The UFC-on-ESPN era began Jan. 19 with a super-fight between bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw and flyweight champion Henry Cejudo for Cejudo's flyweight belt at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. Dillashaw went through an extremely intense 12-week weight cut to shed the additional 10 pounds (from 135 pounds to 125), but was adamant he was at full strength going into the fight. Cejudo won by TKO in 32 seconds. Dillashaw said it was an early stoppage and demanded a rematch. Now, that rematch is on hold after the 33-year-old Dillashaw relinquished his bantamweight belt Wednesday following an "adverse finding" in an in-competition drug test from January.
New York's athletic commission gave Dillashaw a one-year suspension and a $10,000 fine. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has yet to announce its suspension; speculation is it will mimic NYSAC's one-year suspension with the possibility of something harsher.
The news puts the bantamweight division up for grabs. Instead of the title getting held up for Cejudo-Dillashaw II, Cejudo can simply stay at flyweight -- unless UFC is done with the flyweight division altogether, which remains a major rumor -- and a new bantamweight champion can be crowned.
The biggest winner is No. 1 contender Marlon Moraes. The 30-year-old Moraes just needs to stay healthy and wait for an opponent to fight for the title. In addition to Cejudo, the potential challengers are No. 3 Aljamain Sterling, No. 4 Pedro Munhoz and No. 5 Dominick Cruz, a former champion who is a long shot as he continues to recover from a serious shoulder injury.
Sterling previously lost to Moraes by a vicious knockout, but the Long Island native has bounced back nicely with a three-fight win streak. Munhoz, a 32-year-old from Sao Paulo, also is on a three-fight win streak, most recently beating Cody Garbrandt in an all-out war.
The debate on whether super-fights are good for MMA can be put aside. Dillashaw's suspension, while a disaster for the fighter, puts UFC's bantamweight division back into play.