UFC 288: Sterling vs. Cejudo Main Event Predictions
UFC 288 STERLING VS. CEJUDO MAIN EVENT PREDICTIONS – Last weekend Song Yadong made an emphatic statement by knocking out Ricky Simon in the last round of their main event fight. This weekend, the champion tries to solidify himself as the best bantamweight in the world by defeating the former champion who vacated the belt three years ago.
Bantamweight champion, Aljamain Sterling, looks to defend his title for the third time this weekend and pick up what could be the biggest win of his career.
Former simultaneous flyweight and bantamweight champion, Henry Cejudo, returns this weekend after an extended lay-off to reclaim what was once his.
Can Sterling ward off the Olympic wrestler to retain his title? Or will Cejudo put an end to Sterling’s run and get one step closer to becoming ‘Quadruple C’? Read on to find out how this fascinating matchup will shake out and if there are any intriguing betting spots to exploit.
It seems like just yesterday that Sterling was on The MMA Hour announcing that he was re-signing with the UFC, Lebron James style.
Sterling was an undefeated 12-0 prospect with a lot of hype that was coveted from the top promotions. It was ultimately the UFC that brought him back into the fold.
Unfortunately for Sterling, he went 2-3 over his next five fights and the hype had significantly fizzled. He managed to put together a five-fight winning streak that the UFC could not refuse to reward him with a title shot, which is when the whole Petr Yan debacle began.
From winning the title by disqualification, he managed to prove the doubters wrong in their rematch by winning the title by decision. He defended it back in October by defeating a compromised TJ Dillashaw who came into the bout with an obvious shoulder injury.
At his best, Sterling utilizes a smothering grappling game that will either open up a submission opportunity or the ability to ride out a dominant position for a large portion of time.
His wrestling is solid, but his Brazilian jiu jitsu is the shining gem in his style. He doesn’t have a horrible striking game, especially with the way he utilizes it.
He treads the limits of his opponent’s range and fires off kicks consistently enough that judges will reward him the round considering his opponent is never in range of landing significant enough strikes.
That’s what arguably won him the first round against Petr Yan in their second meeting. There are still question marks about his cardio as he does clearly start to fade in championship rounds, but he does a good enough job of staying safe enough that he can still cruise to victory. That will eventually get him in trouble against certain opponents.
It was the second fight with Demetrious Johnson that caught everyone’s attention. With only two losses on his 18-fight record, Cejudo could go down as one of the best to ever do it in the lower weight classes.
He went into retirement after defending his bantamweight title against Dominick Cruz at the first UFC event back from the pandemic.
He promptly retired citing that he wanted to enjoy some downtown considering he’s been competing ever since he was a kid because of his wrestling background. It was inevitable for him to return and there is no better time than now considering the matchup he is posed with this weekend.
The Champ (Technically)
Technically, Cejudo is still the lineal flyweight and bantamweight champion, so there is a lot on stake this weekend. Many expect Cejudo to be heavily reliant on his Olympic wrestling background to get his hand raised, but they are mistaken.
Cejudo’s striking has tremendously improved since joining forces with the Fight Ready camp in Arizona. It has produced knockout wins in his last three outings.
His calf kick is great, which allows him to explode into punching combinations more effectively. He knows how to play the game, which makes him even more dangerous.
At 36 years old, I wonder if the lay-off will have too much of an impact on his performance, but I feel that someone who has been doing combat sports for as long as he has, it shouldn’t be too big of a shakeup for him in his return.
This is a very intriguing matchup, but I feel if Cejudo returns looking at least 80% of what he used to, the he should win this fight.
His ability to stay out of bad grappling positions, his speed, explosivity, and power should allow him to corral Sterling into bad spots that he can take advantage of.
I don’t expect Cejudo to rely on his wrestling offensively, but more so defensively so he can keep this fight at a range he can operate best.
I suspect we’ll see his calf kicks come back into play to slow Sterling down and after that he will start to open up with his hands to find the big knockout.
I’d be surprised if Sterling is able to rack up as much control time as he did against Yan in this bout, Cejudo does a great job of scrambling and staying out of bad positions. Here’s to hoping three years of ring rust doesn’t impact Cejudo too badly.