the division chugging along.
Donald Cerrone vs. Conor McGregor
As the UFC’s record holder for wins (22) and most finishes (16), Donald Cerrone is more than deserving for a big-time fight.
With a renewed desire to chase the UFC gold that has evaded him over his career, Cerrone looked better than ever against Alexander Hernandez in a high-profile lightweight return.
Following his victory, Cerrone called out Conor McGregor more hopefully than anything but that fight would make a lot of sense.
With Nate Diaz M.I.A for the considerable future, a fight between Cerrone and McGregor would tick a lot of boxes for the UFC. A winnable fight for McGregor, a high-profile opponent and a thank you to Cerrone for his service, Cerrone vs. McGregor is the way to go.
Gregor Gillespie vs. Francisco Trinaldo
While the Brooklyn crowd may not have been as receptive to Gregor Gillespie’s grappling-heavy performance, ‘The Gift’s’ unwavering control of Yancy Medeiros was spectacular.
MMA’s self-pronounced best fisherman was relentless in his takedowns and as the second-round drew to a close, Gillespie rained down ground-and-pound and forced a stoppage with one second left.
Gillespie’s current unbeaten record and five-fight finishing streak is deserving of a higher-ranked opponent and a fight with the wily veteran Francisco Trinaldo would offer some new challenges for Gillespie to try and overcome.
Joanne Calderwood vs. Katlyn Chookagian
Joanne Calderwood promised ‘JoJo 2.0’ in the build-up to her fight with Ariane Lipski and the Scottish fighter duly delivered.
With controlling grappling and her usual high-paced striking, Calderwood arguably put in one of the best performances of her career.
After the move back up to flyweight, Calderwood has gone 3-0 at 125 lbs under the UFC banner and she will no doubt be at the top end of the promotion’s rankings.
With Katlyn Chookagian currently sitting at #3, a fight between the two in a title eliminator would make sense.
Corey Sandhagen vs. Frankie Saenz
Corey Sandhagen is quietly making a name for himself as one the bantamweight division’s brightest prospects.
At 26-years old, Sandhagen has an excellent arsenal and he isn’t afraid to show it off be it on the mat or on the feet.
While he will no doubt want to test himself against a ranked opponent, a slower build would help to get Sandhagen’s name out there and a fight with Frankie Saenz would pit prospect vs. veteran.