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UFC 288: Sterling vs Cejudo - May 6 🇺🇸


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Back on PPV and we’re off to Sopranos stomping grounds! The Octagon lands in Newark, New Jersey…


Aljamain Sterling©️vs Henry Cejudo - Bantamweight Title 

Belal Muhammad vs Gilbert Burns

Jessica Andrade vs Yan Xiaonan 

Movsar Evloev vs Diego Lopes

Kron Gracie vs Charles Jourdain

Drew Dober vs Matt Frevola

Devin Clark vs Kennedy Nzechukwu 

Khaos Williams vs Rolando Bedoya 

Marina Rodriguez vs Virna Jandiroba

Parker Porter vs Braxton Smith

Ikram Aliskerov vs Phil Hawes

Joseph Holmes vs Claudio Ribeiro


Not the best PPV card, is it? Certainly no 287 in Miami. It pretty much looks like a solid Fight Night card with a title fight slapped on top. To be fair, losing that Charles Oliveira vs Beneil Dariush co-main event was a massive blow. This would’ve looked like a completely different card just having that one fight added but what can you do? As far as I know, this is the correct bout order. For now anyway. I’ll update it as we go.



Aljamain Sterling vs Henry Cejudo sits atop this one. Weird fight really. It’s been so long since we’ve seen old Lego Head Henry that I don’t think anyone really knows what to expect. Then you add in that Aljo’s had possibly the single strangest start to a title reign in UFC history and who knows what the fuck to expect out of this one. I hope it delivers though because, with the original co-main dropping out, this fight is carrying the card single handed now.


So yeah, Sterling’s had a funny old start as champion. Won the title from Petr Yan on a disqualification, won the rematch in a highly debated split decision, then in his last fight he stopped a broken down and injured TJ Dillashaw. It’s hardly been the most convincing run but I actually think Aljo gets kind of underrated as a result. People forget that he ran through and submitted Cory Sandhagen in 90 seconds before all this. He’s definitely legit. But he could really do with a spectacular performance to solidify himself and shut some of the naysayers up. Problem is, I’m not sure this is the fight for that either. Even if he destroys Cejudo here, there’ll still be the asterisk of ‘well Henry was coming off a long layoff’. I’m interested in the fight but I’m also at the point now where I think I’d rather see Aljo just move up to Featherweight. And with teammate Merab on the way up now, they’re about to bring Bantamweight to a standstill if one of them doesn’t either lose or change weight class soon. For now though, Sterling is still on the throne at 135.


This is where all the intrigue is for this one though. We haven’t seen Cejudo in action since his TKO win over Dominick Cruz back in May 2020. To be honest, it seems like he’s been gone longer than that. I think that’s because of how much the Bantamweight division has gone from strength to strength in his absence. He hasn’t shut the fuck up since he left. He’s been talking and tweeting non-stop about seemingly every big fight that ever happens. But even with that, he’s pretty much become the forgotten man. There’s been so much other good stuff to sink the teeth into at 135, nobody’s missed this little berk. And he’s teased comebacks so many times that I think everyone stopped believing him. But now he’s back. And for as much as I can’t stand him, like Aljo, I think he’s become a tad underrated because of the whole ‘King Of Cringe’ bollocks. Whether we like it or not, behind all that goofy shite, he’s an Olympic gold medalist, a two-division UFC champion and has wins over the likes of Demetrious Johnson, TJ Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz. That’s no joke. But at 36 years old now and coming off a 3 year layoff straight into a title fight against a champ who’s been active? On paper it’s an uphill battle but he must fancy it. He’s also been chirping about moving up after this and fighting Volkanovski! Sounds like he’s developed a death wish during his hiatus but we’ll see what happens. He’s got to get past Sterling first.


