UFC 288 Picks: Two MMA Legends Look To Knock The Rust Off
Henry Cejudo returns to the UFC this Saturday night as the legendary combat athlete takes on Aljamain Sterling for the bantamweight crown at UFC 288. The mouthwatering main event is the cap on a stellar card that includes an incredibly important five-round welterweight battle as Belal Muhammad and Gilbert Burns bid for a shot at the title.
Here are our UFC betting picks for the weekend.
Aljamain Sterling vs. Henry Cejudo
It’s the biggest bantamweight fight of the year and perhaps the most significant title bout at 135 lbs. in UFC history, as Cejudo makes his return against Sterling after a three-year retirement.
As one of the greatest combat athletes of all time due to his accomplishments in MMA and freestyle wrestling, Cejudo lost just two of his 18 fights before calling it a day and bowing out by defending the bantamweight title with a fantastic TKO over Dominick Cruz in 2020.
Cejudo is also the only man to defeat the legendary Demetrious Johnson in a UFC title fight. His split decision win in 2018 ended a record-breaking 11 title defenses in a row. He has, however, now had three years off, and in this time, Sterling has gone from strength to strength.
It's now an eight-fight win streak for Sterling since losing to Marlon Moraes in 2017, defeating the likes of Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen along the way. The reigning champ defended his title against T.J. Dillashaw last time out. However, Dillashaw dislocated his shoulder in the first round and was eventually TKO'd because of that.
The odds are very close in this one, and it's always tough to call a fight when a former champion returns after so long out. On the other hand, with both men likely to prioritize their grappling, the superior striking of Cejudo gives him the advantage in our eyes.
Henry Cejudo to beat Aljamain Sterling is -115 with FanDuel Sportsbook.
Belal Muhammad vs. Gilbert Burns
Just four weeks after his excellent win over Jorge Masvidal, Gilbert Burns looks for his third victory in 2023 already. The Brazilian also defeated Neil Magny in January, and a win here undoubtedly puts Burns right into the title mixture.
Belal Muhammad would already argue he should have had a shot at the title by now because of his eight-fight win streak. This includes a Performance of the Night win over Sean Brady in his last fight in October, along with wins over Stephen Thompson, Vicente Luque, and Demian Maia.
Muhammad's wrestling has been his go-to in this excellent winning run, and he has put on a clinic at times in this discipline. This fight is, however, five rounds, and Burns will no doubt be favored over this distance because of his submission skillset and superior striking.
Muhammad was also losing his fight on the feet to Leon Edwards during his eight-fight win streak before an accidental eye poke ruled that bout a no contest.
As it’s over five rounds, we expect Burns to get the finish.
Gilbert Burns to finish the fight inside the distance is +220 with Unibet.
Jessica Andrade vs. Yan Xiaonan
Jessica Andrade is aiming for another charge toward a title shot at strawweight when she takes on Yan Xiaonan this Saturday.
Andrade has already fought twice this year and comfortably defeated Lauren Murphy in a decision victory before losing by rear-naked choke to Erin Blanchfield a month later. Andrade has now won just four of her past eight fights, and she is favored to get the win against Xiaonan.
The Brazilian is a black belt in jiu-jitsu and has also won nine fights via KO/TKO. Xiaonan has only lost three times in her career, but she has lost two of her past three fights and only narrowly beat Mackenzie Dern back in October via a majority decision.
In a three-round battle, Andrade’s superior grappling and knockout power will likely be too much for her, and we think the former champion gets the job done on points.
Jessica Andrade to win by decision is +215 with DraftKings.
Movsar Evloev vs. Diego Lopes
The unbeaten Movsar Evloev takes on Diego Lopes after Bryce Mitchell pulled out of this fight in the past week. It is also set to be the UFC debut of Lopes, and he couldn’t ask for a much tougher test on Saturday night.
It will be the seventh fight in the UFC for Evloev, and he has so far won 16 fights, with nine via decision, four by way of submission, and the other three via KO/TKO.
Lopes has also lost five times in his career and won 20. On the other hand, the Brazilian is exceptional in grappling exchanges and has secured 11 of his 20 victories via submission. However, given how he has been thrown into this fight against an unbeaten fighter on such short notice, there is only one winner for us.
Evloev to win is -650 with Caesars Sportsbook.
Kron Gracie vs. Charles Jourdain
The legendary jiu-jitsu specialist, Kron Gracie, will return to action in MMA after almost four years out of action. The Gracie name goes a long way in MMA, but after losing to Cub Swanson in his last fight, this Gracie is set to struggle against the experience in MMA from Charles Jourdain.
Jourdain has lost his past two fights, but with eight of his 13 victories coming via KO/TKO, there is a huge chance of another knockout in this bout.
Being a Gracie and having held a record of 51 consecutive matches won by submission at high-level tournaments, there is always a chance of locking in a submission for the Brazilian. However, he’s been out of action for too long in MMA, and at 27, Jourdain is hungry for another win, and if he lets his hands go early in this fight, we could see a quick stoppage.
Charles Jourdain by KO/TKO is +155 with BetMGM.
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