MMA

AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR MMA PREVIEW: UFC 288

Former two weight world champion Henry Cejudo makes his long-awaited return to the UFC this weekend as he takes on current bantamweight king Aljamain Sterling in Newark, New Jersey.

Cejudo is a future Hall of Famer and remains the only Olympic gold medallist to ever win a UFC title but at 36, he must prove he can still mix it with the best the UFC has to offer.

In a combats sports career that has spanned almost two decades, ‘CCC’ has accomplished more than most fighters ever will. From Olympic gold, to holding both flyweight and bantamweight titles in the UFC, his name is already in the history books. When he ‘retired’ back in 2020, many thought it was simply a publicity stunt but 3 ½ years have passed since we last seen him and the division he once ruled has well and truly moved on.

Known as ‘The King of Cringe’, Cejudo brings a unique personality and energy to the world of MMA. He is a divisive figure and splits opinion but for all his showmanship outside of the cage, his results inside must be respected. He was a dominant champion, with a very respectable knockout rate and whether the public hate him or love him, the sport is a better place when Henry Cejudo is competing.

Sitting at the top of the bantamweight division, Aljamain Sterling remains an underrated world champion. Despite holding the belt and having solid wins on his record against the likes of Cory Sandhagen, Petr Yan & TJ Dillashaw, fans, and pundits alike refuse to put respect on the name of the American.

At 33, Sterling is three years younger than Cejudo and arguably in his prime as an athlete. He is heading into this contest with momentum and if he can register a victory over a big name like Cejudo, he will catapult his career to the next level and could be involved in some mega fights at the back end of 2023.

Henry Cejudo is the class act in this fight, his skillset was exceptionally well rounded when we last seen him but the long layoff cannot be discounted. During his time outside of competing, he has remained in the gym as a coach but Aljamain Sterling has been performing regularly and beating elite fighters along the way.

The old theory in combat sports is that Father Time is undefeated and at 36 with 3 ½ years of inactivity behind him, it would be surprising if Cejudo is as sharp as he once was. This is an incredibly close fight but history tells you that a fighter with momentum will always have an advantage. With that in mind, Aljamain Sterling at (20/21) is worth consideration.

In the co-main event, former welterweight title challenge Gilbert ‘Durinho’ Burns returns to action just one month after beating Jorge Masvidal in dominant fashion. His opponent this weekend, Belal Muhammad is also a fighter in great form and this is one that could steal the show.

In contrast to the main event, this is two fighters with momentum and the winner is almost certain to get a world title show against Leon Edwards. Belal Muhammad is a solid competitor but Burns has genuine title credentials and he should overcome this final hurdle before getting another crack at a world title.

Gilbert Burns to win by decision is the play here at (11/4).

The most entertaining fight on the card could be between lightweights Drew Dober and Matt Frevola. These two are both ferocious, come forward fighters who look for the knockout in every contest. This is a ‘blink and you will miss it’ type of fight and could be over within the first five minutes.

There are too many risks attached to both men to pick a winner but the fight to have less than one completed round at (7/4) is worth a small play.

Finally, one fighter to watch with interest is featherweight contender Kron Gracie. The Gracie family are pioneers of the sport and Kron is the latest family member to fly the flag in the premium MMA promotion.

JORDAN NEILD


RECOMMENDED BETS
BACK Aljamain Sterling to win 2pts at 20/21 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Gilbert Burns to win by decision 1pt at 11/4 (Latest Star Price ?  CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Less than one completed round in Dober vs Frevola 1pt at 7/4 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)


PROFIT/LOSS (MAY 2023): LOSS -6.86 points


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