UFC Brooklyn, aka UFC on ESPN+ 1, aka UFC Fight Night 143, aka UFC Fight Night: Cejudo vs. Dillashaw is our first night of UFC action since UFC 232, way back on Dec. 30 of last year. The first official event of the ESPN era definitely has that magical feeling of a big-time show, even with several bout changes due to the pesky injury bug.
The main event is a solidly booked superfight, a champ vs. champ affair featuring flyweight kingpin Henry Cejudo facing off against current bantamweight titan TJ Dillashaw. The importance of this fight should not be taken lightly, as the future of the flyweight division could end up being determined by its outcome.
But I digress. There are several extremely compelling fights on the bout sheet, and I’ve selected four in total (including the main event) that I feel have great potential to end in an upset. Let’s get started with the breakdowns of those four contests.
TJ Dillashaw ($8,900) vs. Henry Cejudo ($7,300)
Dillashaw is one of the most well-rounded fighters on the entire UFC roster. He really is the complete package, and if this fight weren’t taking place at 125 pounds, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick him. That said, the fight IS taking place at 125 pounds, a weight that doesn’t seem to be the most healthy fit for him. I could be wrong, and he makes the cut easily, goes in there and makes a fool of me, and that would be OK, because my fears for his health would be unfounded.
But right now, two days out from the fight, I have more confidence in Cejudo making the healthier cut, being the more resilient athlete come fight time, and having the cardio to go all five rounds without a significant discharge of his internal battery. Not to mention, when it comes to the ground exchanges, Henry should have the advantage. If it stays standing, he can hold his own, but the exchanges assuredly would favor Dillashaw.
This was my hardest choice, and I’ve gone back and forth so many times I’ve lost count, but I feel there’s slightly more upside to Cejudo in this bout, so I’m very cautiously, ultra-hesitantly picking him to have his hand raised in victory Saturday night.
Prediction — Henry Cejudo via Decision
Joseph Benavidez ($9,000) vs. Dustin Ortiz ($7,200)
Benavidez is a world class fighter with great cardio, excellent fight IQ and finishing ability. He’s lost to only three men (twice to Demetrious Johnson, twice to Dominick Cruz and most recently to Sergio Pettis), but the loss to Pettis has me wondering whether his chronological age (34) is being taken over by his fighting age (31 fights). I just don’t have the ultimate faith in him I once did. I picked him to beat young Alex Perez in his most recent outing, but I don’t have that same confidence against Ortiz.
I know Benavidez won the first fight against Ortiz, but Dustin has come a long way since then, chalking up a three-win streak against Hector Sandoval, Alexandre Pantoja and Mattheus Nicolau along the way. Ortiz never stops looking for the finish, evidenced by several TKOs on his record. He’s also tough as nails, having been finished only once in his nine-year career.
This is another dicey pick, but I think Ortiz has what it takes to get the W here.
Prediction — Dustin Ortiz via (T)KO
Glover Teixeira ($8,300) vs. Karl Roberson ($7,900)
Teixeira is still a threat at light heavyweight, but that distinction is coming to a close. A bit long in the tooth, he is still a ferocious submission artist, very aggressive on the feet and has some of the best ground-and-pound in the sport. The memory of his most recent fight, a unanimous decision loss to Corey Anderson, still is playing in my mind, and I have the feeling that at 39, we’ve seen his best days.
Roberson isn’t some wrecking machine cutting a swathe of destruction through the ranks, but he has youth on his side and a good ground game paired with a couple knockouts on his eight-fight record that only spans a little over three years. He comes from the ranks of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series and might prove to be an excellent investment for the UFC should he secure a win over an OG like Teixeira.
It’s not my most confident pick, but I think Roberson might just be able to pull off the upset here.
Prediction — Karl Roberson via TKO
Alexander Hernandez ($8,600) vs. Donald Cerrone ($7,600)
Hernandez is a top prospect sporting an impressive 10-1 record that includes back-to-back wins over Beneil Dariush and Olivier Aubin-Mercier. He calls the Ohana Fight Academy in San Antonio, Texas his training home, and looks to have a bright future in the sport. He has one-punch knockout power, a natty submission game, and the cardio to go the distance.
That said, Alex is very green, and against a truly crafty veteran like Cerrone, he very easily could find himself in trouble, especially if the fight ends up on the ground, where “Cowboy” is very proficient. Cerrone also has the more technical striking of the two and has a nose for sniffing out defensive weakness. The only things I worry about are that Donald is making his first cut back down to 155 in three-plus years and he’s a notoriously slow starter. While they could end up being formidable issues, I think Cerrone’s experience and technique will give him the edge.
Prediction — Donald Cerrone via Decision
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