Everything you need to know about UFC 288: Sterling Vs Cejudo

Publish Date
Friday, 5 May 2023, 7:48AM

ACC UFC contributor Felix Heath-Collins with everything you need to know ahead of UFC 288: Sterling Vs Cejudo

With another month comes another premium MMA offering from the premier promotion. UFC 288 doesn't have nearly the star power of last month's UFC 287, but who could ever compete with Adesanya's re-ascension to the throne? What this fight card does offer is a high likelihood of violence throughout.

In the main event, bantamweight king Aljamain "Funk Master" Sterling (22-3) (wins-losses) will defend his belt against the former double champ Henry "Triple C" Cejudo (16-2) who is making his inevitable post-retirement return.

The champ Aljamain Sterling is a dangerously well-rounded fighter with a combination of elite wrestling, lethal Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), and a constantly improving arsenal on the feet. Sterling has dominated some of the greatest bantamweights in MMA history, typically finishing them with an impressive variety of submissions. And I suppose anyone who earns their BJJ blackbelt under Matt "The Terror" Serra is a certified master of the craft. Sterling has suffered a lot of disrespect in the last couple of years due to his controversial title win which he earned via disqualification when the former bantamweight champ Petr "No Mercy" Yan illegally kneed Sterling to the head while he was grounded. The controversy wasn't so much that the fight ended via disqualification, but more that the belt shouldn't switch hands without the champion being beaten or vacating. And on the more extreme side, a significant number of MMA fans believe Sterling played up his injuries to win the belt in a losing fight. What none can doubt, however, is Aljamain Sterling's championship-level fighting talent which he proves time and time again.

Henry "Triple C" Cejudo is a born winner. And - just like Sterling - he's a figure fight fans love to hate. Cejudo is the most credentialed fighter to ever grace the octagon. He is the first and only Olympic gold medalist who also won a UFC championship - or two in Cejudo's case. Cejudo's crowning achievement came when he dethroned the long-time flyweight GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) Demetrious "D.J." Johnson for the flyweight belt. Following that accomplishment, the UFC planned to close the flyweight division due to consistently low PPV viewership. The bantamweight champion at the time T.J. Dillashaw was sent down to flyweight to "kill the division" by eliminating its champion. In this champ vs. champ fight, Cejudo knocked Dillashaw out in 32 seconds flat. Right after the fight Dillashaw tested positive for the super-banned performance-enhancing drug EPO and was handed down a two-year ban from USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency). Cejudo next challenged the newly crowned bantamweight king "Magic" Marlon Moraes who he finished via TKO in round three. He then changed his moniker to "Triple C" for his three championships (Olympic gold medal plus the UFC flyweight and bantamweight belts). After that Cejudo defended his new belt with a TKO against bantamweight legend Dominick "The Dominator" Cruz. Then he retired. At the pinnacle of the sport, and as the triple champion.

This fight is particularly hard to predict. Theoretically, Cejudo is the far superior wrestler and Sterling's game relies heavily on his wrestling takedowns which will likely be useless against the Olympian. Sterling's best chance would be in his dangerous BJJ submission game. Or perhaps Sterling's (comparatively) larger frame at 5'7" (170cm) will be significant against the naturally smaller Cejudo at only 5'4" (163cm). My prediction is Henry Cejudo via TKO in the third round, but I'd be happy for Sterling if I was proven wrong.

Some other fighters not to miss on the main card are Jessica Andrade vs. Yan Xiaonan and Kron Gracie vs. Charles Jourdain. The early prelim bout between heavyweight bangers Braxton Smith and Parker Porter also essentially promises a horrifying knockout of some variety.

UFC 288 is this Sunday for us here in New Zealand with the first fight kicking off at 10:00 AM and the PPV main card beginning at 2:00 PM. Don't miss out!

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