MMA notes: Cejudo retires on top and among the best ever; Jones vs. Ngannou needs to get made

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist

A weekly look at MMA’s hottest topics.

Cejudo’s incredible championship reign

What Henry Cejudo did in less than a two-year span, beginning at UFC 227 when he defeated Demetrious Johnson and ending at UFC 249 when he stopped Dominick Cruz, is one of the greatest runs in the sport’s history.

From Aug. 4, 2018, through May 9, 2020, Cejudo fought four times. He defeated two men who are considered among the 10 greatest fighters who ever lived and another, T.J. Dillashaw, who is considered among the Top 20. In addition to that, he knocked out Marlon Moraes, the No. 1 contender in his division who entered their fight having won 17 of 18.

Johnson was on a 13-fight winning streak before fighting Cejudo at UFC 227. Dillashaw was on an 8-1 run and Cruz was 13-1. Combined, those four men were 51-3 in their fights prior to fighting Cejudo.

None of the other legends of the sport had a run that could quite match that. Anderson Silva ran off a 16-fight winning streak, but he never had a two-year span where he beat opponents like that. Only Jon Jones and Silva ever came close in a two-year span to matching what Cejudo did.

From Feb. 5, 2011, through Sept. 22, 2012, Jones defeated Ryan Bader, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans and Vitor Belfort. Georges St-Pierre’s best run came from Aug. 25, 2007, through July 11, 2009, when he defeated Josh Koscheck, Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn and Thiago Alves.

Cejudo will be remembered among the greatest fighters in the history of the sport, alongside Johnson, Jones, St-Pierre, Silva, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Fedor Emelianenko and Cruz.

He probably won’t ever be remembered as the pound-for-pound best because his time at the top was short. And if we take him at his word that he’s done at age 33 — and I do — then he won’t have a chance to add to his record.

Henry Cejudo celebrates his TKO victory over Marlon Moraes of Brazil in their bantamweight championship bout during UFC 238 at the United Center on June 8, 2019, in Chicago. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

It’s a pretty remarkable feat for a guy who, when he fought Johnson for the first time on Aug. 23, 2016, looked overmatched and out of place. But the 2008 Olympic gold medalist showed his ability as he turned his career around and not only defeated Johnson in an outstanding rematch, but left a legacy that is all but unmatched in MMA history.

The next champion will come from between Cory Sandhagen and Aljamain Sterling, who will fight each other, and Peter Yan and Moraes, who also will square off.

My guess is that Yan will emerge from that group as the champion and the best of the bunch long term.

But no matter who it is and how much they accomplish, the ultimate winner will have a long way to go to compare to the achievements of Henry Cejudo.

Why UFC should make Jones-Ngannou fight

Not long after Francis Ngannou annihilated Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC 249 on May 9, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones called him out. Ngannou quickly accepted and it appeared, for a brief moment, that the fight would be on.

But before it even had a chance to build momentum, the fight has seemingly fallen apart. If it’s over money, it’s a rarity for the UFC.

UFC president Dana White is proud of the fact that he’s made the fights the fans want to see.

A Jones-Ngannou fight is one of the most intriguing the UFC could make. Jones is widely regarded as the greatest fighter of all time, but in taking on Ngannou, he’d be facing a guy in a higher weight class who is the scariest man in the sport.

And no matter who wins that fight, it sets up other mega-bouts. If we assume Jones defeats Ngannou, then a title fight between Jones and the Stipe Miocic-Daniel Cormier winner would be massive. If Jones survives that and holds both the light heavyweight and heavyweight titles, he could then attempt to do something no one has ever done: Fight for two belts at the same time.

He could then agree to meet, say, Dominick Reyes, for both the light heavyweight and heavyweight belts. If both men weighed 205, they would make weight for both classes and then could compete for both championships, much like Sugar Ray Leonard did in boxing when he beat Donny Lalonde for the super middleweight and light heavyweight titles.

There is too much good that can come out of a Jones-Ngannou fight.

Let’s get it made, now.

Leon Edwards the big loser so far

The big loser out of the UFC’s coronavirus hiatus to this point is welterweight Leon Edwards, who lost a bout against Tyron Woodley and now doesn’t have a bout scheduled as the sport has resumed.

Woodley is going to fight Gilbert Burns in the main event of Saturday’s card at UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Where that leaves Edwards, who is stuck in England with no big fight set, is in a bad spot.

Of course, the UFC could put him into a title fight against champion Kamaru Usman, but an Usman fight against Jorge Masvidal seems to make more sense. And Usman said he’s open to a fight with Conor McGregor.

Maybe Edwards will get Colby Covington, and that would be a big bout, but right now, he’s the guy who clearly has gotten the short end of the stick.

He said it

MMA coach Din Thomas on the fight between Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey at UFC 207 in 2016, via MMA Junkie Radio:

“I think the first one that I really invested so much into, that I put into, was Amanda and Ronda Rousey. And this was when I was like, ‘This is a fool’s bet,’ because Amanda was the underdog in that fight, I think.

“After studying Ronda, I realized that she was smoke and mirrors, is what I could say, and she wasn’t as good as everybody thought she was. She did some things better than everybody else, but she wasn’t as good as everybody thought she was.”

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