LOS ANGELES — The conventional wisdom going into UFC 227 was that this time around, Henry Cejudo was going to give Demetrious Johnson a better matchup than their first battle.
But few could have imagined just how much better the rematch would be. In what might have been the greatest flyweight fight in the history of mixed martial arts, Cejudo defeated the man who many considered the pound-for-pound best fighter in the sport and claimed his UFC flyweight title.
After a scintillating 25 minutes of action at Staples Center, Cejudo won the championship via split decision, getting the better end of two out of three 48-47 scores on Saturday night.
With the victory, Cejudo ended the second longest UFC title reign in history at five years, 10 months, and ended Johnson’s win streak at 13 and unbeaten streak at 14. He also avenged a first-round loss to Johnson two years ago.
“I came in, I was knocked out in the first round two years ago, and this time I came in and defeated the legend and now I’m the champion,” Cejudo (13-2) said.
The opening round showed no signs that anything was amiss, as Johnson used his speed and a variety of kicks to keep Cejudo guessing. In the second, though, Cejudo landed his first takedown of the fight, and noticably picked up the pace.
Johnson regained his bearings in the third round and did a tremendous job scrambling out of Cejudo’s takedowns, at one point somersaulting off the mat and nearly getting Cejudo’s back.
But it was Cejudo who had more gas in the tank over the final two rounds. His relentless pressure and wrestling was too much of a puzzle for even the cerebral Johnson to solve, as Cejudo sealed his championship victory.
Johnson, who broke Anderson Silva’s venerated record by successfully defending his title 11 times, was gracious after his first defeat since a 2011 loss to then-UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz.
“Nothing he landed rocked me, but he’s the champ now,” Johnson (27-3-1) said. “I knew he was going to be tough knew he was going to bring his A-game.”