The Travesty of UFC: 249 By Jason Paglia
When people see the title of this article, you might think the travesty of UFC 249 is the fact that it’s happening in the first place. In the current climate of the pandemic spreading around the world, there appears to be a lot of righteous souls crawling out of the woodwork like cockroaches that are appalled at UFC President Dana White. They feel his decision to bring a sense of normalcy back to the world is irresponsible. Those people are idiots. Is this pandemic serious? Yes, it is. I was lucky enough to survive the virus, but I haven’t lost sight of the fact that many were not as lucky as I was. Still, with all that said, The UFC made the right decision. Dana White will take all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of his fighters and UFC personnel. The fact that this is event is happening is NOT the travesty of UFC 249.
Casual fight fans probably think the real travesty of UFC 249 is the fact that Khabib Nurmagomedov will not Fight Tony Ferguson in the main event. I’m not going to lie, it’s devastating for the diehard fans like me especially. The first time the UFC confirmed a fight between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson was August 21st, 2015. Put that into perspective. Hillary Clinton was on her way to being the first woman President, and Tom Brady only had 4 Super Bowl rings the first time they confirmed a fight between Tony and Khabib. It’s insane to think almost 5 years later and 5 total attempts to make the fight happen, and we are still in the same spot, no fight. It is a travesty, but technically it’s no longer a part of UFC 249, therefore it can’t be the travesty.
The true travesty of UFC 249 is the Bantamweight championship fight. It’s complete bulls**t, and I’m thrilled I can write this article and get it off my chest.
BANTAMWEIGHT CHIP: Cruz vs Cejudo
Henry Cejudo has become must watch TV. When he first came into the UFC I wasn’t that high on him. I knew he was a world class wrestler. He was an Olympic champion and US National champion, but outside of that he didn’t have any skills. Even though he had the most important base you can have in mixed martial arts, he still couldn’t throw his hands at the level needed to be a real threat in the division. So, his first few wins were against tomato cans. White was smart, he knew he needed to build Cejudo up before he threw him to the lions. It wasn’t until The Ultimate Fighter Finale against Jussier Formiga where he finally fought a real UFC level athlete. That was the first fight I started to notice a real fundamental shift in Cejudo’s striking game. You could see him starting to put the pieces together.
Fast forward three years to August 2018 at UFC 227. It was that night in his rematch against Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson where everything finally came together for Henry. After years or grinding, and working on his striking game, it finally reached an elite level. He shocked the world that night and never looked back.
Already the Flyweight champion after beating DJ, he took his shot at the vacant Bantamweight championship belt against a monster in Marlon Moraes. After being severely outclassed and losing the first round badly, Cejudo changed the game plan up and put Moraes down in the second round to become a two division champion.
“Henry Cejudo isn’t the travesty of UFC 249, his opponent is.”
Enter the real travesty of UFC 249: Dominick Cruz. It is an absolute f**king joke that Dominick Cruz has been given a shot at the Bantamweight championship. UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard should be ashamed of himself that Cruz has been given this opportunity. Let me preface this by saying that I’m a fan of Dom. I have loved him throughout his entire career. He was the Bantamweight division for a long time.
His perseverance through multiple knee injuries was inspiring. The man is a Bantamweight legend in my mind. Here’s the problem. Anyone want to take a stab at the last time that Dominick Cruz won a fight inside the Octagon? Anyone? You are probably thinking, well Jay, he is fighting for a title so it has to be in 2019.. right? NOPE. 2018? NOPE. Let me help you out…. Dominick Cruz hasn’t won a fight in the UFC since June of 2016. His last fight in the UFC was at UFC: 207 against Cody Garbrandt. He was embarrassed in the fight, and beaten badly.
Since UFC: 207, Dominick Cruz has been a cageside color commentator for FOX and ESPN. The only action he has had in 4 years has been avoiding being accidentally punched in the face by Joe Rogan when Joe gets excited. That has been the extent of his UFC career since mid 2016. That is a monumental slap in the face to 2 kids that have been relentlessly grinding for a title shot the last few years. Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan.
Two Fighters Deserved Better: Aljamain Sterling & Petr Yan
If you look at the current Bantamweight rankings, Dominick Cruz isn’t in the top 15. Read that sentence again, and then you will understand the title of this article. Cruz isn’t ranked in the top 15, yet is about to fight for the Bantamweight strap on May 9th.
Aljamain Sterling has been a top 5 staple in the Bantamweight division for years. He might not have the star power of someone like Dominick Cruz, but it’s undeniable that he deserves a title shot. He is currently ranked the #2 Bantamweight fighter in the world, and for good reason. Since April of 2017, Aljo has won 6 of his last 7 fights. All this during the time that Dominick Cruz has been sitting cage side watching Sterling ascend up the division rankings. His one loss in that timespan was against Marlon Moraes who is currently the #1 contender at Bantamweight and already lost to Henry Cejudo at UFC: 238.
Since 2017, Sterling has impressive wins over Cody Stamann, Jimmie Rivera, and Pedro Munhoz in Sterling’s last fight at UFC: 238. It’s undeniable that Dominick Cruz has been gifted Aljamain Sterling’s title shot. Anyone that has been around this sport knows the mentality of these fighters. They fight to put food on the table for their families. Sterling won’t wait around. He will fight again, and he will need to win that fight to be in the conversation for a title shot when he should already have one. What if he loses his next fight?
Any mixed martial arts analyst worth their salt knows there are two fighters that are the future of the Bantamweight division. Petr Yan and Corey Sandhagen. I did not include Aljamain Sterling because at this point, he is considered a UFC veteran. The future is now and Petr Yan and Corey Sandhagen are currently ranked #3 and #4 in the world right now. Sandhagen is probably a couple fights from a title shot, but Petr Yan has been so impressive, that he deserves to be in the championship contender conversation now. For those of us that breakdown fight tape and bet on this sport for a living, Petr Yan jumps off the screen.
The kid is special. He will be a Bantamweight champion, it’s just a matter of when his time will come. Apparently UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard thinks that time is not now. Every opponent that Maynard has put in front of Yan, he has destroyed. The issue is both of these kids aren’t box office in their popularity like Dominick Cruz.
The UFC prides themselves on, “Giving the fans the fights they want to see.” This might be the fight that casual fans want to see. This might even be the fight that some diehards want to see. They are wrong. The people that spend the majority of their lives breaking down fights know the truth. They have seen what Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan have done in the last 4 years. They have also seen what Dominick Cruz has done the last 4 years. The fact that White went for the money grab instead of the fight these two kids blead to deserve is nothing new, but it is the travesty of UFC: 249.