Saturday’s UFC 227 event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Los Angeles, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at STAPLES Center.
1 – Henry Cejudo
What a difference two years makes. From rock bottom to the top of the world, Henry Cejudo’s win over Demetrious Johnson was another shining example of why there is no drama and place for redemption like there is in combat sports. Think about being knocked out by one of the greatest fighters of all-time and then being tasked with facing him again, AND pulling it off. But Cejudo’s gold medal-winning performance in 2008 proved that he’s made from different stuff from most athletes, and waking up Sunday morning as the UFC flyweight champion cemented his place in the combat sports history books. As for what’s next, Cejudo expressed his desire for a SuperFight against bantamweight boss TJ Dillashaw, but a rubber match with DJ is a natural and I’d love to see these two go at it again for five rounds. That was a fun fight.
2 – TJ Dillashaw
It’s almost hard to believe that TJ Dillashaw’s 2014 win over Renan Barao was seen as one of the biggest upsets in UFC history. Now, four years later, Dillashaw has to be in the running for the top spot in the pound-for-pound rankings. His Saturday win over Cody Garbrandt had a lot of emotion attached to it, and it’s not surprising that it ended due to Dillashaw’s skill in a firefight. Short, accurate blows led him to victory, and it will do the same for him in a lot of fights moving forward. So will new flyweight champ Henry Cejudo be next, or will he get to face one of a long list of hungry contenders at 135 like Dominick Cruz, Raphael Assuncao or Marlon Moraes? I vote for the latter.
3 – Demetrious Johnson
When a longtime champion loses a razor-thin decision and his title, he or she can go in any number of directions emotionally, and rightfully so. Sometimes, this isn’t a great look. But with the class and professionalism he showed after Saturday’s loss to Henry Cejudo, Demetrious Johnson proved once and for all that you don’t have to have a belt to be a champion. And that attitude will serve Johnson well as he looks to get that belt back in the coming months.
4 – Renato Moicano
Sometimes fighters get better after a loss, but it’s not a regular occurrence. Renato Moicano is one of those few, as he bounced back from the lone defeat of his career to Brian Ortega to beat a quality prospect in Calvin Kattar and a veteran contender in Cub Swanson. And when you consider that the Ortega loss was a back and forth Fight of the Night, it’s likely that we’re going to see Moicano’s name among the best featherweights in the world for a long time.
5 – Alex Perez
I always wonder what happens when a bout goes from being a mixed martial arts sporting event to a fight, and Alex Perez gave a shining example of it Saturday night, as he blitzed previously unbeaten Jose Torres with strikes and just kept on blitzing until the fight was stopped at 3:36 of the first round. Perez has always been a top-level talent. But now the rest of the world is starting to see it. And with a win like he delivered at UFC 227, it’s hard to believe Perez was once nicknamed “The Decision.”