TUF 24 Finale Breakdown: Joseph Benavidez vs Henry Cejudo

benavidezPrior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the co-main event of The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale as former flyweight title challengers meet as Joseph Benavidez takes on Henry Cejudo in a top five clash.   Joseph Benavidez (Record: 24-4, -200 Favorite, Fighter Grade: A) The long time flyweight contender has been the division’s second best fighter since its inception. Benavidez enters the fight on a five fight winning streak including victories over former title challengers Ali Bagautinov and John Moraga. In his 28 fight professional career, he only holds losses to UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. Benavidez has proven to be one of the top fighters in the world with an excellent all around approach to the sport. He has good striking techniques and does a good of being the aggressor in fights. Even though he tends to be the aggressor, he fights smart and rarely puts himself in trouble with excellent strike defense (65%). His wrestling game is decent, but he can be taken down by strong wrestlers. To Benavidez credit, he’s tremendous in scrambles and is rarely held to the mat in any of his fights. Like most fighters who made their name while training at Team Alpha Male, Benavidez has a great guillotine submission. There are very few flaws in his ability; the best way to beat him would be by superior movement or being able to hold him down. That’s why only the true elite fighters have been able to beat him.   Henry Cejudo (Record: 10-1, +170 Underdog, Fighter Grade: A-) The second youngest American Olympic Gold Medalist in wrestling, Henry Cejudo is a gifted wrestler that turned to MMA at the end of his wrestling career. Cejudo had been undefeated prior to a first round TKO loss to champion Demetrious Johnson in April 2016. This is his first fight back since that loss. The extremely gifted wrestler entered the UFC with high regard as the youngest American wrestler (at the time) win a gold medal in the Summer Olympics. As one would believe, his game begins with his wrestling. In his time in the UFC, he’s averaged nearly 2.5 takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon. His ability to explode into takedown attempts is certainly a unique skill set. On the feet, he is no slouch either. He has a solid amateur boxing background and is able to strike combination. He has good hands, but his kicking game is rather limited. Physically he’s a really gifted fighter, but there are question marks surrounding him outside the cage. His dedication to MMA has come into question as he’s missed weight on multiple occasions. Furthermore, after a lot of hype leading into his championship fight with Demetrious Johnson he folded quickly at the first signs of adversity in the fight. It’s these obstacles that he needs to overcome to become a world champion; not the physical ones.   Matchup A pivotal clash in the flyweight division sees Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo meet in a top five matchup. This a key bout for both to position themselves at perhaps one more chance at Demetrious Johnson and the flyweight championship. Physically, I see this as a very close contest. Cejudo certainly has the advantages in the wrestling and should be able to take Benavidez to the mat in this fight. However, the Team Alpha Male trained fighter has shown time and time again he’s nearly impossible to hold down and gets back to his feet very easily. Therefore, I don’t see that being the deciding factor in this fight. Look for this fight to stay standing. Cejudo can compete on the feet, but Benavidez does have some rather unorthodox striking that could cause some problems. Benavidez is a veteran that has faced the best fighters in the sport. He’s seen it all and faced better, more complex strikers in the past. Benavidez has been through difficult fights and is able to find holes to exploit. Cejudo is someone who excels when he has a clear advantage. When the fight is more complex, he has real difficulty. The mental side of this sport is really important and Benavidez has won that battle thus far. He’s very confident in this matchup and Cejudo certainly hasn’t held up well during their discussions on The Ultimate Fighter series or in other media vehicles. I’m not going to say Cejudo is beaten before the fight, but I think Benavidez has a major edge in that area and combined with his well-rounded talent he’s a deserved favorite in this bout. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Benavidez moneyline closer to fight day. If the price dips below -200, it’s worth consideration.

Written by Jay Primetown

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