The UFC is back in the States for UFC 238 on Saturday night. The event will take place at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The main event takes place in the bantamweight division where Henry Cejudo takes on Marlon Moraes for the vacant UFC bantamweight championship.
After losing to Raphael Assuncao at UFC 212 via split decision in his UFC debut, Marlon Moraes has been on tear. The former WSOF champion has rattled off four straight wins. His last three wins all came via stoppage in the first round. More impressive than the way the fights ended is who the opponents were. The first of the three was Aljamain Sterling who has only been stopped once in twenty career professional fights. Second, was Jimmie Rivera who again has only been stopped once in twenty-five career professional fights. Third, and most recently was Raphael Assuncao who’s been finished three times in thirty-three professional fights. The thirty-one-year-old Brazilian born fighter will make the walk for the twenty-ninth time on Saturday night. He boasts sixteen finishes in twenty-two career victories.
UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo will look to become champion in both the flyweight and bantamweight divisions if he can defeat Moraes Saturday night. Cejudo became the UFC flyweight champion by defeating Demetrious Johnson via split decision at UFC 227. He successfully defended the title at UFC Fight Night 143 where he stopped TJ Dillashaw in the first round. At thirty-two years old, this will be Cejudo’s seventeenth professional fight. He has six wins via stoppage to go along with eight by decision.
Valentina Shevchenko defends her UFC flyweight title against Jessica Eye in the co-main event. Shevchenko won the title at UFC 231 where she defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk via unanimous decision. Her last loss was against Amanda Nunes at UFC 215. In fact, two out of Shevchenko’s three losses have been to Nunes. The thirty-one-year-old has eleven wins via stoppage in sixteen career victories.
After losing four fights in a row, Jessica Eye will be looking to make it four victories in a row when she steps into the cage opposite Shevchenko on Saturday night in Chicago. Her most recent win occurred at UFC 231 where she beat Katlyn Chookagian via split decision. The thirty-two-year-old American born fighter will make the walk for the twenty-second time. Ten of her fourteen career victories went the distance.
The third fight on the main card takes place in the lightweight division where Tony Ferguson takes on Donald Cerrone. Tony Ferguson’s personal issues have been well chronicled, so I won’t get into it here. “El Cucuy” hasn’t lost a fight since UFC on FOX 3 in 2012 when he dropped a decision to Michael Johnson. Since then, Ferguson is 11-0. His most recent victory was at UFC 229 where he stopped Anthony Pettis. At thirty-five years old, this will be Ferguson’s twenty-eighth professional fight. Nineteen of his twenty-four victories ended inside the distance.
At thirty-six years of age, Donald Cerrone is experiencing what can be considered a career renaissance. After losing three fights in a row, Cerrone has gone 4-1 over his last five and 3-0 over his last three. His most recent win occurred at UFC Fight Night 151 where he beat Al Iaquinta via unanimous decision. The long-time UFC veteran has forty-eight professional fights under his belt. Of his thirty-six victories, twenty-seven ended inside the distance.
Also, on the main card Jimmie Rivera will look to get back in the win column after losing to Aljamain Sterling in his previous fight. He’ll go up against Petr Yan who comes into the fight riding a seven-fight win streak. And in the heavyweight division, Tai Tuivasa takes on Blagoy Ivanov. Tuivasa started his pro career by going 8-0 until losing to Junior dos Santos in his most recent fight. Blagoy comes into the fight looking to make it two wins in a row.
The early prelims will stream on UFC Fight Pass beginning at 5:15 PM (CST) with the prelims airing on ESPN starting at 7:00 PM (CST). The main card will stream on ESPN+ PPV at 9:00 PM (CST).
Note: The predictions in this column do not necessarily mean that I will be betting them. I have changed my mind in the past and gone the other way after conducting more research. For all of my official bets follow me on Twitter @MichaelGrocke.
Henry Cejudo (14-2) vs. Marlon Moraes (22-5-1) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Moraes -130; Cejudo +100
Pick: Moraes by decision.
I like Moraes in this fight. Obviously, everyone is aware of Cejudo’s wrestling. I expect Moraes to get taken down once, twice maybe even three times; however, I don’t think Cejudo will be able to keep Moraes down at any point for very long. Training with Frankie Edgar will no doubt benefit Moraes and that can’t go without mentioning when looking at this fight. I like Moraes on the feet, and I expect the fight to remain standing. He is deadly accurate with his striking and only needs a split second to land the kill-shot. All that said, there is the chance Cejudo has more success taking Moraes down than I’m expecting and grinds out a decision, but I’m confident Moraes will be able to defend the takedown. I like Marlon Moraes at -125.
Valentina Shevchenko (16-3) vs. Jessica Eye (14-6, 1 NC) – Flyweight 185 lbs.
Current Odds: Shevchenko -1000; Eye +600
Pick: Shevchenko by decision.
Expect this fight to be primarily a striking affair. Eye is tough, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Valentina get the finish.
Tony Ferguson (24-3) vs. Donald Cerrone (36-11, 1 NC) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Ferguson -150; Cerrone +120
Pick: Cerrone by decision.
