Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Henry Cejudo has been doing this mixed martial arts thing for only four years.
It’s especially easy to forget on a night like Saturday, when the Olympic gold medalist ripped through a fellow former title challenger with relative ease. The man known as “The Messenger” delivered exactly that to the rest of the division at UFC 215, stopping Wilson Reis via technical knockout 25 seconds into round two at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Just two fights removed from a first-round TKO loss to reigning champion Demetrious Johnson, Cejudo looked like a new and improved fighter, mixing up his strikes before flooring Reis with a straight right and clinching the victory with a series of unanswered punches on the canvas.
Cejudo ended a two-fight skid with the defeat, although he also showed vast improvement during a split-decision setback against Joseph Benavidez at “The Ultimate Fighter 24” finale in December. He was scheduled to face Sergio Pettis at UFC 211 earlier this year, but was forced to withdraw from that bout due to a hand injury.
“I hadn't won in the Octagon since December 2015 so it feels amazing to get the victory tonight,” Cejudo said. “I had been away for even longer due to my hand injury but I have been training hard and trying to get better. I started practicing karate and have settled into a karate stance. I also have a great boxing team around me to create more dynamic striking. I don't know what is next for me just yet, but I'm going back to the gym to keep improving. I will be champion.”
After Cejudo finished Reis, he acknowledged Johnson in the audience, something he said was more a matter of respect than anything else. After his most recent performance, Cejudo looks like he could be ready for a rematch against “Mighty Mouse” in the near future.
“I’ve only been fighting four years now man. I’m just evolving. I’m just scratching the surface,” he said.
“I’m still growing as a fighter. I never did amateurs. I was kind of in the fast lane a little bit. I’m slowing improving. I’m an athlete; I can do a lot of things that maybe your typical wrestler can’t.”
The loss to Johnson at UFC 197, which resulted from knees to the body, remains fresh in Cejudo’s mind, even if he admits there is more work to do to get on the level of the champion.
“I’m a competitor, and for me to get stopped like that in front of 20,000 people, that s—t hurts,” Cejudo said. “I think about that a lot.”
For now, Cejudo wouldn’t mind if the UFC rebooked him against Pettis.
“I like that fight,” he said. “I know he’s one guy that wants me, and so do I. I don’t make decisions on my own, but yeah absolutely. I want to fight the best guys out there.”