Style Showcase: Dillashaw vs. Cejudo
The first fight card of the UFC-ESPN era is headlined by a Champion vs. Champion matchup that is sure to be a barn-burner. Bantamweight Champion, TJ Dillashaw is going down a weight class to challenge current Flyweight Champion, Henry Cejudo for his title and also attempt to join the prestigious short list of “champ-champs”. Also important to note that Dillashaw is the first UFC fighter to challenge a champion at lower weight class for their title. Both fighters have distinct styles that have enabled them to stand out from their peers and become champions in their respective divisions. As they say, “styles make fights,” so let’s breakdown how these two competitors match up.
Tale of the tape
Styles are often made around a fighter’s physical attributes, longer strikers tend to stay on the outside when striking, while shorter wrestlers tend to get in tight with their strikes, etc. Dillashaw(5’6) and Cejudo(5’4) are very close in height, with the slight advantage going to Dillashaw, but the biggest physical difference will be the weight. Dillashaw is a very lean 135-er and will be even leaner at 125, while Cejudo has big cuts to 125 and walks into the cage very filled in. Dillashaw is the champion at the higher weight class, but don’t be surprised if Cejudo looks like the larger man when they enter the cage on January 19th. These explosive fighters have two completely different styles, but surprisingly share a common goal, overwhelm the opposition.
Crack from the pressure
Dillashaw and Cejudo both are at their best when they are in control of the pace and pressuring their opponents. Dillashaw does so with a vast array of strikes and movement, while Cejudo does so with multiple takedowns and top pressure. Both styles are extremely frustrating for their opponents because it doesn’t give them a chance to get into a rhythm or establish an offense of their own. Dillashaw’s attack is very taxing mentally as the brain is overloaded with information as he switches stances, cuts angles, attacks high and low. Cejudo’s wrestling and top pressure smothers his opponents, draining their cardio with each passing minute as they work to get off the mat. Cejudo is a force to be reckoned with when the fights on the canvas, but he’s made leaps and bounds in his striking that you don’t want to sleep on.
Cejudo has taken the karate stance and techniques that come with it, and has paired them with his Olympic level wrestling. It may seem counter-intuitive at first for a wrestler to use this style because of the wide base and tall posture, but the stance allows him to slide in and out of range allowing him to time his takedowns as well as strike effectively. Cejudo doesn’t try to explode with blast doubles to try and force takedowns, he times his shots when his opponents commit too hard to strike. Not to say that’s the only time he shoots but that’s just when he seems to have the most success. This karate stance makes it very easy for him to maintain pressure safely until he can time and get the shot he wants. The best example of this came from his fight with Sergio Pettis every time Pettis overcommitted on a strike Cejudo would be on the single leg. It happened all 3 rounds with the exact same takedown, Pettis commits too hard, Cejudo slides forward and takes the single.
He was also successful striking during that fight because he was able to explode forward and slide back out of danger. It’s very similar to how Khabib Nurmagomedov was able to land such a clean shot on Conor McGregor, the grappling threat is so high that it creates even more opportunities in the striking. When Cejudo explodes forward there’s always a chance he could initiate a takedown instead of just throwing a strike, allowing Cejudo to really open up and have a more dynamic offense.
Dillashaw striking system
Dillashaw and his coach Duane Ludwig have truly come together and created a style that’s for him. If you look at UFC roster there isn’t a single fighter who moves like he does, switching stances mid combination, angle changes, and explosive lateral movement as he advances forward. He’s just as dangerous southpaw as he is orthodox you could even argue he’s probably most dangerous when he’s in the middle of switching stances. The best part of Dillashaw’s game isn’t his diverse range of attacks, it’s how he uses them. He will throw his attack, react to what he sees coming back to him, and then make adjustments mid-fight.
His fight IQ is his most dangerous weapon and in his last fight against Cody Garbrandt, it was on marvelous display. In their first exchange of the fight, Dillashaw land a right hook and Cody lands one as well, he reads this and adjusts beautifully to their next exchange of hooks later in the round. When they exchange hooks again Dillashaw adjusts by taking a small outstep and leaning to the outside, this adjustment allows him to land three right hooks in a row hurting Cody badly without getting hit by Cody. This ability to make these mid-round adjustments makes him a nightmare for his opponents.
Keys to victory
- Staying discipline when pressuring forward and not over-committing to strikes
- Work hard angles when Henry Cejudo explodes forward
- When taken down, start the scramble immediately in order to prevent Cejudo from initiating his top pressure game
Dillashaw’s movement is very dynamic, he moves at angles, laterally, linearly, he’s always moving. Cejudo moves very linearly with his attacks, either straight forward or straight back. Dillashaw can use this to dance around him and land shots Cejudo can’t even see coming. He just has to be careful when he’s pressing Cejudo that he doesn’t commit too far and give up easy takedowns. Once the fight does hit the canvas, Dillashaw needs to work to stand immediately so Cejudo doesn’t gas him with his top pressure. The biggest key for Dillashaw is to use his footwork to keep his opponent off of him while he picks his strikes.
- Initiate takedown attempts while Dillashaw is in mid combination
- Forward pressure and keeping Dillashaw on the cage
- Feinting shots to create openings to land strikes
In order to limit Dillashaw’s mobility Cejudo will need to stay in his face and keep him pressured along the cage. This will make his shots easier and keep him safer as he sets up his strikes. Dillashaw will often find himself square while throwing combinations because he switches so frequently, because of this Cejudo should have easy takedown opportunities if he shoots when Dillashaw starts his combo. The biggest key for Cejudo is to grind his opponent down, whether it be top pressure, clinches on the cage, constantly shooting, etc. Limiting Dillashaw’s offense as much as he can in order to set up his own.
Amateur MMA fighter and Journalism major at the University of North Texas. When it comes to Smash Bros. you don’t want these problems.