How are we seeing this one going then? At first glance, a lot of people are probably gonna pick Aljo. Like I say, he’s been active in Cejudo’s absence. He’s fought 4 times since Cejudo last stepped in the Octagon and at the highest level. Sandhagen, Yan, Yan, Dillashaw. And 3 of the 4 were scheduled 5 rounders. So Aljo’s been putting in the hours and grafting big time. He’ll also have Merab in camp. While Merab’s no Olympic gold medalist, I can’t think of many better training partners you could wish for to prep for someone like Cejudo. He could be Aljo’s not so secret weapon here. But…I don’t know. I just don’t think Cejudo’s the type who would even entertain coming back unless he really thought he’d win. His ego is as big as his shoe lifts. And who knows what he’s been doing in his time away? I know he became a father. That can go either way. Could either take your edge off and make you soft or it could be a new fire lit under you and new motivation. He’s got that built in work ethic that any high level wrestler/Olympian has. He just needs to find a reason to tap into it. And it’s not like Sterling isn’t untakedownable(?) either. It’s an odd one this. 3 years out in your 30s, as a Bantamweight, is a big ask but I actually think Cejudo might do it. Not my most anticipated fight of the year but I’m up for it.



Belal Muhammad vs Gilbert Burns just got added. Co-main event. 5 rounds. This card was in dire need of something being added to give it a little boost but with only 2 weeks to go, I didn’t think they’d get any kind of meaningful fight made on that kind of notice. This is no Oliveira vs Dariush but it’ll do. As soon as that fight fell apart, true to form, Burns was campaigning to get the co-main spot. I was sceptical that it would get done but here we are. Interesting that it’s been given 5 rounds as well considering neither man will have had much notice or prep time. Taking into account how little time they had to work with and the limited options available, getting what is surely a #1 contenders fight cobbled together this late in the day is a very decent save.


Credit where it’s due to Belal Muhammad here. Jumping into a 5 rounder with an animal like Burns, on 2 weeks notice and right after Ramadan? I get why he’s taking the risk though. It’s a big opportunity for him, the chance he’s been waiting for to finally break out of the pack at 170 and get himself in the mix for a title shot. He’s been doing well recently. He’s 22-3-0-1 overall, hasn’t lost since 2019 etc. In his last 4 fights he’s beat Demian Maia, Wonderboy Thompson and Vicente Luque on points. And last time out in October he got the TKO victory over previously undefeated Sean Brady. It was a surprisingly entertaining fight and he needed that after getting some criticism for his clear but dull decision wins in his few fights before that. He’s been calling out all the top names at Welterweight since then but it’s fallen of deaf ears. I don’t think any of them fear Belal, but he’s just not the most appealing fight. If you can swerve fighting him, why wouldn’t you? He was pushing hard for the Colby Covington fight, even claiming he was offered it at one point for the London card in March. But nothing came of it and we know why now because Colby’s in line for the next crack at the title. There’s always one guy who will fight absolutely anyone though…


Gilbert Burns gives zero fucks. He wants to fight everyone, all the time. He must’ve called out every single name in the Top 10 lately. And he went into overdrive with it trying to get on this card. There was a lot of back and forth between him and Belal but we got there in the end. This’ll be Burns’ third fight already this year. Crazy active for a 36 year old veteran. When most guys would be slowing down a bit at that stage of their career, fighting maybe once or twice a year max, here’s this mad fucker fighting 3 times in less than 6 months! He breezed through Neil Magny in January on the Brazil PPV. Then in early April, he went to Miami and retired Jorge Masvidal. Less than 2 weeks later and he’s booked against Belal, a guy most of the top ranked guys are avoiding. Got to love Burns. He’s the only top guy who’s stepped in with Khamzat Chimaev and I’m sure he’ll be the one to welcome Shavkat Rakhmonov into the Top 5 as well. He’ll fight the lot of them. I’d love to see him get another title shot before it’s all said and done. And I like the idea of Edwards vs Burns as a fight anyway. But the way he’s fearlessly jumping in with all the badasses of the division, he might never get there again sadly. Not a clue how this one goes. My early feeling is kind of a ‘heart says Gilbert, head says Belal’ thing but I don’t know. And the short notice makes it even more of an unknown. Looking forward to this one. It might not end up being a barnburner but it’s a really interesting matchup of styles, the fact it’s 5 rounds adds another layer of intrigue to it and there’s high stakes because surely the winner gets the next shot after Leon vs Colby?



