UFC 238 comes live from Chicago on Saturday with two title fights, a major lightweight battle (Tony Ferguson vs. Donald Cerrone) and numerous other highly competitive matchups. Fight fans are sure to enjoy the combat as there is diverse talent scattered throughout the card ranging from 115-pound female fatales to 265-pound heavyweight ho-downs.
MARLON MORAES -120 VS.
HENRY CEJUDO 100
Bantamweight Title Fight (135 pounds)
For this MMA enthusiast, Saturday’s main event is the most-anticipated confrontation of the year. Not only are these two world class competitors but they each bring a diverse and highly effective fighting arsenal into the Octagon for this title fight.
Henry Cejudo is THE most adroit and capable wrestler on the UFC roster. He is unusually competitive and without question is a pure bottom line winner. The dominant mindset established by his Olympic wrestling capability/ success is the basis for vast improvements in his boxing/striking. He is mentally driven to excel as proven by his past accomplishments. Cejudo has displayed the quickness, speed and agility to dominate at flyweight (125 pounds) so it will be most interesting to determine if he can transfer those traits into advantage despite moving up ten pounds to compete for this bantamweight title.
Kryptonite to the BJJ specialized fighter is world class wrestling. Cejudo, in my judgment, MUST find a way to crowd, smother and eventually clinch/ grope/wrestle Moraes. He must not fall into the belief that his striking has come so far (because of the impressive result against Dillashaw) that he will be able to stand with Moraes and compete effectively in this fight, which would be a huge mistake because his striking has not come THAT far!
Both men rely heavily on their legs in fights. For Cejudo, he utilizes his legs to impede/trip opponents while in the clinch, allowing him to slam the competitor on the floor. Once Henry gets most opponents to the floor he dominates and it’s in his best interest to make this a wrestling match at all costs. Cejudo has the championship mindset, the wrestling base and speed/quickness but he moves up in weight and fights a legitimate championship-caliber opponent.
Moraes is a destructive fighting force highly decorated with black belts in Muay Thai (striking) and BJJ, which is more a grappling ground expertise. Moraes, upon his arrival to the UFC, has fought and dominated only top-rated foes in the bantamweight division. In each fight he has looked absolutely dominant (Moraes actually lost a split decision to Rafael Assuncao in his UFC debut, then in his last fight gained revenge by submitting the perennial bantamweight contender).
Moraes use of legs involves destructive blunt force trauma as he utilizes precision placed leg, body and head kicks to injure opponents while mixing powerful hand/elbow striking. His feinting and head movement allow him to confound and instill hesitation into opponents which is the prelude to those unrelenting strikes arriving from any angle and level.
In a recent fight, Kevin Lee, who stepped up in weight to fight Rafael Dos Anjos, was unable to bring appropriate energy into the championship rounds and it was because he had a difficult time managing the adjusted weight and fighting a man with more mass.
I believe Cejudo, just like Lee, will toil, not as much by fighting at the higher weight but by competing against a guy that has fought against other legitimate 135ers (we know these guys weigh about 153-155 pounds by the time they ring the bell) and dominated.
Moraes has been yearning for this chance his whole career. He’ll have size, reach and power advantages as well as the advantage of training in the same camp as wrestling great Frankie Edgar & Co., where he can work on being wrestled daily.
Moraes opened -175 for this fight in far away places and Cejudo money has dropped that price to -120. I mentioned on a recent appearance of “The Edge” with Matt Youmans and Jonathan Von Tobel that Moraes (at the time -115) was an absolute release so I’ll remain committed to Moraes.
VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO -1500 VS. JESSICA EYE 850
Women’s flyweight title (125 pounds)
Nothing exemplifies how shallow the talent is in each of the women’s divisions of the UFC like the spread on this fight. Shevchenko will hold this title as long as she wants to for she’s far superior in this weight class to anyone. She’s technically sound, fast and can fight for five hours let alone five rounds, but she packs little power and must impose her dominance via time and volume not power and might.
I’ll have further breakdowns and releases later in the week, especially an opinion on the Ferguson -150 vs. Cerrone 130 bout at GambLou.com.
Last week, Ilir Latifi, Volkan Oezdemir’s opponent had to pull out of the fight via injury, so we’ll plan on attacking this main event knowing Moraes -120 is a value opportunity