Excuse Henry Cejudo while he breathes in some rarefied air.
The 2008 Olympic gold medalist joined Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier and Amanda Nunes as the only simultaneous two-division titleholders in Ultimate Fighting Championship history, as he vanquished Marlon Moraes with ground-and-pound and captured the vacant bantamweight crown in the third round of their UFC 238 main event on Saturday at the United Center in Chicago. Cejudo, the promotion’s reigning flyweight champion, drew the curtain 4:51 into Round 3.
Moraes appeared to be headed for a blowout victory in the first round, where he sent 15 powerful kicks crashing into the inside and outside of his counterpart’s legs. Cejudo withstood the Brazilian’s initial onslaught, lured him into deeper water and altered the completion of the fight with pressure and persistence. According to preliminary FightMetric data, he outlanded Moraes by a 94-43 margin in total strikes across the second and third rounds.
In the aftermath of UFC 238 “Cejudo vs. Moraes,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Henry Cejudo vs. Petr Yan: Cejudo has emerged from Demetrious Johnson’s immense shadow and carved out a historic niche all his own. The 32-year-old Fight Ready representative has rattled off five consecutive victories in his rise to the top of two weight classes and has the look of a fighter at the peak of his powers. With flyweight division seemingly on life support and its prognosis growing bleaker by the day, Cejudo figures to focus on the new challenges available to him at 135 pounds. There are plenty from which to choose, starting perhaps with Yan. The 26-year-old Russian extended his winning streak to eight fights with a unanimous decision over Jimmie Rivera on the main card.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Katlyn Chookagian: Seasoned observers called it mismatch, and they could not have been more correct in their assessment. Shevchenko retained the undisputed UFC women’s flyweight championship in the co-headliner, where she knocked out Jessica Eye with a vicious second-round head kick. An unconscious Eye hit the deck 26 seconds into Round 2 and lay motionless for several tense moments in the center of the Octagon, the victim in one of the most memorable finishes in women’s MMA history. All signs point to extended Shevchenko reign at 125 pounds. Chookagian won for the fourth time in five appearances, as she walked away from her undercard clash opposite Joanne Calderwood with a unanimous decision.
Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov-Dustin Poirier winner: Ferguson returned from an eight-month layoff and never missed a beat, as he was awarded a technical knockout over Donald Cerrone in between the second and third rounds of their lightweight showcase. His right eye swollen well beyond the point of no return, Cerrone was not permitted to continue after absorbing an ungodly amount of punishment in Round 2. Ferguson, who has not lost in more than six years, finds himself on a 12-fight winning streak while having once again surfaced as the clear-cut No. 1 contender at 155 pounds. Nurmagomedov will defend the lightweight championship against Poirier at UFC 242 on Sept. 7.
Tatiana Suarez vs. Jessica Andrade: The undefeated Suarez improved to 8-0 and passed her most substantial test to date with a unanimous decision over American Top Team’s Nina Ansaroff in the featured prelim. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28. Suarez established her superiority in the first two rounds, as she frustrated Ansaroff with repeated takedowns and stifling control. However, her performance was far from flawless. Suarez appeared to tire late in the third round, saw her takedown attempts come up empty and absorbed a volley of punches and kicks from a skilled opponent who would not allow her competitive spirit to be extinguished. Andrade won the strawweight championship at UFC 237, where she knocked out Rose Namajunas with a second-round slam on May 11.
Aljamain Sterling vs. Raphael Assuncao-Cory Sandhagen winner: Sterling kept himself relevant in the bantamweight division with a unanimous decision over former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Pedro Munhoz in their three-round undercard encounter at 135 pounds. All three cageside judges struck 30-27 scorecards for the charismatic Serra-Longo Fight Team standout. Sterling, 29, has posted four consecutive wins -- Munhoz, Rivera, Cody Stamann and Brett Johns were the victims -- since his 67-second knockout loss to the aforementioned Moraes in December 2017. Assuncao will lock horns with Sandhagen at UFC 241 on Aug. 17.