Jessica Andrade vs Yan Xiaonan is a decent enough fight. I say it every time she fights but Andrade just doesn’t do dull. Unless I’m overlooking someone, I’d say she’s probably my favourite female fighter in the game right now. She’s great to watch. She’s coming off that submission loss to Erin Blanchfield in February though. She did take the fight on short notice but it was such a decisive loss, Blanchfield breezed through her. She could really do with a strong win here. She always goes for the finish anyway so I expect no different here. She’s back at Strawweight for this one. Xiaonan is no pushover though. She beat Mackenzie Dern in their 5 round main event back in October and she’s also beat Claudia Gadelha and Karolina Kowalkiewicz. She’s alright, although I’ve never found her particularly entertaining to watch. Andrade usually wins these kind of fights though. She only really loses to champs and beasts and I wouldn’t put Xiaonan in that bracket. You never know but I’d like to see Andrade get back to winning ways here anyway. Hopefully she can drag Xiaonan into a fun scrap.



Movsar Evloev vs Diego Lopes then. Shitty break for Evloev here. He was all set to face Bryce Mitchell on this show but Bryce is out. Lopes steps in on very late notice. Fair play to Evloev for accepting this replacement fight. He’s the one with everything to lose. He’s undefeated at 16-0 but his progress up the ladder has been a bit slow. Partly because he’s not particularly flashy, buzzer to buzzer or personality-wise. He’s also been out of action for the best part of a year. So coming back in a PPV main card spot against a decent name like Bryce would’ve been a nice opportunity for him. Now he’s still on the main card but fuck knows what to expect? Lopes is 28 years old and has decent experience at 20-5 with 18 finishes. Nothing on his record stands out especially but you just never know with these last minute substitutes. Risky one for Evloev but he must feel confident. He’s looked a handful so far, really strong wrestling and did look to have made gains in the striking in his last fight against Dan Ige. But even if he completely crushes Lopes here, he’s still not gonna make much headway in the division because Lopes is fresh in the door and jumping in on short notice.



Kron Gracie vs Charles Jourdain is happening. They’ve finally found Kron! I was actually hoping we’d get Kron vs Bryce Mitchell when they were looking for a replacement for Bryce. Still think that would’ve been better but whatever. Where the fuck has he been?


Being the son of MMA/BJJ royalty, Rickson Gracie, obviously there was a real buzz around him when he made the transition to MMA. He went 4-0 at the start of his career with wins over Hideo Tokoro and Tatsuya Kawajiri in RIZIN. But being a Gracie, it was just a matter of time until the UFC came calling. He made his Octagon debut in early 2019, submitting Alex Caceres in 2 minutes. The perfect debut. His second fight in, they threw him in with Cub Swanson. I remember it being a fun scrappy fight but Cub got the better of it. That was October 2019. And we haven’t seen Kron since. Then out of nowhere, here we are. He’s back. He turns 35 in a few months, it’s now or never really. And they’re not exactly easing him back in gently. Jourdain is no title threat but he’s a good test for Kron. He’s got his flaws but he’s aggressive and will take risks, has some dangerous and creative striking. He’s coming off a couple of losses but it’s no gimme for Gracie. Not a clue what to expect from Kron at this point but I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.



Drew Dober vs Matt Frevola is ***WAND’S ONE TO WATCH*** here. Should be a wild one. Really looking forward to it. There was some talk of Dober fighting Paddy Pimblett recently but as soon as that talk started Paddy suddenly started angling for a Jared Gordon rematch. Funny that.



Dober’s had a bit of an up and down career but he had a great 2022. He went 3-0 last year and all 3 fights were bangers. He stopped Terrance McKinney in March in one of the best 3 minute fights you’ll ever see. In July he put Rafael Alves away with a body shot in another corker. Then in December he knocked out Bobby Green in a really exciting FOTN winner. He’s never been boring but he’s been stupidly entertaining to watch in recent fights. And Frevola’s been the same.


There he is sparking Ottman Azaitar in a round on the MSG card in November. Azaitar was undefeated going in, 13-0 with 10 knockouts. And the ‘Steamrolla’ flattened him in 2:30 of the first round. He also knocked out Genaro Valdez, another previously unbeaten KO artist, in his fight before that. I remember that being an absolute batshit nutty short fight. Like Dober vs McKinney, it was a 3 minute war. If this post isn’t getting you up for this, just get yourself on Fight Pass and spend the 6 minutes watching those two fights. Dober vs McKinney and Frevola vs Valdez. Trust me, you won’t regret it. The thing I liked about Frevola’s last couple of wins is that I really think they were trying to push him out the door with that matchmaking. He was coming off losses and had just been knocked out by McKinney in 7 seconds, so they put him in with Valdez who was 10-0 with 10 finishes going in? They were already getting Frevola’s P45 ready then he went and ironed out Valdez and Azaitar. Love it. This should be barmy however long it lasts. Shame one of them has to lose.



