UFC Fight Night 143: Champion vs Champion Preview
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Friday, January 18, 2019
Saturday night marks another milestone for the UFC when they broadcast their first event on ESPN and ESPN + live from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. This is part of the new partnership between the UFC and ESPN, that’ll see the promotion featured on the sports network and streaming service for the next five-years.
Considering this is a big night for the UFC and the sport of MMA, it’s only right that the main event is a super fight for the UFC flyweight championship between the reigning flyweight champion Henry Cejudo and UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw. These two exchanged words at Thursday’s press-conference and have fans excited heading in to Saturday’s event.
Other fights taking place on this historic card include: former NFL player Greg Hardy making his UFC debut against Allen Crowder, Yancy Medeiros moving down to lightweight to take on Gregor Gillespie, Joseph Benavidez vs Dustin Ortiz, Paige VanZant vs Rachael Ostovich in a women’s flyweight bout, and Glover Teixeira vs Karl Roberson. Also, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone headlines the ESPN prelims portion of the event against Alexander Hernandez. This fight marks Cerrone’s first fight at lightweight since 2015, where he challenged Rafael Dos Anjos for the lightweight championship.
UFC Flyweight Championship: Henry Cejudo (c) vs T.J. Dillashaw
The UFC are starting 2019 off with a champion vs champion fight that’ll see current UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw attempt to join the short list of fighters to win a UFC championship in two weight-classes.
There’s been some uncertainty with the UFC flyweight division after the promotion traded the division’s greatest fighter Demetrious Johnson to ONE Championship for welterweight Ben Askren. There has also been speculation that the UFC will scrap the 125lb division after Saturday’s champion vs champion bout.
During Thursday’s press-conference, the reigning flyweight champion Henry Cejudo was quite vocal about the uncertainty of the division and even offered a deal to UFC President Dana White that if he defeats Dillashaw, the flyweight division remains in the UFC and if he loses, then the promotion can do away with the weight-class.
Cejudo is coming into this fight with a three-fight win streak that includes his title victory over Demetrious Johnson, who was not only the greatest flyweight competitor to compete in the octagon, but also considered by many as one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of all-time.
The 2008 Olympic gold medalist will look to quiet all the doubters of the flyweight division and add a win over another champion to his resume. With a win, it’ll most likely set the stage for a rematch for Dillashaw’s bantamweight championship, so there’s a possibility that fans could see back-to-back fights with these two champions.
Dillashaw on the other hand, is coming into this fight on a four-fight win streak that includes back-to-back wins over former UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt; KO win at UFC 217 and TKO win at UFC 227.
Dillashaw stressed that he is looking to become the best pound-for-pound fighter and build his legacy by becoming the flyweight champion and even mentioned that he’d be open to fighting UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway, to add a third title.
Prediction: Henry Cejudo retains the UFC Flyweight Championship
Co-Main Event: Greg Hardy vs Allen Crowder (Heavyweight 265lbs)
The co-main event on the UFC’s first event on ESPN+ will feature former NFL defensive-end Greg Hardy’s UFC debut against Allen Crowder. The addition of Hardy on the main card was met with some criticism by fans and some members of the media because of his past issues of domestic violence and because he’s fighting on the same card as Rachael Ostovich, who was recently the victim of a domestic violence incident.
Dana White came to the defense of the newest addition to the UFC heavyweight division by noting that Hardy’s past had nothing to do with Ostovich and that she herself didn’t take issue with fighting on the same card.
Hardy had a fairly successful NFL career; he spent time with the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys and played in the 2013 Pro Bowl. After a few years of being in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, Hardy decided to change his career path and shift his focus to MMA.
Dana White gave Hardy an opportunity after he went 3-0 at the amateur level. The 30-year-old would compete on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, where he finished both his opponents in the first round. Hardy would later knockout Rasheem Jones at 53-seconds of the first round at Xtreme Fight Night 352 in September 2018, before officially being signed to the UFC’s roster.
Allen Crowder comes into this fight as the much more experienced fighter (9-3, 1NC) and will look to use the ESPN platform and Hardy’s publicity to become a bigger name in the UFC and move up the heavyweight rankings.
Even though Crowder has more experience, I think Hardy will come out victorious in this because none of his fights have gone past two-minutes and he’s showcased the power he possesses in all his fights both at the amateur and professional level ending in KO or TKO.
Prediction: Greg Hardy
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Photo Credit: @espnmma and @UFC