Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo engaged in a bitter rivalry all season long on “The Ultimate Fighter” and then proceeded to put on one of the best fights of the year at the finale on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
While Benavidez walked into the fight as a heavy favorite, Cejudo gave him everything he could handle and more.
The Olympic gold medalist set the pace early on with a stinging punch that clipped Benavidez and sent him down to the mat. Benavidez was quick to recover but that exchange let him know that Cejudo was definitely going for the kill.
While that punch hurt Benavidez, a pair of low blows from Cejudo caused the fight to be paused twice in the opening round by referee Yves Lavigne. The second infraction forced Lavigne to take a point away from Cejudo, which can be a devastating turn of events in a three-round fight.
Heading into the second round, Cejudo was still head hunting while also blasting Benavidez to the body with a series of kicks. While Cejudo is best known for his wrestling prowess, he didn’t back down one bit from throwing combinations with Benavidez.
While Cejudo was definitely aggressive with his attacks it was Benavidez who started to land with better precision while using an effective counter-striking strategy.
Cejudo would swing with all his might while Benavidez was able to dip and duck out of the way while tossing back a few strikes of his own.
Still, Cejudo seemed to be landing the more powerful shots while Benavidez countered with more overall strikes during the three-round battle.
When it was over the judges were torn, with two giving Benavidez the win by scores of 29-27 and 30-26 while the third official gave Cejudo the nod, 29-27.
It was an incredibly tough fight to score, but ultimately Benavidez got the win by split decision while handing Cejudo his second straight loss in the Octagon. Meanwhile, Benavidez picks up his sixth win in a row while moving one step closer towards what he hopes will be another title fight with flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson.
No matter the result, Benavidez and Cejudo both deserve credit for putting on a fast-paced battle that will likely be remembered as one of the best in all of 2016.