The UFC returns to the Prudential Center for UFC 288 as the bantamweight championship is on the line in the main event when Aljamain Sterling defends his title against former champion Henry Cejudo.
Sterling has successfully defended his title twice already but will be coming up against the man who never lost the belt but retired as champion during the COVID-19 pandemic having successfully defended his crown in a second weight-class.
We'll have a look at the big fight and break down the bout before providing you with our best free UFC 288 betting picks to see if we can earn you some extra cash.
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UFC 288 information
- Saturday, May 6th 2023
- Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
- Main card starts at 10pm ET
- Bantamweight (135-pounds) championship bout
- 5 x 5 minute rounds
Aljamain Sterling vs Henry Cejudo
Champion Sterling is one of the most underrated mixed martial artists in the world despite his championship reign, with a professional record of 22-3.
"The Funk Master" comes into this fight on an eight-fight win streak including a stoppage win over Cory Sandhagen (UFC 250), followed by consecutive wins over Petr Yan via disqualification and then decision where he won the title and then successfully defended it for the first time.
Last time out he went up against arguably the best bantamweight ever in TJ Dillashaw and dominated him to claim a stoppage win in the second round after Dillashaw suffered a dislocated shoulder early in the bout.
Of his 22 career wins eight have come via submission, alongside three knockouts, ten decisions and one via disqualification.
Cejudo on the other hand is one of the most decorated combat sport athletes, having won an Olympic gold medal in wrestling before earning the UFC flyweight and bantamweight titles during his career.
"Triple C" is undefeated since 2017, with six wins between then and 2020 when he retired as the champion.
His four most recent victories came in title fights as he earned a split decision win over Demetrious Johnson to win the 125-pound title, before defending it successfully against Dillashaw with a 32 second knockout.
He then moved up to 135-pounds where he won the vacant title by knocking out Marlon Moraes, and defended it with a knockout win over Dominick Cruz before his early retirement. That took his professional record to 16-2, split evenly with eight knockouts and eight decisions.
Route to victory
This is an incredibly interesting fight between two hugely gifted mixed martial artists with very similar skillsets.
Sterling is a very strong wrestler with long limbs and superb jiu-jitsu skills on the mat, while his striking has improved greatly in recent years although is still his weak point.
Cejudo is an Olympian when it comes to his wrestling, but he is also a former Golden Gloves boxer and possesses fantastic knockout power and strong low kicks to hurt his opponents.
His conditioning has always been among his best weapons too, and Sterling showed in the first bout between himself and Yan that his gas tank is far from perfect when he is pushed to the limit on the feet.
Sterling will no doubt want the takedown as he will feel that he can control the fight with his submission game, but Cejudo will be receptive to that type of battle although only if he has a dominant position on top.
But what tends to happen when two wrestlers meet is that the fight ends up staying on the feet, and Cejudo certainly has the advantage there.
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UFC Picks - And New!
This is a bit of a blind pick because Cejudo is coming back into the octagon for the first time in three years, while Sterling is right at the top of his game.
But Cejudo hasn't been sitting on a couch during that time. He has been constantly training and even coached some of the best in the world, with Jon Jones among those taking knowledge from 'The Messenger".
His initial plan was to move up to 145-pounds for another title shot but that never materialised and instead he has gone back to his most recent division to reclaim the title he never lost.
When it comes to the grappling it's not hard to come to the conclusion of believing that Cejudo has the advantage considering his credentials, and he is certainly the better striker. But with no time in the cage for a while, it will be interesting to see how he deals with any adversity.
It should be a very close fight and is likely to be more of a chess match than a straight brawl between the fighters, but Cejudo is the more comfortable fighter in the area where his opponent's strengths are and that's why I expect he will be the man with the belt around his waist come the end of the bout.
UFC Picks - Henry Cejudo to win @ -114
UFC Picks - Over 2.5 rounds @ -285
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