The UFC returns to the United Center in Chicago this weekend for UFC 238. We will see a new Men’s Bantamweight champion crowned as well as the first defence of the Women’s Flyweight crown.
As always, I’ll be giving you my picks for the best of the card and 5Dimes will be providing the odds.
Ferguson v Cerrone:
Tony Ferguson makes his UFC return after a year littered with injuries and legal battles. Despite an absence of nearly 8 months, this will be his quickest turnaround in almost 3 years. Ferguson won TUF 14 all the way back in 2011 and has rattled off 11 consecutive wins since. However, he has never been the most active fighter on the roster as injuries have taken hold of his career and derailed several of his best opportunities to challenge for a title.
With Dustin Poirier booked to face Khabib Nurmagomedov, this fight serves as an eliminator for either Cerrone or Ferguson to face the winner. For Tony, this would potentially be the 5th time he has been booked for Khabib.
A year ago, we were all watching Donald Cerrone lose for the 4th time in 5 fights and wondering whether the end was nigh for Cowboy. At 36 and with a lot of miles on the clock it was looking like retirement was imminent for this MMA legend but three wins on the bounce have not only revitalised the career of Cerrone, but also propelled him back into the title picture once again.
Wins over former team mate Mike Perry, a surging Alexander Hernandez and a brutal beatdown of Al Iaquinta have firmly answered the question; Cerrone is going nowhere. If there is fight in the man you can bring the man to the fight.
Despite the bookies having this priced relatively evenly, I think it would be a huge shock if Cerrone were to get the win. Personally, I see Ferguson as having far too much in the tank for Cerrone to deal with and I think he takes a lop-sided decision or, for the right price, a submission win. I’ll be taking Ferguson on the Money line but a small play on a Submission prop.
Recommendation: Tony Ferguson – 2 units at -135 (20/27) @ 5Dimes
Recommendation: Tony Ferguson by Submission – 0.5 units at +500 (5/1) @ 5Dimes
Cejudo v Moraes:
Reigning 125lb champion Henry Cejudo steps up to 135lb for his attempt at becoming the latest champ-champ in the UFC. In his last bout, Cejudo thwarted an attempt at double champ status, this time from the now-disgraced TJ Dillashaw, finishing the former champion in just 32 seconds. As impressive at it was at the time, Dillashaw’s later suspension for EPO has somewhat tarnished the victory and rendered it redundant. So now, rather than facing the man he beat to defend his own belt, he gets to face a first time UFC title challenger in Marlon Moraes.
Cejudo won the belt from Demetrious Johnson in a huge upset, and via the narrowest of margins in a split decision. It was redemption for Cejudo after Johnson put him away inside a round during their first encounter. His weight issues at 125 appear to be behind him and he is looking jacked at 135lbs, this really could be a surging achievement for Olympic Gold Medallist.
Marlon Moraes transitioned to the UFC from the World Series of Fighting as their reigning champion at 135lbs. He was immediately matched against the durable Rafael Assuncao, losing by a highly contentious split decision. According to MMADecisions.com the fight was scored by 94% of the watching MMA media for Moraes, with just one outlet siding with Assuncao. In the rematch, Moraes took it out of the judges’ hands by winning via submission in the opening round.
The loss to Assuncao was the first reverse for Moraes in 6 years, and by rights he should be undefeated since 2011. He opened his career at 4-6 but has developed beyond all recognition. By rights, he should have challenged for the belt before now.
At 32 and 31 respectively, both fighters are in the prime of their careers and this could have Fight of the Year material written all over it. Cejudo clearly has the advantage on the ground as his wrestling is as good as anyone else in all of MMA (barring DC), but Moraes holds black belts in both BJJ and Muay Thai so is more than capable of defending the takedown, working from his back and finding range to unload some killer strikes. I’ll be taking Moraes in a thriller.
Recommendation: Marlon Moraes – 2 units at -130 (5/7) @ 5Dimes