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5 reasons to watch UFC Fight Night 143: Cejudo vs. Dillashaw

A superfight between Henry Cejudo and TJ Dillashaw headlines Saturday's card
A superfight between Henry Cejudo and TJ Dillashaw headlines Saturday's card

The UFC makes its debut on the ESPN networks this weekend with Fight Night 143: Cejudo vs. Dillashaw. The main card will be shown on the ESPN+ streaming service, while the preliminary fights will be the first live UFC fights to take place on the ESPN television network proper.

For a free-TV show (of sorts, ESPN+ is a subscription service) it’s a pretty solid card, with a huge main event and plenty of interest on the undercard, including a controversial debut, the return of a genuine legend, and some big tests for some of the UFC’s best prospects.

Here are 5 reasons to watch UFC Fight Night 143: Cejudo vs. Dillashaw.

#1 The main event is a rare champion vs. champion fight

Cejudo vs. Dillashaw marks the UFC's 6th champion vs. champion fight
Cejudo vs. Dillashaw marks the UFC's 6th champion vs. champion fight

While champion vs. champion superfights have become more commonplace in the UFC over the last couple of years, they’re still a relatively rare thing. After all, there have only ever been 4 in the history of the promotion – and so the fact that the main event -Flyweight champ Henry Cejudo vs. Bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw, with Cejudo’s belt on the line - is a bonafide superfight means the show is automatically worth watching.

Plus, the fight should be fantastic to watch. Dillashaw’s combination-based striking game always makes for phenomenal action inside the cage, and the question of how he deals with Cejudo’s Olympic-level wrestling and karate-style striking is a huge one that needs answering. Assuming both men are healthy following Dillashaw’s drastic weight cut, we could be in for a classic.

Throw in the angle that some people are taking – that the actual future of the Flyweight division is at stake here, with the UFC considering folding it if Dillashaw were to win – and the stakes become even higher. Flyweight title fights involving Demetrious Johnson were always interesting, but this one is simply on another level. It’s can’t miss stuff.

#2 We’ll find out if Greg Hardy is worth the trouble

Will Greg Hardy be worth the bad publicity he's garnered for the UFC
Will Greg Hardy be worth the bad publicity he's garnered for the UFC

The co-main event of the show sees perhaps the most controversial debut in UFC history, as former NFL defensive end Greg Hardy steps into the Octagon for the first time to take on Allen Crowder. An ultra-athletic, giant Heavyweight with a clear mean streak, someone like Hardy would usually be considered a hot prospect, but there’s a lot more to consider with him than his fighting skills.

As everyone knows by now, Hardy has a chequered past involving serious domestic violence allegations; he was actually found guilty of domestic assault in 2014, only for the charges to be dropped when the victim failed to appear in court. Essentially it’s a bad look for the UFC – who once released fighters like Will Chope and Thiago Silva under similar circumstances.

Dana White has argued that everyone deserves a second chance, however, and this is Hardy’s. If he can beat Crowder in impressive fashion then maybe the post-show talk will be about his fighting skill rather than his past transgressions; if he loses, or puts on a poor show, then the UFC may well decide that he’s not worth the bother. Either way, it’s something fascinating to watch for on Saturday.

#3 Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone is making his return to 155lbs

Donald Cerrone might be the most exciting fighter in UFC history
Donald Cerrone might be the most exciting fighter in UFC history

Donald Cerrone is arguably the most exciting fighter to watch in UFC history – ‘Cowboy’ holds the record for most wins in UFC history (21) and most finishes (15) too, and even his fights that have gone the distance have usually been fantastic – think of his wars with Robbie Lawler and Eddie Alvarez, for instance. And this Saturday, the former WEC star is back in action.

He’s back to his old stomping ground of 155lbs, too, after a three-year excursion up at 170lbs that saw him reel off a 6-4 record. Sure, ‘Cowboy’ was effective at 170lbs, but at 155lbs he was a genuine title threat, and coming off a strong win over Mike Perry, he’ll be looking to recapture the form he showed in 2013-15 when he faces young gun Alexander Hernandez.

Don’t be confused, though – Hernandez certainly isn’t a pushover. He’s got two UFC wins thus far, a knockout over Beneil Dariush and a decision over Olivier Aubin-Mercier, but if he can beat Cerrone, not only will he claim a huge scalp but he’ll also instantly elevate himself into genuine title contention. This is a classic fight between a longtime veteran and a red-hot up-and-comer, and it’s certainly fit to headline the UFC’s first series of prelims on ESPN.

#4 Gregor Gillespie is back in action

Hot prospect Gregor Gillespie faces Yancy Medeiros on Saturday's show
Hot prospect Gregor Gillespie faces Yancy Medeiros on Saturday's show

One of the UFC’s hottest prospects at 155lbs, Gregor ‘The Gift’ Gillespie makes his return on Saturday and he’s faced with probably his toughest test to date in the form of Hawaiian brawler Yancy Medeiros. A former NCAA Division I champion in wrestling, Gillespie has been able to run over all of his opponents thus far with a brand of wild, aggressive striking and a seemingly unstoppable takedown.

In Medeiros though, not only is he facing a man seemingly capable of absorbing an inhuman amount of damage, but he’s also facing a much larger fighter. The Hawaiian has fought a lot of his career at 170lbs and at one point he fought as high as Middleweight. Gillespie meanwhile could probably make 145lbs with ease. So will ‘The Gift’ be able to take Medeiros down as easily as he has done with his past foes?

If Gillespie can’t get Medeiros down, how will his wild striking match with the Hawaiian’s more seasoned kickboxing style? It’s a major question that should be answered – and if Gillespie were to lose then that cut to 145lbs might sound more promising. Either way, this is a hugely intriguing fight and certainly another good reason not to miss the show.

#5 The debut of the Violence Queen

The debuting Ariane Lipski could become an instant Flyweight title contender
The debuting Ariane Lipski could become an instant Flyweight title contender

The Women’s Flyweight division is the UFC’s newest, but it’s also growing pretty quickly now. The division finally has a proper champion in the form of Valentina Shevchenko, and contenders are springing up left right and centre, with names like Jessica Eye, Ashlee Evans-Smith, Sijara Eubanks and Liz Carmouche all in the title hunt. On Saturday, another contender could well emerge from the prelim fight between Joanne Calderwood and Ariane Lipski.

If Calderwood wins, nobody will complain – ‘JoJo’ is a hugely popular fighter with a fun-to-watch Muay Thai style – but it’s Lipski who is perhaps the more intriguing prospect here. ‘The Violence Queen’ is a Brazilian fighter who’s been plying her trade in Poland, and she’s earned her nickname through a nasty brand of pressure striking that few fighters can stand up to.

Calderwood – a renowned slow starter – will need to come out of the blocks fast to match Lipski’s pace, and if she can’t do that then this one could be over quickly. If she can fight fire with fire, however – Lipski does take damage to give more back – then we could be in for a fantastic fight with the winner automatically leaping into title contention. On the ESPN prelim card, this is a fight not to be looked over.

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Edited by Vikshith R
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