UFC flyweight Henry Cejudo has seen better days in his athletic history. Cejudo, the 2008 Beijing Games Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling, even walked out to the cage on Saturday at UFC 197 to the Olympic Games theme music.
While Cejudo may have won medals in wrestling, it was UFC flyweight champ who was winning hardware - well, retaining, really - by positively starching the gold medalist in less than three minutes into the first round.
Cejudo was able to score a trip takedown, but that was truly about it. Johnson not only got back to his feet quickly, but decimated Cejudo in the clinch with a bevy of knees and elbows, ultimately dropping him to the canvas and scoring a stoppage victory at just 2:49 into the first frame.
As he explained at the UFC 197 post-fight press conference, it was precisely the clinch where Cejudo thought he'd shine.
"Honestly, that was part of our game plan as a camp," Cejudo said. "I really did believe I was going to dominate the clinch. Coming from a wrestling background, I felt really strong. It was that first knee that he hit me with. I think he said it during the interview, too. He heard me grunt. I took him down. I could've held him down a little longer, but I was still trying to catch my breath. It was that one knee that really did it.
"When you get hit to the body, you don't even worry about your face no more. So, I just started kinda protecting my body, like hanging my head down. He did a good job. He attacked my body.
"I underestimated his clinch and he hit me to the body on both sides. He did a good job. I underestimated his clinch. The plan was to take him there and then slowly wrestle him. That knee was the difference in that he just beat me up with knees. That was the biggest thing."
As Cejudo explained to the media and other members of the audience, once Johnson began to attack his body, the rest of his defense fell apart. He lost the will, he confessed, to properly defend himself, which helped set up the finish Johnson soon earned.
"He dominated me in that certain area," Cejudo noted. "I felt good, like my recovery. I've never felt this good. If you guys have ever fought, if you get hit to the body, man, it paralyzes you. It's a humbling experience for me. I was humbled tonight."
In terms of what's next, Cejudo was non-committal. He agreed with questions about whether he needed more time to improve his game, but more than that, what's next for the man who gave him his first professional loss. Cejudo, it seems, was as awestruck as everyone else who watched his fight with Johnson.
"The only thing I can do is just go back. Maybe I should take my time a little bit," Cejudo agreed. "I'm actually curious to see him fight at 135. I want to see how good he really is. He proved it tonight. I'm humbled. I'd like to see him fight at 135 for the championship. I want to see how good Demetrious Johnson is or how far he could take it."