Henry Cejudo beats Dominick Cruz by second-round KO, then abruptly retires

Henry Cejudo defeated Dominick Cruz by second-round knockout (knee and punches) with only two seconds left in Round 2 of Saturday’s co-main event at UFC 249. Cejudo hooked up his supporters as a -205 ‘chalk’ at VyStar Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Jacksonville.

The ‘under’ (4.5 rounds) was an easy winner for a +150 payout at 5Dimes and William Hill. The proposition bet that Round 3 won’t start netted a +275 return and Round 4 won’t start produced a +205 payout.

Props on Cejudo to win by TKO/KO hooked up gamblers with a +240 return. Also, the prop for Cejudo to win inside the distance (+200) cashed along with Cejudo to win in Round 2 (+800).

Before the stoppage in the second frame, Cruz and Cejudo accidently collided heads, creating a substantial cut on the champion’s forehead. The referee called timeout for the doctor to examine the cut before the bout resumed.

It had no impact on Triple C. He dropped Cruz with a powerful knee late in the stanza. Cejudo then timed a big right hand perfectly as he lunged at his downed opponent.

Cejudo then followed up with multiple lefts trying to finish the former champ. Cruz briefly covered up, but it seemed like he kept moving and was starting to make his way to the fence to work his way up when referee Keith Peterson stepped in and called off the fight.

Cruz wasn’t happy with the stoppage and I also felt like it was a bit early. Perhaps part of my thinking was the knowledge that the bell was about to save Cruz, something the referee isn’t supposed to take into account?

Whatever the case, Cruz seemed okay and immediately disputed the outcome. He took it even further in his post-fight presser, claiming Peterson “smelled like alcohol and cigarettes so who knows what he was doing?”

Cruz added, “I mean I’m not happy with the stoppage obviously because I specifically asked the ref to let me go ‘til I was out and I was standing up. If I stayed on the floor, I get it. But I’m working my way up. I was definitely still aware of what was going on. Now I get there were unanswered shots, that’s part of a fight but if I’m standing up to my feet, I’m in the fight. If I’m staying on the floor and continually being chopped down, then I get it.

“But hats off to Henry, I’ve got no excuses. I shouldn’t have gotten caught with that knee the way that I got caught and that’s what put me in that position. But at the same time, I specifically asked the ref to make sure he let me take the shots I needed to and if I’m standing up on my way up, how do I have my balance? I’m getting up. So give me a fighting chance. This is for a world title. This isn’t some backyard fight.”

Cejudo, on top of the world with the first defense of his bantamweight title against the division’s stalwart for the last decade, then stunningly announced his retirement.

UFC President Dana White seemed to be the only person that wasn’t surprised. He told media members that Cejudo had been mentioning retirement for months.

Well, that was going on behind closed doors. In an ESPN interview on camera last week, the former gold-medal winner in freestyle wrestling at the 2008 Beijing Olympics talked about how his initial UFC 249 opponent (former two-time featherweight champ Jose Aldo) wasn’t getting off the hook. Cejudo said he’d go as far as “marrying” Aldo to solve his visa issues to get him inside the Octagon.

At the age of 33, Cejudo is in peak form. I wasn’t buying it Saturday night and I’m still not. Only time will tell, but this seems like a negotiating ploy on Cejudo’s part, and perhaps it’s one that will work?

And maybe that’s also why White acted indifferent about Cejudo’s announcement?

If Cejudo sticks to his guns on retirement, there will be a vacant bantamweight strap up for grabs. White acknowledged to reporters that third-ranked Petr Yan would be one of the two fighters in that championship fight.

Possibilities for Yan’s opponent include Aldo, Aljamain Sterling and Marlon Moraes. Aldo, who lost a controversial decision to Moraes in his 135-pound debut, was Cejudo’s preferred opponent since he had already beaten Moraes to win the belt.

Moraes was given a title fight last year and didn’t take advantage. However, he has a first-round KO win over Sterling that would seemingly put him in position for another shot at UFC gold ahead of Sterling.

As for Cruz, he was asked about his future by Joe Rogan in his post-fight Octagon interview. Cruz said, “I’m not sure.”

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