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The Great Debate: Sergio Pettis vs Henry Cejudo

UFC 211 is so stacked that we decided to do something big for the Great Debate series. We have decided to do a Great Debate for all five of the main card fights. We also wanted to invite other members of the media to be part of the fun. So we will have five staff members of The MMA Takeover go head to head against five members of the MMA media world. Each day we will debate a different fight.

First up is Justin Peck, who is the Vice President of the MMA Takeover. He is going up against Stars Prophet, who is one of the top MMA handicappers in the world. He is also a guest on the Loud Mouth UFC recap shows. They will be debating the flyweight matchup between Sergio Pettis and Henry Cejudo. Justin will be taking the underdog Pettis, while Stars Prophet will be taking the Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo.

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Why Sergio Pettis will win (by Justin Peck):

Sergio Pettis (HM) is set for the biggest fight of his career when he steps into the octagon at UFC 211 to face Olympic Wrestling Gold Medalist Henry Cejudo (#3). The odds seem to be stacked against the 23-year old and many expect Cejudo to walk away victorious. I disagree.

One thing many will bring up is the quality of competition the two fighters have faced, which is a valid point. Each have suffered 2 losses in their careers. Cejudo lost to Demetrius Johnson (#1) and Joseph Benevidez (#2), the two best fighters in the weight class. Pettis suffered losses to Alex Caceres in 2014 and Ryan Benoit in 2015. He was 20 and 21 years old respectively, which makes it hard to hold against him.

Much noise was made when Cejudo brought in a new boxing coach before his fight against Benevidez. Cejudo did land some strong shots, especially in the first round, but the improvement did not look as great as it was made out to be. His counter strikes did not look complete, oftentimes not landing flush on his lunging opponent. He also overused his leg kicks to the body, often starting combinations with them. They were easy to spot coming, even if Benevidez didn’t do much in way of slowing them down.

Pettis is easily a superior striker in this matchup and has decent power in his punches. In his last fight against John Moraga, Pettis displayed great patience for such a young fighter, but he wasn’t afraid to receive a blow to land one in return. Continuously throughout the fight, Pettis was able to bait Moraga into counterstriking and coming over the top with strong hooks. This is something he’ll use again when fighting Cejudo.

The wrestling edge obviously goes to the Gold Medalist. However, with that being said, Cejudo simply hasn’t used his wrestling very often in the UFC. An overwhelming majority of his fight against Benevidez took place on the feet. That may have been due to bad blood and wanting to send a message that his striking has improved, but if you look back to his fight against Jussier “Formiga” da Silva, he didn’t use it then either. It’s tough to give someone much of an edge when they don’t use all of their tools.

Pettis is a well-rounded fighter. If it turns into a wrestling match, it obviously won’t bode well for him, however, he can get out of trouble here and there. He is strong for his size and should be able to hold his own in a clinch against the cage if need be. He also has an interesting style in defending takedowns. In his fight against John Moraga, Pettis continually threatened with a guillotine every time Moraga shot in for a takedown. This threat was effective in making Moraga back off throughout the fight. If only occasionally called upon to defend a takedown, which is the pattern Cejudo leads me to believe, I like Pettis’s odds at keeping the action on their feet.

Cejudo has a bad taste in his mouth after leaving the last fight, in which he was deducted a point, in the hands of the judges. I expect him to come out overly aggressive against the patient Pettis who will counter efficiently against him. I don’t see a finish for either fighter, but I expect Pettis to outclass Cejudo on the feet with more effective striking, and landing many more significant strikes. I predict Pettis by unanimous decision

Why Henry Cejudo will win (by Stars Prophet): 

At UFC 211, Olympic Gold Medalist and former title challenger Henry Cejudo  (#3) will fight Sergio Pettis (HM) in a match to determine the fate of the flyweight top 5. Cejudo has established himself as a serviceable talent within the UFC’s 125-pound division with a 4-2 record but has sputtered against the elite. Pettis, known mostly for technical decision victories, is a kickboxer with a 6-2 UFC record, but also carries with him the stain of two very low-tier losses, both by way of finish. Cejudo’s most notable advantages in this fight will be his veteran grappling experience and his power. With his back against the wall, Cejudo will come out firing and apply constant pressure to the young Pettis, in hopes of breaking his will and delivering a marquee finish.

Henry Cejudo began wrestling at a very young age and rose through the ranks of the sport to reach its greatest pinnacle of success, Olympic gold. His MMA debut came in 2013, and he quickly amassed an undefeated record on the regional scene. After only six fights, Henry was brought into the UFC. He won four decisions against increasingly legitimate opposition and was given his shot at Demetrious Johnson. The title fight went horribly for Cejudo, and would precipitate a shift in both training camps and methodology. Following the loss, Henry was given an opportunity to coach opposite Joseph Benavidez on The Ultimate Fighter Reality Show, and subsequently fought his co-star to a controversial split-decision loss.

Cejudo is exceptionally gifted at avoiding damage and has never allowed himself to be taken down or his guard passed within 78 minutes of fight time. His strength of schedule is notable, with his only career losses coming to top 3 level fighters. Henry possesses an above-average level of activity, although he has suffered from a marked lack of finishing capacity throughout his career. Although he hasn’t been able to finish fights, Cejudo is still exceptionally strong and possess power. He has two earned knockdowns in his last three fights, one coming against Jussier Formiga, and the other against Joseph Benavidez. Henry will work his way into the pocket, seeking to test the young Pettis’ wrestling and historically unreliable chin.

Sergio Pettis first came to relevancy as a 19-year old prospect, having his first UFC bout in 2013. He began training at a young age, following in his brother, Anthony Pettis footsteps, and is a native of Roufusport, where he currently trains. Pettis has earned his UFC victories by decision, amassing 6 wins, but he suffered surprise losses at the hands of underdogs in two of his first four fights, being KO’d by Ryan Benoit and submitted by Alex Caceres. Although Pettis possesses very slick striking technique, it appears he lacks raw power and aggression, earning only one knockdown while allowing 3 against himself and allowing at least one takedown in 7 of 8 fights.

Pettis relies on a heavily one-dimensional, but technically sound Muay Thai attack to win fights. Cejudo possesses a greater breadth of tools and carries with him an Olympic level wrestling pedigree, an area in which Pettis has an expressed inefficiency. Expect Cejudo to struggle on the outside, but ultimately find great success inside the pocket, both in boxing and grappling exchanges. A dominant decision win is likely for Henry, but given his all-encompassing advantages, coupled with developing power, an impressive finish is entirely possible. Cejudo by decision

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