The main card of UFC 211 features two top level flyweights, each of whom could be considered for a title challenge with a few more good wins. While Henry Cejudo may have already had his crack at glory, Sergio Pettis is looking to throw his card into the Demetrious Johnson sweepstakes (a prize that I’m not sure anyone truly wants to win at this point). This fight has a lot riding on it for both fighters and it’s good to see it opening up the main card for one of the more stacked events of the year (good job UFC, keep this up and people may end up caring about flyweight).
Henry Cejudo has the tools to give anyone at 125 lbs tons of issues. His mix of gritty, powerful and technical wrestling has matched well with his kickboxing style. Cejudo showed in his bout with Joseph Benavidez that he has the ability to go three hard rounds against a tactical and fast paced opponent. His kicking game was also very impressive. The biggest flaw in that fight however was how much power he threw into every shot. If he learns to fight at a more measured pace, picking his shots, flashing the jab to control distance, and level changes when Pettis over commits, we could see Cejudo put on a dominant performance.
The plan of attack for Cejudo should be fairly straight forward. Takedowns will play a major role, as will controlling the clinch and landing heavy punches on the break. Cejudo is likely to have a strength advantage here and he needs to let Pettis understand that as soon as the first bell rings. Cejudo fell in love with his power a bit in his bout with Joseph Benavidez and he’ll want to avoid that here. Basic boxing combinations like the double jab cross will be effective in this fight. He’ll need to stay in Pettis’ face and stay busy the whole time in order prevent the younger man from trying to control the distance. Pettis wants distance which means Cejudo needs to make him feel claustrophobic and fight in a phone booth. Ending combinations with either a left hook or right round kick will do Cejudo a ton of good.
Sergio Pettis may not have the flash and flare of his older brother, but he does indeed have a more complete game. The younger Pettis looks to mix up his attack with sharp striking coupled with some nicely timed level changes. Rather than just focus purely on knocking opponents out, Pettis likes to employ a game that keeps his opposition guessing. He’s as likely to fire off a blistering head kick as he is to shoot for a takedown.
The goal for Pettis here is to frustrate Cejudo and get his distance with kicks immediately before the Olympic wrestler can get comfortable. While kicking against a wrestler can be ill advised, if you get the distance just right it can keep the shorter Cejudo on the outside. The benefit of Sergio Pettis being from a traditional martial arts background means that he has the ability to throw strikes from both stances. It will allow him to confuse Cejudo and, once his opponent is bewildered, land a devastating rear round kick or cross from the southpaw stance.
Most important for Pettis is to ensure his feet keep moving. The younger Pettis has a tendency to stand still at times which can get him into all kinds of trouble with a power puncher and wrestler of Cejudo’s caliber.
Which flyweight will take one step closer to punching their ticket for the Demetrious Johnson horror show?
Jonathan Salmon is a writer, martial arts instructor, and geek culture enthusiast. Check out his Twitter and Facebook to keep up with his antics.
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