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Demetrious Johnson: Henry Cejudo should’ve beaten Aljamain Sterling even though he ‘dropped the ball’

Demetrious Johnson on The MMA Hour

Demetrious Johnson thinks Henry Cejudo should’ve gotten his hand raised at UFC 288.

Cejudo recently challenged Aljamain Sterling for the UFC bantamweight title in the main event of UFC 288. Despite a nearly three-year layoff, “Triple C” gave a good accounting of himself, losing a competitive split decision, one that some people disagreed with. Johnson was among those contrarians, Tweeting along in real-time with his own scorecard and deeming Cejudo the winner.

Speaking on The MMA Hour this past week, “Mighty Mouse” stood by that score.

“I do,” Johnson told when asked if he still believes Cejudo won. “I can see how they gave it to Aljo. I haven’t talked to Henry about it yet. I don’t want to give away the things I think.

“I thought [Cejudo won] 3-2, but looking back, going into final round, I had it tied, two for Henry, two for Aljo, and I felt like Henry did enough. That’s the thing though, I’m judging it off my feelings, ONE Championship [rules], because there were times where — I’ll say this, Aljo does a great job, he did an amazing job. I didn’t account for his wrestling, for Aljo to get him down like that. I know Aljo is a better grappler than Henry, because he got his back, tried to get the hooks in, right? But going into that final round, Henry got that takedown, ran him into the cage, the effort he did to that was good, but I would have to go back and watch it and be like a judge.”

Johnson admitted to having a personal bias in this. Though he and Cejudo were once rivals, splitting a pair of fights for the UFC flyweight title in 2018 and 2018, the two have since become friends and occasional training partners.

So with that in mind, Johnson also says that Cejudo didn’t make the most of some his opportunities, and let Sterling off the hook in a few instances.

“The thing that Aljo did good, he would shoot, Henry would defend it, then Aljo would stay there,” Johnson said. “He would stay as a grounded opponent and I was like, ‘Knee that motherf******!’ For me, I get pissed. Like, you’re f****** stalling, you should get kneed in the f****** face. And for me, I’m like, Henry, f****** circle behind him. Don’t just take quarter nelson, get body lock, throw him over, circle and pass his guard. Or circle behind him and start [punching]. Then if he gets up, he gets up, but don’t just let him the f*** up.

“For me, I have nothing but love for Aljo, nothing but respect. ... He does a good job of utilizing that — he shoots, Henry stuffs it, he stays down there. He never got punished for that. That’s where Henry kind of dropped the ball. He should have either circled behind him or [stuffed him down], shuck him by, and whatnot. That’s my opinion.

“It was a great fight. I also didn’t account for Henry’s — Henry is so disciplined with the distance and controlling it, you see Henry controlling it, waiting for Aljo to bite, and who knows if Henry — and I know what it’s like to get in there with someone who’s kind of funky like Aljo. The long arms and kicks and all that stuff. I’ve been in there with Dominick Cruz and he was very unorthodox.”

Johnson’s relationship with Cejudo already paid dividends for “Mighty Mouse” when he successfully defended his ONE Championship flyweight title with a unanimous decision win over rival Adriano Moraes in ONE’s recent United States debut. With that win under his belt, and no immediate plans to fight in the future, Johnson now hopes to work with Cejudo to help him shore up these holes in his game, as “Triple C” targets a matchup with Sterling’s friend and the top-ranked bantamweight contender Merab Dvalishvili this summer.

“I’m so grateful that I got to train with him because I felt like my wrestling has gotten so much better, how to understand takedown defense and how to move,” Johnson said. “Obviously with my team and Matt [Hume], sometimes I can’t test what we working in my gym unless I go to Arizona and test it with their guys. When I go to Arizona and start training with Henry, yes, we’re vibing off each other, but I’m also sharpening my tools without hurting them.

“That’s one of the things I want to work with Henry on getting better at. You can manage the distance, but if you’re going to play that distance game — what he was doing to Aljo, he would sit there and manage and measure that distance and wait and wait, and Aljo knew that. So he would use his range and length and his kicks. Once he made Aljo take a bad shot, Henry would defend and then let him go, instead of defending, let him go, on him, throw that knee, right hand, left kick, he shoots again, clinch, elbow, shoulder bump.

“That’s the game that I want Henry to get, but you can’t do it over two, three weeks.”

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