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UFC 288 Gambling Preview: Will Aljamain Sterling cement his legacy with a win over Henry Cejudo?

Aljamain Sterling
Aljamain Sterling
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

At UFC 288, Aljamain Sterling puts his 135-pound title on the line against former two division champion, and Olympuc gold medalist Henry Cejudo, in a battle for bantamweight supremacy. Before the title fight, there are 12 other pivotal fights, with plenty of betting opportunities available, so let’s jump right in.

As always, all odds are courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.

UFC 280: Sterling v Dillashaw Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Straight Bets

Aljamain Sterling, -105

I wrote a full breakdown on this fight that you can read here, but my thoughts basically boil down to one simple stat:

That does not bode well for Henry Cejudo.

Both me in their prime, I would probably slightly favor Cejudo to win this as the faster, more powerful puncher, but Cejudo is very likely not in his prime, he’s coming off a huge layoff, and both of those issues are exacerbated by the fact that he’s giving up an enormous amount of size. If Cejudo win, it will be an incredible achievement, but I don’t favor him to do so.

Belal Muhammad, +105

The co-main event is a great fight that is a bit wonky due to its short-notice nature. Muhammad is exceedingly well-rounded, with cardio for days, and Burns is an elite grappler who has developed as powerful striking game to back it up. Burns is the better grappler but Muhammad is an exceptional defender of takedowns, meaning this will mostly be a striking affair, and while Burns has more power, Muhammad has more skills and more volume. Add in the fact that Burns looked a bit old beating Jorge Masvidal up (Jorge himself looked ancient in there) and things are lining up well for Muhammad to finally earn himself a title shot.

Kron Gracie, +145

Like with the main event, Gracie has been out for three years, which raises some questions about how he will look in his return; fortunately, Gracie is exactly the sort of fighter that ring rust won’t make a bit of difference to. Gracie is a BJJ player, and I can assure you, he’s been doing plenty of that the past few years. And on Saturday, everything is the same as it always has been for his entire life: get a takedown, work to the back, finish. Jordan is a fine fighter but he’s been taken down eight of his 10 UFC opponents, including the last six in a row. If Julian Erosa can score takedowns and tap you out, so can Kron.

UFC 272: Rodriguez v Yan Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Prop Bets

Marina Rodriguez by Decision, +130

In her most recent fight against Amanda Lemos, Rodriguez looked oddly listless and uncommitted. I’m chalking that up to just a bad night at the office though, because she should win cleanly against Virna Jandiroba.

Jandiroba is a good grappler but all of her losses have come from simply being outworked by her opponents. Rodriguez specializes in just that thing, with five of her six UFC wins coming by volume-heavy decision. I expect the same here and given that Jandiroba has never been finished, I feel confident this one is heading to the cards as well.

Kennedy Nzechukwu by KO/TKO/DQ or Submission, +120

Call me a sucker but I’m buying into the Nzechukwu hype. Only 30-years-old and coming off of the two best performances of his career, Nzechukwu appears to have turned a corner. Devin Clark is a solid fighter, but he’s struggled against guys who can match his physicality and offer legitimate finishing threat in return. Nzechukwu is one of those guys, as he will have an enormous size advantage and he’s finished eight of his 11 career wins. Add in that Clark has been stopped in six of his seven career losses and an Inside The Distance play looks good.

UFC 288 Press Conference Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Parlay of the Week

Jessica Andrade, -190

I love Andrade in this spot. The former strawweight champion is dropping back down to 115-pounds for good, and I think she’s about to make a statement. Still only 31-years-old, Andrade has dominated everyone she’s fought for the past eight years other than world champions (and future world champions, in the case of Erin Blanchfield). Yan Xiaonan is a good fighter, but she’s not championships caliber. Andrade can win this with power shots on the feet, or by scoring takedowns and beating Yan into a pulp on the mat, a la Carla Esparza.

Drew Dober, -210

Since losing to Islam Makhachev and Brad Riddell in back-to-back fights in 2021, Dober has been on a tear, earning three knockouts in a row and a place in the UFC’s top-15. Matt Frevola is a very fun, scrappy fighter, on a two-fight win streak of his own, but he’s not the same level of athlete or striker as Dober is. If Frevola was going to commit to his wrestling, he could maybe make things interesting, but that’s not really his style. This is going to be a brawl and Dober’s Herculean chin and big power makes him the clear favorite.

Parlay these two bets together for +125 odds.

UFC 274: Brown v Williams Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Long Shot(s) of the Week

Khaos Williams by KO/TKO/DQ in Round 3, +1100

In case you have no idea who Rolando Bedoya is, let me save you the trouble: he’s not great. Despite a 14-1 record with wins over actual respectable opposition, Bedoya is a fighter who has only vaguely heard about the concept of defense, and he’s not to well-versed on conditioning either. That’s not to say the man isn’t tough. He certainly is, eating big shots and continuing to stay scrapping until he can eventually find a way to the floor and a submission, but that sort of game doesn’t translate as well when you’re facing a legitimate professional like Williams. Williams is going to land big shots in this one and the only question for me is when does he land a fight ending one? I’m banking on Bedoya’s toughness to carry him through for awhile, until the laws of physics and anatomy ultimately turn on him.

Point to be deducted in Aljamain Sterling vs. Henry Cejudo, +2000

This is a pet play of mine that I like to take a stab on whenever a known line-stepper fights, and Cejudo is for sure one of those. The former champ-champ absolute loves to leap forward with his head in a way that is almost flagrantly attempting a headbutt, and with the massive reach advantage Sterling has, Cejudo is really going to be jumping in this one. It’s less a question of if there’s a clash of heads than if the referee chooses to enforce the rules. I’ll take a flyer on yes.

Wrap Up

An up-and-down week last week, which was somewhat expected with how bad the card was. UFC 288 has no such issues though, so hopefully we cash some tickets and get ready for the summer push.

Until next week, enjoy the fights, good luck, and gamble responsibly!

All information in this article is provided to readers of MMA Fighting for entertainment, news, and amusement purposes only. It is the responsibility of the reader to learn and abide by online gambling laws in their region before placing any online sports betting wagers.

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