UFC 288: Aljamain Sterling set to defend against former two-division champ Henry Cejudo

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For many analysts and UFC fans, Aljamain Sterling is one of the top fighters in any weight class. He currently sits sixth in the P4P rankings, but you could make a case for the talented New Yorker to be within the top five. Although he may not reach the dizzying heights of Jon Jones, his record is still exemplary.

Given that Cejudo will attempt to become the first man to beat Sterling since 2017, this should indicate how incredible his form has been over the last few years. Although Cejudo has his legacy intact, which won’t change regardless of the result, it is a tale as old as time.

When former proven superstars want to test themselves at the highest level one last time, it often ends in disappointment. We can’t imagine that Sterling vs. Cejudo could be any different. Although Henry’s fans have been vocal, and the sportsbooks have it relatively close, Sterling is still the favorite.

Father Time can be cruel for fighters like Henry, who turned 36 in February. While it is by no means old, it is in the UFC. Professional sports become incredibly demanding as you reach your mid to late 30s. This is especially true in the UFC, where you need agility and flexibility to maneuver your way into a position to win.

We will look at each fighter’s strengths and weaknesses and try and pinpoint where this fight could be
won or lost. With a provisional date of May 6th penciled in, this bout is just around the corner and will be an exciting match up.

Henry Cejudo

For some reason, the lower weights of combat sports don’t have the same appeal or glamor as the heavier weights. This isn’t a UFC phenomenon, as boxing is very much the same. The heavyweights command the most significant purses and usually sell the most PPVs, and it trickles down to the lower weight classes.

Cejudo bucked this trend and altered the casual opinion toward the lower weights. While he didn’t do it alone, he was undoubtedly one of the notable names operating in the lower-weight divisions throughout the 2010s who helped shine more of a light in this area of the sport.

In the UFC, he won multiple performance of the night bonuses, and a fight of the night award against Demetrius Johnson back in 2018. Of the 25 media outlets scoring the bout, they had scored it 13-12 in favor of Cejudo. It was a blistering fight, and many fans are still split about the result today when the bout is discussed.

Cejudo’s explosive style is a fan favorite, and it has resulted in him being in several close contests. Six months before his incredible bout with Johnson, he defeated Sergio Pettis unanimously in Michigan, the favored outcome by sportsbooks. There are a variety of Michigan sportsbook bonuses available for use on UFC betting as well as other sports, and there are plenty of bonuses to take advantage of online.

The charismatic former flyweight and bantamweight champion, who hails from Los Angeles is one of the most recognizable faces in the sport. So, a bout against Aljamain Sterling seems logical in Sterling’s quest to rise through the P4P rankings.

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Aljamain Sterling

Sterling is one of the most dominant champions in any weight class, and as we touched on in our introduction, Sterling is one of the top stars in the sport at the moment. There isn’t much doubt that he’s the guy to beat in the bantamweight division, and if you look at the current rankings, you’d probably have to look at the higher weight classes to find a fighter who would have a realistic chance of beating him.

He doesn’t start as a massive favorite against Henry, but that shows just how skilled and proven Cejudo is. So, if you’re going to break this down on paper and look at how Sterling has performed in his last few fights, from a neutral standpoint, he is the favorite, and it would be a surprise if he didn’t win.

Sterling has the height and style to cause significant problems for Henry. Once you add the considerable size advantage he will likely have on the night, it looks to be an arduous task for the former champ champ. Sterling might be looking past Cejudo, as he has stated on more than one occasion that he wants Sean O’Malley on standby. O’Malley believes he should be in the opposing corner on May 6th and that he has more than earned his title shot. In truth, he has a strong case.

Whoever comes out victorious between Sterling and Cejudo will likely face O’Malley next. In theory, they could all face each other multiple times. The fans would benefit immensely from matches between these three top bantamweights.

Final Thoughts 

Some fans think Henry can rewind the years and beat Sterling, but he is a fighter riding the crest of a wave at the moment. He is comfortable at bantamweight, fights often and has proven he’s the man to beat. Maybe if we were looking at this bout four or five years ago, we might fancy Henry to win. However, Cejudo’s inactivity could be his downfall, as it has been for so many fighters before him.

Although Cejudo is an Olympic gold medalist and is a two-division champion, given that he has retired and hasn’t fought anyone the size of Sterling puts him at an immediate disadvantage. Styles make fights and given that Sterling has a three-inch advantage over Cejudo, is three years younger and has campaigned as high as featherweight, we expect him to continue his 5-year winning streak and beat Henry.

There’s no doubting his toughness, and it definitely wouldn’t be a shock if Henry managed to spring somewhat of an upset. He is a man who gives it his all every time he is in the octagon.

He is also a seasoned veteran who loves to fight. Competitive edge and will to win are often two of the last attributes to slow down in an aging fighter. Of all Sterling’s opponents over the previous few years, even a Henry at 70% could be his toughest test. Of course, it all depends on how rusty Cejudo is following his spell of inactivity.

This is a fight that the fans have been looking forward to for quite some time. Although it is only just around the corner, it has been touted since late 2022. Usually, a bigger, fresher and more active fighter will win. So for this reason, we are going to pick Sterling to do it. However, write Henry off at your own peril as it certainly isn’t a foregone conclusion.

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