Let me start by saying the value is on Cerrone here. Personally, if I were to bet this fight the only play for me would be on Cerrone. There are just too many unknowns for me regarding Ferguson’s mental state and I cannot put my money on the unknown. I’m still on the fence on whether I’m playing Cerrone or just passing. Ferguson’s relentless pressure can be a problem for Cerrone. Cerrone has struggled with pressure in the past. I do think Cowboy will have success standing due to Ferguson’s poor striking defense, which I think will be the difference in the fight. I expect a great fight, and nothing would surprise me as far as a winner and a finish goes, but I just think Cerrone will be able to pick Ferguson apart on the feet.
Jimmie Rivera (22-3) vs. Petr Yan (12-1) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Yan -330; Rivera +255
Pick: Yan by (T)KO.
I think Yan wins this fight, but at the current price it’s a pass for me. Petr Yan is a fantastic fighter with few, if any holes in his game. Granted Rivera is a step-up in competition, but everything Rivera does, Yan does better. This is just a bad match-up for Jimmie Rivera and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Yan leapfrog the winner of Sterling/Munhoz depending on how this fight goes.
Tai Tuivasa (8-1) vs. Blagoy Ivanov (17-2, 1 NC) – Heavyweight 265 lbs.
Current Odds: Tuivasa -140; Ivanov +110
Pick: Tuivasa by decision.
I just think Blagoy is very good.
Tatiana Suarez (7-0) vs. Nina Ansaroff (10-5) – Strawweight 115 lbs.
Current Odds: Suarez -735; Ansaroff +510
Pick: Suarez by decision.
The odds have come down quite a bit since they opened, and I don’t understand why. Suarez is arguably the best wrestler in women’s MMA and I just don’t see a path for Ansaroff winning in this fight. The odds are obviously still high but warranted.
Aljamain Sterling (17-3) vs. Pedro Munhoz (18-3) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Sterling -140; Munholz +110
Pick: Munhoz by decision.
This is a tough fight to pick the winner on. I’m really looking forward to this fight. Sterling is the better grappler, but Munhoz is better on the feet. I expect Munhoz to try to get inside while Sterling will want to stay on the outside. I picked Munhoz due to his striking and power, but I will not be surprised to see Sterling be the one to get his hand raised.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz (12-4) vs. Alexa Grasso (10-2) – Strawweight 115 lbs.
Current Odds: Kowalkiewicz -1115; Grasso -115
Pick: Grasso by decision.
The odds on this fight have changed quite a bit since the opening. Kowalkiewicz was a prohibitive favorite, but now the fight is a pick ‘em. I expect this fight to stay standing which plays into both women’s strengths. I feel we’ve seen the best of Kowalkiewicz and she hasn’t looked good as of late. I also question where she is mentally at this stage of her career. Grasso hasn’t had it easy since coming into the UFC, but I think she’s the hungrier fighter. I’m inclined to agree with the line movement, but not enough to put my money on her.
Ricardo Lamas (19-7) vs. Calvin Kattar (19-3) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Kattar -155; Lamas +125
Pick: Kattar by (T)KO
Lamas is primarily a grappler, while Kattar will want to keep the fight standing. Even if Lamas has success getting Kattar down, I don’t think he has strong enough offensive wrestling to keep him on the mat. I expect Kattar to have success on the feet and at -155 I think there’s enough value to back him. I also would not be surprised to see him get the finish either.
Yan Xiaonan (10-1, 1 NC) vs. Angela Hill (9-6) – Strawweight 115 lbs.
Current Odds: Xiaonan -190; Hill +155
Pick: Xiaonan by (T)KO.
I really like Yan here, but I don’t like the current price. I’ll keep an eye on this one and if her odds come down enough, I’ll consider her a strong play. I expect Yan to walk Hill down, get inside and overpower her. I expect her to out volume Hill and the constant pressure will eventually wear Angela out causing her to possibly get finished.
Bevon Lewis (6-1) vs. Darren Stewart (9-4, 1 NC) – Middleweight 185 lbs.
Current Odds: Lewis -170; Stewart +140
Pick: Lewis by decision.
Lewis is the more technical striker and he’ll out volume Stewart. I have a strong lean on Lewis, but Stewart’s power prevents me from making it an actual play. If his odds continue to go down, I may consider it a play come fight day.
Eddie Wineland (23-13-1) vs. Grigory Popov (13-1) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Wineland -145; Popov +115
Pick: Wineland by (T)KO.
Slight lean to Wineland.
Joanne Calderwood (13-3) vs. Katlyn Chookagian (11-2) – Flyweight 125 lbs.
Current Odds: Calderwood -120; Chookagian -110
Pick: Chookagian by decision.
This fight can go either way. Calderwood likes to constantly move forward which plays well into Chookagian’s counterstriking. If Katlyn can manage range and stay on the outside, I can see her outpointing Calderwood after three rounds. I don’t expect an exciting fight due to Chookagian’s style. A for sure pass for me.
Enjoy the fights!