The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s flyweight division appears to have a new No. 1 contender.
Henry Cejudo remained unbeaten and more importantly improved to 4-0 inside the Octagon, as the 2008 Olympic gold medalist took a split decision from Jussier da Silva at UFC Fight Night “Magny vs. Gastelum” on Saturday at the Monterrey Arena in Monterrey, Mexico. Though he was far from spectacular, Cejudo was undeniably efficient and did enough to earn 30-27 scores from two cageside judges.
As he has done throughout his 10-fight MMA career, Cejudo paired crisp boxing with well-timed takedowns, a knee-infested clinch and occasional kicks to the legs and body. He dropped “Formiga” to a knee with an overhand right in the first round and maintained a brisk pace throughout the 15-minute encounter, showing no ill effects from what has always been a difficult weight cut to 125 pounds. According to preliminary FightMetric data, Cejudo out-landed the former Shooto Americas champion in terms of significant strikes and total strikes in all three rounds. A four-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, da Silva did not attempt a single submission.
In wake of UFC Fight Night “Magny vs. Gastelum,” here are five matchups that ought to be considered:
Henry Cejudo vs. Demetrious Johnson: Cejudo has moved to the front of the line of contenders at 125 pounds after just four fights in the UFC. The 28-year-old Fight Ready rep has yet to show a penchant for the finish, as his wins over da Silva, Chico Camus, Chris Cariaso and Dustin Kimura have all resulted in decisions. In a perfect world, Cejudo would be given time for further seasoning and development before facing “Mighty Mouse,” but Johnson’s dominant reign has left the division void of viable challengers. The Matt Hume protégé has won his last nine bouts, besting Cariaso, Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez (twice), John Dodson (twice), John Morago, Kyoji Horiguchi and Ali Bagautinov.
Neil Magny vs. Stephen Thompson: A strong start propelled Magny to a split decision over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 winner Kelvin Gastelum in the main event. The Elevation Fight Team export stepped in on short notice for the injured Matt Brown and shined in the spotlight under less-than-ideal circumstances, utilizing multi-punch combinations, surprise takedowns and sublime grappling to upset the 3-to-1 favorite Gastelum. Magny has quietly won nine of his last 10 fights, becoming a significant player in the welterweight division. On a five-fight tear that includes knockouts against Jake Ellenberger and Robert Whittaker, Thompson was originally scheduled to face Magny at UFC 195 on Jan. 2 and remains without a dance partner.
Ricardo Lamas vs. Max Holloway-Jeremy Stephens winner: Lamas did not oblige Diego Sanchez with the firefight he desired in their co-headliner, and his commitment to technique and strategy paid dividends. “The Bully” was quicker to the punch and held his own in the grappling exchanges, as he banked a well-deserved unanimous decision. Lamas blew out Sanchez’s base with leg kicks in the second round and opened a cut near “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 winner’s right eye with a spinning back elbow in the third, paving the way to his seventh win in nine outings. Holloway and Stephens will collide at UFC 194 on Dec. 12 in Las Vegas.
Andre Fili vs. Yair Rodriguez: Fili rebounded in fine fashion from his disappointing submission loss to Godofredo Castro in March, as he disposed of Gabriel Benitez with a first-round head kick and follow-up punches on the UFC Fight Night “Magny vs. Gastelum” undercard. Still just 25 years of age, the Team Alpha Male prospect has struggled to find consistency since he arrived in the UFC a little more than two years ago, alternating wins and losses in each of his five appearances inside the Octagon. Rodriguez last fought at UFC 192 on Oct. 3, when he recorded his fourth straight victory in a unanimous decision over Daniel Hooker.
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Demian Maia-Gunnar Nelson loser: Observers see Gastelum’s obvious natural talent and tend to forget his relative lack of experience. The 24-year-old Arizonan hit another bump in the road against Magny, as he found himself on the wrong side of a split decision despite scoring two fourth-round knockdowns. Gastelum could not overcome his slow start to net the finish he needed and watched the underrated and often-overlooked Magny walk out of the cage with his hand raised. Maia and Nelson will lock horns in an anticipated showdown between two of the UFC’s premier submission grapplers at UFC 194 in December.