Newark, New Jersey plays host to a pay-per-view card headlined by a Bantamweight title fight between current champion Aljamain Sterling and former double champ Henry Cejudo. In the co-main Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad lock horns in a fight where the winner will most likely get a title shot and Jessica Andrade faces Yan Xiaonan in an enticing affair. Plenty of action this weekend as UFC 288 takes centre stage, here are my best bets on the card.
UFC 288 Preview & Betting Picks
Aljamain Sterling vs. Henry Cejudo
This fight is equal parts intriguing and equal parts tough to call, with the result likely plain obvious in hindsight. Henry Cejudo has been out of action for three years since retiring as a double champion and since then Aljamain Sterling claimed the title with a disqualification win over Petr Yan and has since backed that up with another win over Yan and a second round stoppage of former champion TJ Dillashaw.
Cejudo has two routes to victory, by getting Sterling down and controlling from top position or wearing on Sterling and hoping he can pull away in the championship rounds as the champ slows. However, a major problem for Cejudo will be the distance management as Sterling will chop at his legs and skate along the fence. He is incredibly hard to back into a corner and I expect Cejudo to control the centre and get met with straight jabs and kicks as he tries to blitz in and corner Sterling. I think as he becomes overeager to engage, he will leave himself open to be countered more and more and even be taken down by Sterling. Back Funk Master to get the win.
Belal Muhammad vs. Gilbert Burns
Both Belal Muhammad and Gilbert Burns come into this fight on just a few weeks notice after the original co-main was scrapped. The winner’s next fight will almost certainly be for the title so there is plenty on the line for either man. Muhammad is on a nine-fight unbeaten streak and last time out he dismantled top prospect Sean Brady.
Gilbert Burns just shows up each and every time and gets a favourable match up here. The Brazilian’s bread and butter remains on the mat but he also has heavy hands and one hell of a chin, as shown against Chimaev. Muhammad continues to silence the doubters but I don’t like this fight for him. Burns will keep stinging him on the way in and has the advantage on the mat. I just don’t see Muhammad being able to outpoint Burns on the feet or control the grappling exchanges. Back the Brazilian to earn another title shot.
Braxton Smith vs. Parker Porter
Braxton Smith has won his last five fights all by round 1 knockout with the longest lasting 2 minutes and 3 seconds. He faces a stiff step up in competition against Parker Porter and it is one I don’t see him being able to make. Porter is not a top striker by any means but has enough fight IQ to avoid an overhand right or a right hook, the only two weapons Smith possesses with the ability to stop him. Expect Porter to weather an early onslaught and take him down and finish a gassed Smith before too long.