Devin Clark vs Kennedy Nzechukwu is alright. It’s OK. Not gonna pretend I’m that arsed about it but it’s alright as prelim filler. Clark’s 14-7, which tells you all you need to know about how inconsistent he is. Bloke’s lost a whole third of his fights. He’s a bit of a gatekeeper at 205. Only really loses to a certain level of competition and will beat the opposition below that. But his ceiling isn’t particularly high. He’s beat Alonzo Menifield and William Knight. That’s about his level. Not the worst but far from the best. Nzechukwu is my guy here. I’ve become a bit of a fan of him over the last couple of years. Again, he won’t trouble the top players in the division but I’ve enjoyed watching him. He won me over with his back-to-back mad comeback KOs over Carlos Ulberg and Danilo Marques, had a couple of losses after that but he’s stopped Karl Roberson and Ion Cutelaba in his last two. No world beater but he seems a good guy and at least he’s not boring. That goes a long way in a nothing happening division like modern day Light Heavyweight.



Khaos Williams vs Rolando Bedoya should be worth a look but don’t blink. Khaos doesn’t fuck about. He’s 13-3 with 8 finishes, mostly knockouts. Whenever I see his name, the first thing that pops into my head is his knockout over Abdul Razak Alhassan back in 2020…


30 seconds is all it took. And Alhassan is a KO machine himself. Khaos was just quicker on the draw that night. He’s also got wins over Miguel Baeza, Matthew Semelsberger and Alex Morono. Not a who’s who of wins and he’s also lost to Michel Pereira and Randy Brown. But he’s obviously a dangerous guy. You do not want a dig off him. Bedoya’s making his UFC debut here. He’s Peruvian and has a 13-3 record with 6 finishes. That’s about it on him. Can’t find much else and nothing about his record really stands out.



Marina Rodriguez vs Virna Jandiroba is another decent but nothing special fight. Brazil vs Brazil. I like both of these two but it’s a nothing fight really. At one point I really thought Rodriguez might have a shot at becoming Strawweight champ. That seems mad now but I think I even predicted her to win the gold in that ‘MMA Champions’ thread a year or two ago. It’s clear at this stage that that’s just not on the cards though. She got stopped by Amanda Lemos in her last fight back in November and she didn’t look good from what I recall. That was a fight I expected her to win, her losing that one made me reevaluate my opinion of her ceiling at Strawweight. She’ll do OK to a certain point. She’s already beat Dern, Xiaonan, Ribas and Waterson but she’s never beating Zhang and probably not Rose or even Esparza. She’s hit the wall. And Jandiroba’s ceiling is lower than that. She’s already lost to a few of the names Rodriguez has beat. She’s got some really nice grappling though so I’m hoping we get to see some of that here. Rodriguez is gonna want to keep this on the feet though. Hopefully it’s a better fight on the night than I’ve made it sound here.



Parker Porter vs Braxton Smith. Don’t know, don’t particularly care. Porter is arse. 38 years old, 12-8 record and coming off first round losses to Jailton Almeida and Justin Tafa. His best wins are probably Chase Sherman and Josh Parisian so…there’s that. His main claim to fame is that he got knocked out by a rookie named Jon Jones in 2008. Smith’s making his first walk to the Octagon, 5-1 with 5 first round knockouts. The lone loss? A first round TKO defeat to Chase Sherman in 2014. Yeah, I don’t have high hopes for this.



Ikram Aliskerov vs Phil Hawes has my interest. Aliskerov’s making his first appearance in the UFC and I didn’t recognise the name but I saw a few positive comments about his signing.


