Henry Cejudo on Saturday ended Demetrious Johnson’s nearly six-year reign as UFC flyweight champion, earning a split-decision victory in a stunning upset at UFC 227, while T.J. Dillashaw defended his bantamweight title with a vicious first-round stoppage of former champ Cody Garbrandt in the main event at the Staples Center.
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 offense to earn the decision over one of the most dominant champions in UFC history.
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 medalist 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.”
Johnson, who did not appear to be upset with the judges’ call, was the only flyweight champion in UFC history. Although successful in striking, Johnson did not 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 since that encounter.
In the next bout, Dillashaw (17-3) exchanged furious strikes with Garbrandt (11-2) from the opening minute. Dillashaw finished it by stunning Garbrandt with a series of strikes, dropping the challenger and then battering him against the cage until referee Herb Dean stopped it with 50 seconds remaining in the first round.
Right before the title bouts on the top-heavy show, Brazilian featherweight Renato Moicano (13-1-1) finished Palm Springs veteran Cub Swanson (25-9) in the first round with a rear naked choke.
The show was the UFC’s first in three years in downtown Los Angeles and the first since local entertainment conglomerate Endeavor bought the promotion for US$4 billion in 2016.