UFC 249: Henry Cejudo v Dominick Cruz - the Hall of Fame Awaits

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UFC 249 will be legendary

Henry ‘The Messenger’ Cejudo has come to be considered one of the best fighters the UFC has to offer, with a record of nine wins and only two losses. He is one of the only fighters in the history of the UFC to hold two belts at the same time, alongside masters of the spot, such as Conor McGregor, Amanda Nunes and Daniel Cormier.

Despite vacating the flyweight crown, ‘The Messenger’ has only defended a title once, after beating TJ Dillashaw to defend his 125 lbs title. Cejudo will face Dominick Cruz in a bout to keep his bantamweight title for the first time, after winning the belt against Marlon Moraes.

The Olympic gold medalist said he would “relinquish the belt to smash the ‘King of Rio’, Jose Aldo” at bantamweight, in order to become the undisputed best fighter at 135 pounds. A fight would be secured, but later fall through with Aldo, ending Cejudo's plan to end all the legends out there and cement his legacy.

So, step forward, Dominick Cruz. Here, we take a look at how a win for the American could earn him a place in the UFC Hall of Fame by defending his title against the former UFC world champion, Cruz and put him up there with the GOATS of the game.

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Cejudo's outrageous form ahead of UFC 249

Winning his previous five fights, Cejudo comes into UFC 249 in arguably the most threatening form of any active fighter. The 33-year-old last fought in June 2019, becoming a part of UFC when he beat Moraes in this rampage of the lower weight classes.

Cejudo’s previous two fights to that were also title bouts, first beating one of the best ever in Demetrious Johnson to earn the Upset of the Year and cement his place in history. Then came that brutal defence of the title in an early first round knockout against Dillashaw.

UFC 249 could, therefore, be the stage for ‘The Messenger’ to make a name for himself as one of the greatest fighters the UFC lower divisions have ever seen, defending his bantamweight title in a bout against the former champion.

His battle with Moraes concluded the fifth consecutive win for Cejudo and added to the argument of the 33-year-old being included as a Hall of Famer. Another title defence would add to his already scintillating combat sports career, after winning Olympic gold in Bejing back in 2008 at the 55kg wrestling class.

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The Eagerly awaited Return of Cruz

Cruz is also considered to be the bantamweight of all-time amongst the greater consensus of UFC fans, with an outstanding record of 22-2-0. The former UFC 135 pound champion successfully defended his belt four times, before losing it to Tony Garbrandt at UFC 207 - his last fight in the octagon.

A long-list of devastating injuries and time as an analyst for the company have paved way for the likes of Cejudo to come in, whilst Cruz has taken a three-year lay off. Now, questions of whether he will return in the same form he was previously at have been raised, especially coming into such a high profile fight against someone like Cejudo.

At 35-years-old and after a large amount of time without an octagon appearance, on top of a host of damaging injuries, it is unsurprising that Cejudo has been labelled as the favourite for this bout. The current bantamweight champion is in devastating form and is quickly on his way to becoming a contender amongst the list of the best fighters of all-time, whilst Cruz has already sealed that status.

It would not be the first time Cruz has returned to fight after a significant period of time out, however. 'The Dominator' spent almost three years away from fighting on his return to the octagon in 2014, finishing Takeya Mizugaki in the early stages of their bout at UFC 178. However, Cejudo is a much better fighter than Mizugaki and Cruz is now much older and considered to be a big underdog for the coming fight.

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Does G.O.A.T status await?

Whilst a win over Cruz may not put Cejudo up there with Jon Jones and Anderson Silva just yet, with a victory, his G.O.A.T claim in the lower weight classes will be tough to argue against.

Cejudo’s name into combat sports history is already cemented as one of the greatest of all-time, earning the unique nickname 'Triple C' because of his Olympic gold medal and two UFC titles. Beating Cruz will be the third time ‘The Messenger’ has won a bantamweight title bout and will no doubt edge closer to a G.O.A.T claim, after beating such a notable fighter.

As mentioned before, Cejudo has already been a champion of two different weight classes at the same time, before having to vacate one, holding the bantamweight and flyweight titles at once together. Alone, this statistic puts the American into legendary status along with the three other UFC greats that have accomplished this feat.

In addition to all of this, the 33-year-old has also become an American sporting hero by competing in the 2008 Olympics and winning gold in the 55kg wrestling event. Not only by beating Cruz at UFC 249 could Cejudo become one of the all time greatest UFC fighters, but the bantamweight bout could make an argument for ‘The Messenger’ to be considered one of the all-time great combat sports fighters we have ever seen.

The Hall of Fame awaits. And this bout is as high profile as it gets for the status as the G.O.A.T in the lower weight classes.

By Bradley Beecham

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