UFC 288

UFC 288

 

UFC 288 – May 6, 2023

My favourite 5 fights on this card and my predictions.

1. Henry Cejudo vs Aljamain Sterling

The return of Triple C, Henry Cejeudo after a three year layoff. He will be facing the current champion Aljamain Sterling who has gone from mma fan punching bag, to respected champion with a deadly combination of size, elite grappling, unconventional striking and pace. This is a fight that has been brewing for a while and on May 6th we finally get to see these two go at it.

Henry Cejudo, the decorated former flyweight and bantamweight champion last fight was against Dom Cruz and was a stoppage seen as unfair by “all nonsense” Keith Peterson.

I think this stoppage was fair and it will be interesting to see Henry back after three years off in the toughest division in the sport.

While Henry is one of the most dominant champions in UFC history and a future UFC hall of famer, he is coming into this match against Sterling giving up height, reach and size. Cejudo is a natural flyweight and is not the biggest bantamweight. Take that in contrast with Sterling who is a bigger bantamweight and has spoken about moving up to featherweight after his next few bantamweight fights.

Either way this fight will answer many questions and will cement either man’s legacy, while Sterling was dominant against TJ Dillashaw another legend of the division, him being injured coming into the fight has some critics still wanting to see more from the current champ.

If Cejudo can come back after three years and defeat the current champ that surely has to move him up the all time rankings of champions and further cement his legend status.

This fight will also clear up many future fights in the most competitive division currently in the ufc at bantamweight. To the general public’s knowledge Sean O Malley is next in line for the title shot. O Malley will be an interesting matchup for either Cejudo or Sterling and will be a classic grappler vs striker matchup.

The number one ranked bantamweight is Merab Dvasbashelli who is teammates with Sterling and they have both stated they do not want to fight each other which complicates making fights, especially in a scenario where Sterling wins and defeats O Malley in a another title defence.

Big stakes on the line with this fight and both of these fighters have had plenty to say about each other so no love will be lost in that octagon.

Prediction: It would appear that Cejudo would have the advantage striking but Aljo has a weird style which is tough to deal with on the feet. Grappling is where the fight gets interesting as it is Aljo’s main strength but also Cejudo’s. We know that UFC grappling and wrestling is different than Olympic wrestling but it is hard to overlook the pedigree of the Olympian Henry Cejudo. I think the fight comes down to ring rust and Aljamain’s nearly 7 inch reach advantage. That mixed with his elite grappling and jiu jitsu skills, I think he manages to overpower Henry and submit him on the ground.

Sterling by submission round 3.

2. Gilbert Burns vs Belal Muhammad

This fight is a title shot eliminator and is very interesting for a variety of reasons. We have two of arguably the most overlooked fighters in the welterweight division getting a chance to make a solid case for a title shot.

Belal just finished fasting for Ramadan as of April 21. Burns just fought at UFC 287 in the main event against Jorge Masvidal. Both men have created this fight through twitter hype and online buzz.

Belal Muhammad has dramatically upped his game, which could be attributed to training with Islam mackhachev and Khabib nurmengonedov team in his past few bouts. His domination of Vincente Luque and Sean Brady have changed the perception of him as a top 10 fighter to a legitimate title contender.

While both Luque and Brady are strong talented fighters, there is no doubt that Burns will be his toughest matchup to date. Burns has already fought for the title against Kamaru Usman in a fight where he was Tkod by the former long reigning champ.

Burns has quietly (not anymore) since then racked up 5 straight wins over an impressive stable of opponents and managed to show off his immense strength and diverse skill set while doing so.

There are more than a few variables in this fight. Firstly, Burns last fought 3 weeks ago in a main card event, he did not seem to take much damage but has he had enough time to properly prepare in such a short time for Belal. Concurrently Belal has been fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and only stopped doing so as of April 21. Has he given his body enough time to prepare to take on a dangerous and versatile opponent such as Burns.

These are both two fighters who have grappling and wrestling as strengths but have transformed into much more advanced strikers. This will be an interesting matchup as I think both fighters are close in skill and talent, with a slight edge to Burns in this regard in my opinion. I think tactics and the circumstances around both fighters will end up being the deciding difference in this matchup.

Prediction:

I believe that Belal Muhammad can defeat Gilbert Burns, however I think that Burns striking is a bit more advanced than Belal and he may have a strength advantage as well, even though Belal is the bigger man. I think if Belal cannot get his ground game going then Gilbert will be able to piece him up with boxing and take the victory. I also think Burns elite jiu jitsu gives him an advantage over Belal if the fight goes to the ground.

Burns by submission in the 2nd round following a knockdown.

3. Kennedy Nzechukuwu vs Devin Clark

This will not be a long write up. I have always loved Devin Clark’s skill set, physicality and toughness. However he seems to be at a point in his career where he is struggling mightily. He still has all the ability to beat anyone he goes against on any given night but he seems to fail to be able to put together a full complete performance for the full 15 minutes.

Kennedy Nzechuwuku on the other hand seems to a fighter just hitting his prime. After a few early set backs in his career as a much rawer UFC prospect, we have seen Kennedy start to round out his skill set and put together some truly impressive performances. His immense size for the division, longest reach currently in the UFC and his toughness have never been in question. It was always a matter of him developing a well rounded MMA skill set. Well it appears that he has began to do that with many dominant performances in his last few matchups.

Prediction:

I think that Kennedy gets him out in the first round and unfortunately this may be the end of Devin Clark’s UFC career for now. Stranger things have happened in MMA and Clark has the power to knockout anyone but I am quite certain on this pick, probably more than any other pick on the card.

Kennedy by 1st round knockout.

4. Drew Dober vs Matt Frevola

Wow the UFC matchmakers really did their thing again when they set this match up. Both fighters come in on nice winning streaks and are looking to move into the top 10 or elite class of the division. There is not much to say on this match besides the fact that this is my candidate for fight of the night. I highly doubt this fight will make it the distance and if it does go the distance it won’t be for a lack of trying from both men. These are two of the more exciting fighters in the UFC and they both bring it every time they fight and really put on a show for the fans.

I think that Frevola may be the slightly more athletic fighter with Dober being the more well rounded fighter. Either fighter can put out the other in any round, so stay glued to your to for this one.

Prediction:

My brain tells me that Dober is the more experienced and versatile fighter who has fought against higher quality opponents. However I keep thinking Frevola is current on a run where it does not matter who is in front of him, he will just find a way to pull it out.

I have Frevola by knockout in the 2nd, but I am not confident in that prediction at all. This is really a 50/50 fight and anything could happen. I think the real winners here are the fans as the UFC provides us with another great undercard matchup.

Frevola by 2nd round knockout.

5. Khaos Williams vs Rolando Bedoya

We have not seen Khaos Williams fight in what seems like quite some time. I generally try to stay neutral when making picks on these fights but I cannot lie, I am a huge Khaos Williams fan. He is one of the most entertaining fighters in the UFC when he is locked in. The long layoff should give some concern, but may be a good thing, as he has looked lethargic in his past few fights. If he has taken the time to get healthy and recommit to the sport then I fear it may be an early night for his opponent.

Prediction: Khaos by first round knockout is always a good pick and I think that is what happens here with a fresh and ready to go khoas. It all depends on Khaos mentality going into the fight, as he will go as far as his focus allows him.

Khaos by 1st round knockout.

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