It took Henry Cejudo a hot minute to get into the fight, but once the flyweight champion made some adjustments, he found a way to disrupt Marlon Moraes’ flow, using forward pressure and impeccable shot selection to pick up a technical knockout in the third round and capture the bantamweight crown in the UFC 238 main event on Saturday in Chicago. A former Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling, Cejudo is now the fourth fighter in Ultimate Fighting Championship history to hold two titles simultaneously and is quickly carving out a legacy as one of the most accomplished combat sports athletes of his era.
In the championship co-headliner, flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko lived up to the reputation that led the bookmakers to install her as an 11-to-1 favorite over Jessica Eye, as she finished the Xtreme Couture rep with a nightmarish head kick in the second round that caused legitimate alarm among the viewing public. “Bullet” has now won six of her eight UFC fights, with her only blemishes coming in decision losses to the dual-weight champion Amanda Nunes. Shevchenko appears to have begun a long and dominant reign as champion of the 125-pound division.
The Vanquished will take stock of the main card fights and recommend who the losers should next face inside the Octagon.
Marlon Moraes vs. Pedro Munhoz: Moraes looked to be on his way to a blowout victory in the first round of his bantamweight title fight opposite Cejudo, as he fed “The Messenger” a steady diet of punishing low kicks and crisp boxing combos. However, Cejudo adapted and in the second round put “The Magician” on skates before finishing the show in the third. It marked the first time Moraes had been stopped since November 2011 and represented just his second loss in his past 18 fights. From a divisional perspective, it makes sense to match Moraes with Munhoz, who lost Aljamain Sterling on the UFC 238 prelims.
Jessica Eye vs. Roxanne Modafferi: Eye never really stood a chance against Shevchenko, as she spent the first round in bottom position defending submission attempts before being felled by a head kick in Round 2. Though she seems unlikely to ever hold UFC gold, she remains a solid fixture at flyweight, having gone 3-1 since dropping down from 135 pounds. Eye should next fight Modafferi, who recently defied the odds with a decision win over the champion’s older sister, Antonina Shevchenko, in St Petersburg, Russia.
Donald Cerrone vs. Justin Gaethje: Cerrone started off well against Tony Ferguson before “El Cucuy” picked up the pace and battered him in the second period. Ultimately, the fight was stopped in between rounds after “Cowboy” blew his nose, causing his eye to swell shut and the doctor to call off the bout. Even so, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Cerrone turned the tables and picked up a victory. One of the most beloved fighters in UFC history -- he holds company records for the most wins, finishes and post-fight bonuses -- Cerrone has made it known that he plans on competing for at least the next few years. Insofar as he intends on putting together another title run, a fight with the No. 5-ranked Gaethje is a logical next step.
Jimmie Rivera vs. Cody Garbrandt: Once riding a 20-fight winning streak and described as a presumptive future UFC champion, New Jersey’s Rivera has dropped three of his last four bouts, with Russia’s Petr Yan handing “El Terror” a unanimous decision defeat in a wildly entertaining affair on the UFC 238 main card. Rivera seemed to be in control for the majority of the first two rounds, as he stood at range with “No Mercy” and landed clean punches. However, he was badly rocked in the final moments of each frame and failed to rally for a finish in Round 3. Rivera should next face Garbrandt, the embattled former bantamweight champion who has been stopped by strikes in his last three outings.
Tai Tuivasa vs. Justin Willis: In perhaps the most forgettable fight at UFC 238, Tuivasa dropped a unanimous decision to Bulgaria’s Blagoy Ivanov in their heavyweight showcase. “Bam Bam” has come up short in each of his last two appearances. The Australian had his moments, as he staggered Ivanov with a straight right in the second round, but he failed to capitalize on the opportunity and otherwise found himself on the wrong end of the exchanges with “Bagata.” As for what should be next on the docket, Tuivasa and Willis have a beef that stretches all the way back to UFC Fight Night 142, and if “Big Pretty” can make amends with the UFC, it would make sense to rekindle that acrimony in the cage.