LOS ANGELES — Henry Cejudo pulled off one of the most impressive upsets in mixed martial arts history at UFC 227.
Cejudo ended Demetrious Johnson's nearly six-year reign as the UFC flyweight champion Saturday night at Staples Center, earning a split-decision victory over the most dominant active champion in the sport.
Cejudo (13-2) is an Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler who only started training in mixed martial arts five years ago, but he used five takedowns and relentless offence to earn the decision over the fighter widely considered the pound-for-pound best in MMA. Cejudo won 28-27 on two of the three judges' scorecards to beat Johnson (27-3-1), who had won 13 consecutive fights since 2012 and had defended his 125-pound belt a UFC-record 11 straight times.
"This is a dream come true, from Olympic gold medallist to UFC champion," Cejudo said. "I was born right here in Los Angeles, in a two-bedroom apartment. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you to these fans in California for their support."
After Cejudo's victory, the new 125-pound champ called for a superfight with the winner of the 135-pound main event. When Dillashaw was told of Cejudo's challenge, he replied: "Henry Cejudo! Let's go, baby!"
Johnson, who didn't appear to be upset with the judges' call, was the only flyweight champion in UFC history. Although successful in striking, Johnson didn't have his usual resourceful performance in his return from a career-long layoff of 10 months. Johnson knocked out Cejudo in the first round of their first meeting in 2016, but Cejudo showed off everything he had learned in the interim.
Cejudo was born in Los Angeles, and he won an Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling as a 21-year-old phenomenon in 2008, becoming the youngest American to win a gold medal. He only started training in mixed martial arts in January 2013 — four months after Johnson first won his UFC belt.
Cejudo won his first 10 pro fights to earn his first shot at Johnson, but Mighty Mouse stopped him with a flurry of punches in the first round of their first meeting 28 months ago. Cejudo earned a rematch thanks to two straight rebound victories and the utter lack of more compelling contenders for Johnson, who had been content to stay at flyweight instead of chasing bigger-money bouts at bantamweight, where he fought earlier in his career.