Apparently he’s a four time world champion in Combat Sambo and he’s 13-1 in MMA with 9 wins inside the distance. He’s fought mostly for Brave FC, beat Nah-Shon Burrell in Eagle FC and got a quick submission on DWCS in September. Most notable on his record though, is his only career loss. You might recognise the guy who beat him…



Yep. Khamzat Chimaev knocked him out on a Brave card back in 2019. The only blemish on his record. Maybe they’ll cross paths again one day. He’s coming in at Middleweight and you know it’s a matter of time before Chimaev makes the permanent move to 185. Obviously Chimaev’s got bigger fish to fry now though. Aliskerov’s got a ton of catching up to do. But I’m intrigued to see how his debut goes now. Hawes isn’t an easy first fight on paper but he’s a guy you need to and should be beating if you’re gonna go on to be anything special on the big stage. Hawes has been knocked out by Roman Dolidze and Chris Curtis in 2 of his last 3 fights so it does feel like they’re setting him up for a fall here. But we’ve seen many a debuting prospect get derailed before. It would certainly be more interesting if this Aliskerov chap can put a bit of a run together though.



Joseph Holmes vs Claudio Ribeiro. No real opinion or expectations for this. Holmes hasn’t looked too good so far in the UFC. He’s 8-3, all 8 wins inside the distance, and he’s 1-2 since signing with the UFC. His only win being Alen Amedovski, who’s shite. So not the best. He comes into this one off a submission loss to the ‘Iron Turtle’ Jun Yong Park in October. Ribeiro’s 10-3 with all 10 wins coming by knockout. Made his Octagon debut in January and got absolutely slumped by Abdul Razak Alhassan in just over a round. Not the best start on the big stage but maybe he’s better than he showed that night. He did score a 25 second knockout on DWCS just before that.


That’s 288. 


Edited by wandshogun09
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23 hours ago, Zebra Kid Mark said:

That sucks, that is a big loss. Surely they got to put the Dober fight on the main card in place of the above fight.

Fuck that. If this new look isn’t main card worthy for Zhalgas Zhumagulov then I don’t know what more he has to do. It worked for Paddy, he just needs to start saying “lad” all the time, maybe slag off some immigrants and he’s set for his main event push.



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How are we seeing this going then? It’s not the most stacked card but there’s been even less discussion than I expected.

I’ve gone with Cejudo and Belal in the poll. Not massively confident in either pick but I think they’ll come out on top.

The main event is the trickier fight to predict for me. I feel like I’m underestimating Aljo but if they’d both had about the same frequency of activity recently I’d be favouring Cejudo more heavily. Just think he’s gonna be hard for Sterling to stop and hard to take a decision off. He might actually have the better striking and more power, despite his previous Flyweight stint. And the wrestling advantage is always there to fall back on. The main thing I think Aljo has over Cejudo is the BJJ but for that to come into play he’s probably gonna be on his back working from the bottom. And I’m not sure his BJJ off his back is gonna be enough to offset Cejudo’s wrestling on top. It’s probably gonna mostly play out on the feet and, I don’t know, I’m struggling to envision Aljo getting much done there. The layoff is the x-factor here obviously but I think Henry gets it done.

As for the co-main, again, I’m just struggling to picture how Burns beats Belal. Unless it just ends up as a complete shootout on the feet, in that case I could definitely see Burns tagging him. But aside from that, and I don’t see Belal going that route, I think Belal will be able to take a decision. He might have to make it frustrating to watch and just grind it out though, and that’s not gonna help his case in arguing for a title shot. But a win over Burns should secure that for him. Especially considering he’s stepped in on short notice as well here. I’d prefer to see Burns win though. Burns vs either Leon or Colby would be better to watch than Belal vs either Leon or Colby for me.

Off the top of my head I reckon Jessica Andrade beats Yan, Dober stops Frevola in the FOTN and Kron by submission but that’s another one where the layoff is giving me doubts.

I’ve really neglected the buildup stuff for this. I’ve literally watched fuck all. No Countdown, no Embedded, no press conference, no weigh in. Nothing at all. Might have a quick look through some of that if I get chance this afternoon. But now the card is pretty much here I’m up for it regardless. The Cejudo and Kron returns in particular are very intriguing to me. High stakes in the co-main, Andrade always brings it and Dober vs Frevola should be nuts however long it lasts. 



Edited by wandshogun09
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Felt Sterling and Cejudo did a pretty good job in the week of building a the fight. I had no real preference to who I thought might win but I have started to lean towards Cejudo as the week's gone on. 

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