It’s pay-per-view time again in the UFC, with UFC 288 going down this Saturday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. In the main event, current UFC Bantamweight Champion Aljamain Sterling takes on former champ Henry Cejudo, returning to the cage after sitting out the past three years. The rest of the card is solid, if not quite on the level of most UFC PPV offerings. Here are my UFC 288 predictions and best bets.
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UFC 288 Predictions & Best Bets
Aljamain Sterling (-105) vs. Henry Cejudo
In the aforementioned main event, I’m picking current champ Aljamain Sterling to retain – and I like the close-to-pick ’em number we’re getting him for. Former double champ (and Olympic gold medalist) Henry Cejudo is 36 years old now and has been ‘retired’ for the past three years.
I think those two factors will play a big role here, as is Sterling’s solid all-around game. Striking, wrestling, grappling – the champ has it all and has looked great over his eight-fight winning streak. I think this will be too much for Cejudo to overcome in his return.
Gilbert Burns (-120) vs. Belal Muhammad
The co-main event is a five-round, defacto #1 contender fight at welterweight. I thought long and hard about taking slight underdog Belal Muhammad in this one but ended up siding with Gilbert Burns. Both fighters are very well-rounded, but Burns is far more dangerous and physical than Muhammad. Muhammad will be in danger striking or taking this fight to the ground.
Jessica Andrade (-175) vs. Yan Xiaonan
Third from the top, we get former UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion Jessica Andrade to return to that weight class to face contender Yan Xiaonan. Andrade should be too physically powerful for Yan to handle in this matchup, and the Brazilian will have a definitive grappling and wrestling advantage here. She’s also very dangerous on the feet.
Marina Rodriguez (-130) vs. Virna Jandiroba
We’ll stick with the women 115-pounders and take Marina Rodriguez next. Despite being shockingly TKO’d in her last fight against Amanda Lemos, Rodriguez should fare well against grappler Virna Jandiroba. She’ll be much better in the striking department and has solid enough takedown defense to keep the fight on the feet.
Braxton Smith (+152) vs. Parker Porter
Two big boys are up next. Parker Porter is 38 and got knocked out in his last fight. I like incoming, inexperienced heavyweight Braxton Smith to turn his lights out in his UFC debut, as Smith has knocked out his last five opponents. ‘The Beautiful Monster’ is wild in the cage, but I think he gets the job done. Smith at +205 to win via T/KO is also worth a sprinkle.
Johnny Munoz Jr (+164) vs. Daniel Santos
Finally, in Saturday’s curtain jerker, I like underdog Johnny Munoz Jr. He’ll definitely be the better grappler in this bantamweight fight against Daniel Santos. Still, the stats show he’s also been a better striker from distance than Santos over their UFC careers (albeit less dangerous). Add a four-inch reach advantage for Munoz to utilize that striking, and I think he’s a live dog.
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