UFC Successfully Returns with Bantamweight Showdown

UFC
JACKSONVILLE, FL - MAY 09: Henry Cejudo (red tap) of the United States kicks Dominick Cruz (blue tape) of the United States in their bantamweight title fight during UFC 249 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on May 9, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

With Mixed Martial Arts being one of so many sports that has been inflicted by the current coronavirus pandemic, the UFC 249 event that was planned for the Brooklyn Arena last month had to be postponed and thankfully after fraught negotiations, the show went down as a success.

UFC Gets the Ball Rolling Again

Ideas such as a fight island had been mooted by the UFC’s Dana White and although the prospect of a somewhat dystopian future of combat sounded somewhat appealing, it also sounded appalling to both Disney and ESPN.

The two media giants balked at the prospect of fights taken place at an unnamed location at the last minute and that meant White and the rest of the UFC higher-ups would have to take alternative measures.

Measures that due to the number of restrictions put in place by Donald Trump, looked somewhat thin on the ground. However, thankfully Florida came to the rescue and it seems as if White may have to send a call of gratitude over to Vince McMahon.

That is because the pro wrestling mogul utilized his lobbying skills to the absolute maximum and managed to get his and other sporting disciplines in the state of Florida, classified as ‘essential for the economy’

Now whether you believe WWE is essential to protecting jobs – especially when McMahon either laid off or furloughed a huge number of his staff last month can be argued. While whichever way you want to look at it, the 74-year-old has done White a huge favor.

With the UFC back open for business, there is a sense of not wanting to waste any more time and with no less than three events scheduled for the next fortnight, the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena will be playing host to each of them.

Saturday’s card was headlined by Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, as the latter earned the interim lightweight champion with a win. Although that took top billing, the focus has been on a lighter weight class.

With an actual title on the line, the bantamweight duel between odds-on favorite Henry Cejudo and Dominick Cruz promised fireworks and delivered. Cruz didn’t look bad in his return by any means, but Cejudo was able to finish the fight late in the second round (with a questionable stoppage). After the fight, Cejudo announced his retirement from the sport, but it’s unclear how serious he is being.

Cruz is a two-time champion at this weight and in his last fight back at UFC 207, he was beaten by Coby Garbrandt by unanimous decision, decision that came after five rounds of pretty much one-sided fighting.

With Cruz disposed of, the bantamweight championship has since taken a rather interesting lineage, with Garbrandt losing T.J Dillashaw in his first defense and then the newly crowned two-time champion was stripped after failing a drug test.

This meant that with a vacant title up for grabs, Cujedo and Marlon Moraes would face off at UFC 238 in June of last year and after a flurry of punches in the third, the 33-year-old Los Angeles born fighter would go on to rule the roost at 135 lbs.

Cejudo leaves this fight (and possibly the sport) with a 16-2 record and after suffering successive losses to Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez four years ago, he has since gone on an impressive six-fight winning streak.

With that said, Cruz is no slouch either and before defeat to Garbrandt at the end of December 2016, he had embarked on an incredible 13 fight winning streak, beating such names as Urijah Faber and Scott Jorgensen.

However, the 35-year-old has never forgotten the defeat to Garbrandt and with a period of activity lasting more than three years. Following Cejudo’s retirement and the questionable stoppage, Cruz can get himself right back into title contention if he can stay healthy.

It has been a rather bleak few years for the former champion, with numerous injuries and at times Cruz has wondered if a return to the octagon was even possible. Although one must not forget that the men and women who enter the caged combat environment are made of much sterner stuff than you or I.

Quitting is simply not in the lexicon of the former champion and that means although Cujedo went into Saturday’s fight as the clear favorite, he also had a target on his back, one that Cruz was not able to exploit. But he looked surprisingly good following his layoff, and will look to get right back into the title picture.

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