February 2024 is shaping up to be an intriguing month, with the latest development revealing a bout between Henry Cejudo and Merab Dvalishvili at UFC 298.
Given Dvalishvili's number two ranking and Cejudo holding the number three spot, this matchup is poised to determine the next contender for the 135-pound title. Of course, the outcome will be particularly relevant after Sean O'Malley defends his belt against Marlon Vera at UFC 299 in March.
Although the news of this match has now been corroborated by multiple sources, it was initially announced on Sunday through a brief upload on Henry Cejudo's YouTube Channel.
“This fight’s going to decide who’s actually going to fight eventually the winner of Chito Vera versus Sean O’Malley,” Cejudo said. “I’m excited. I’m not sure if we’re going to co-headline this fight with Ilia Topuria and Alexander Volkanovski but either way this fight is absolutely going to be bonkers.”
In May 2020, Cejudo chose to retire from the sport, bringing an end to his remarkable career where he held both the Flyweight and Bantamweight UFC Titles. Almost three years later, Cejudo emerged from retirement on the same date to reenter the octagon and challenge the reigning bantamweight champion at that time, Aljamain Sterling.
Cejudo's return saw him narrowly lose via a split decision after a five-round battle. Despite the defeat, the former dual champion demonstrated that he still possesses the skills to compete at the highest level in the division, even after a three-year hiatus.
All takedowns from Aljamain Sterling vs Henry Cejudo pic.twitter.com/90MyxOl8kZ— schwick (@schwick6) May 7, 2023
With a successful record in his last nine fights, Dvalishvili's most recent notable triumph came against Petr Yan in March. The Georgian fighter has also secured victories against prominent names in the sport, including José Aldo and Marlon Moraes. However, facing Cejudo presents his most significant and potentially challenging opponent to date.
“I give him respect and I give all my opponents respect, especially Henry Cejudo,” Dvailishvili said when addressing the matchup during the UFC Vegas 83 post fight show. “He’s the greatest champion, he was after [Aljamain Sterling] beat him. I’m excited. This is going to be a big test for me. Even if I feel I don’t need the test anymore.
“I have a nine fight win streak and I beat whoever they give me, whoever they put in front of me. I think I deserve to fight for a title fight but they give me another test in Henry Cejudo. I’m thankful. I have to do my best. I have to beat him and I have to earn it again, the title fight, and hopefully this time I will fight for the title and whoever will be the winner of Chito Vera and Sean O’Malley I will fight next. ”
Cejudo is set to face Dvalishvili on February 17th at UFC 298 in Anaheim, California. The headline bout for the event will feature the eagerly awaited featherweight title match between Alexander Volkanovski and Ilia Topuria.