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A Fallen King: Henry Cejudo

When Henry Cejudo knocked out Dominick Cruz at UFC 249, his profile was almost transcendent.  In the prime of his career, he announced his retirement as a two-division champion.  Cejudo had defeated the seemingly invincible Demetrious Johnson.  He made short work of TJ Dillashaw.  He endured adversity against a dangerous Marlon Moraes, and he quickly finished the most decorated bantamweight champion in Cruz.  Already an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling, Henry had staked a claim as the greatest combat sport athlete of all time.  

Image – Bleacher Report

In his absence, the bantamweight division moved on.  Petr Yan became champion, followed by Aljamain Sterling.  Cejudo continued to maintain an active presence in the scene, but remained on the sidelines.  Indeed, had he stayed retired, fans would have to wonder eternally how he would fare against the current bantamweight contenders.

But Cejudo did make his return in a title fight against Aljamain Sterling.  He fought a close fight against Sterling, but ultimately came up short.  Although he held his own, this performance fell far short of Cejudo’s previous standards.  Cejudo then tried to bounce back in an arguably tougher matchup against the rising contender, Merab Dvalishvili. 

Image – Fighters Only

In the first round, Cejudo looked phenomenal.  He rocked Merab badly and outwrestled him.  However, Merab began to turn the tides in the second round with his pace.  By round three, the fight had completely changed.  Merab dominated Cejudo and even threw him to the ground with ease.  Henry looked labored and exhausted, which allowed Merab to clinch the all-important victory.  

Henry’s previous accomplishments continue to stand the test of time.  He will always have wins over some of the best fighters in the sport.  However, two questions will inevitably follow his legacy: what if he didn’t retire, and what if he stayed retired?  Cejudo’s decision to vacate may have cost him several big title fight opportunities as the reigning champion.  Likewise, if he had stayed retired, his lasting image would be of him holding two belts.  Now coming off two consecutive losses, it serves as a reminder of how quickly this sport can change, even for a lifelong competitor like Cejudo.

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