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Matt Brown picks Henry Cejudo to beat Aljamain Sterling ‘relatively easily’ and destroy Sean O’Malley

Henry Cejudo
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Henry Cejudo still hasn’t officially been booked for his next fight, but all signs are pointing toward him facing UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling in his return to action from retirement.

Since the day he announced his retirement in 2020, it seemed that the former two-division UFC champion was teasing a comeback, which is one reason why UFC veteran Matt Brown isn’t quite ready to commit to Cejudo as his pick to reclaim the title in 2023. That said, Brown believes that if Cejudo is actually planning to fight again, and he’s the next opponent for Sterling, then a new champion could be crowned at 135 pounds sooner rather than later.

“I wasn’t sure that fight was going to happen,” Brown said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “You hear Cejudo talking all the time. He’s always saying some s*** about coming back or fighting this guy. He likes to talk. So I didn’t think that fight was going to happen, so I would certainly put him down as the biggest threat [at bantamweight]”

Assuming Cejudo gets booked against Sterling in the early part of the year, Brown believes the one-time Olympic gold medalist will prove once again that he’s the best fighter in the world at 135 pounds.

While he doesn’t discount Sterling’s skill set, Brown expects Cejudo’s world-class grappling to negate arguably the biggest threat from the reigning UFC champion when it comes to his ability to get the fight down to the ground and work for submissions.

“I think Cejudo beats Aljamain pretty soundly,” Brown stated. “I think [Cejudo’s] got tremendous boxing, amazing wrestling. I don’t think Aljamain’s going to be able to get him down. I think he’s just got better boxing, better standup. He’s very disciplined with his standup. He stays tight and strong.

“I’m going to go with Cejudo on that. I think he beats him relatively easily. Cejudo, I’m picking very soundly to win that fight [against Sterling].”

If Cejudo does manage to get past Sterling, then his attention will likely turn toward Sean O’Malley, who has already been declared a top contender in the division after his win over ex-champion Petr Yan this past October.

O’Malley has said that he plans on sitting and waiting to face the winner of Sterling vs. Cejudo, with hopes that he’ll get to compete for UFC gold by the summer.

For his part, Brown actually feels as if Sterling is probably still a tougher matchup for Cejudo, but if the always outspoken and self-appointed “King of Cringe” gets that victory, then Brown doesn’t see nearly as much difficulty in Cejudo dispatching O’Malley.

“If we’re talking about champion at the end of the year, I’m going to go with Cejudo,” Brown said. “He beats Aljamain and he destroys Sean O’Malley.”

It’s a strong statement, but Brown has a lot of faith in Cejudo to remind the world why he was one of only a handful of fighters to ever hold two UFC titles simultaneously after claiming both the bantamweight and flyweight belts prior to his retirement.

As far as other bantamweights to watch on the rise, Brown is eyeing veterans like Ricky Simon and top prospects such as Umar Nurmagomedov as names to consider as the next big thing in the division beyond the fighters already jockeying for position near the top of the rankings. Brown also singled out Adrian Yanez as another potential threat at bantamweight ahead of his biggest fight to date, when he clashes with Rob Font in April.

“I’m a huge Adrian Yanez fan,” Brown said. “This guy has looked absolutely amazing. It’s just a matter of him being able to deal with some of these wrestlers like Ricky [Simon], or Aljamain or Merab [Dvalishvili].”

While lightweight has routinely been praised as the deepest and toughest division across all of mixed martial arts, Brown views bantamweight as holding its own, especially when looking at the roster in the UFC from top to bottom right now.

“There’s so much talent in this division,” Brown said. “You could look at the top 25 guys and there’s guys that could come up and make a splash. What a great division.”

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