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UFC 288

Main Event

Aljamain Sterling vs Henry Cejudo


The return of Triple C after nearly 3.5yrs away fighting for a title speaks to the man’s résumé & abilities. His last 3 wins came over Dillashaw, Moraes, & Dom Cruz, all via KO/TKO. Moraes no longer in the UFC, & Cruz obviously not what he was. Dillashaw is still extremely talented & capable of being atop this division, just have to see what he looks like post shoulder injury. Nonetheless, he gets Sterling, who’ll be defending his belt for the 3rd time. He originally got it back in 2021 over Petr Yan due to 4th RD DQ for an illegal knee. A bout I thought he was down at least 1 RD in. He made a great showing of hisself in the rematch though. He utilizes his length well & tries to keep it at a comfortable kickboxing distance. He lands 4.7 SS/m (absorbs just 2.1 SS/m), his striking is technical & his striking defense is really solid. For Cejudo, he has more power & lands 3.9 SS/m (absorbs 2.7 SS/m). He throws heavy leg kicks, & I’m sure that’ll be the plan early in this one to try and slow the movement of Sterling in the pocket. He’ll be at a reach disadvantage of 7”. Sterling will push the pace early, which’ll force Cejudo to pick up his pace earlier as well. To this point in his career, Sterling hasn’t had durability issues/concerns, so this fight is especially interesting from that standpoint, because Cejudo lands power shots consistently once he gets in the flow. The biggest differentiator in this one will be the wrestling/grappling exchanges. Cejudo is one of the highest fight IQ guys in the UFC, & an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling. I don’t think he’ll lose many wrestling exchanges, but he’ll have to be mindful of the grappling edge Sterling probably has here, especially if he gets the back, he’s extremely comfortable once he gets the body lock in. This is a pick ‘em if I’ve ever seen one in a title fight, & I’ll have exposure to both. But from an outright pick standpoint it feels slightly safer going with Sterling. The size advantage, as well as no real durability issues helps him as the fight goes into deep waters. Could be a controversial decision in the end. AND STILLLLLLLLLLLL

PICK: Aljamain Sterling $19 FD ($8100 DK)

Henry Cejudo $20 FD ($8100 DK)


Co Main Event

Gilbert Burns vs Belal Muhammad


What a matchup. Both these guys taking this fight on weeks notice, & winner gets title shot after Covington, so huge implications. Burns last fight was April 8th vs Masvidal. Muhammad hasn’t fought since beating Brady in October of last year. Muhammad has quietly gone on a solid run since the No Contest bout with Edwards. He’s won 4 in a row since, over Demian Maia, Wonderboy, Luque, & Brady. Burns has won 3 of his last 4. The guys atop the division right now will all age out likely within the next 4yrs, so their time is now to make something happen. Burns hasn’t gone a full 5 RDs since his bout with Woodley back in 2020, & all signs point to this one going into deep waters. So his cardio will be the biggest concern heading into this one. We saw him start to fade a bit once the 3rd RD rolled around vs Khamzat, & Belal will pressure consistently. On the feet, I see Burns as the one with better power, & Belal the volume guy. Belal lands 4.47 SS/m (absorbs 3.6 SS/m), while Burns lands 3.3 SS/m (absorbs 3.1 SS/m). Their stats are nearly identical when it comes to TDs, each averaging just over 2 per 15mins. But Belal’s TDEF is exceedingly better (92% vs 47% for Burns). However, I think there’s an edge in terms of grappling for Burns, so not sure Belal will actively shoot for TDs. Burns won’t be scared to do so, just a matter of if he’ll find success getting him grounded. After first 3 RDs, I think Burns will take 2 RDs, then it’s a matter of doing enough in the latter RDs to sway the judges to give him 1 there too. Each fighter will have their moment in this one, but I think Burns will deal more damaging shots that’ll eke out the decision win for him. Definitely play both sides if doing multiple entries.

PICK: Gilbert Burns $16 FD ($8200 DK)

Belal Muhammad $15 FD ($8000 DK)

Jessica Andrade vs Yan Xiaonan

Women’s Strawweight

Andrade has had one fight at SW since 2020, & that was her bout last yr vs Lemos where she won via an insane standing arm triangle. She’s spent the bulk of that time at FW. She’s won 3 of her last 4 bouts, while Xiaonan is 2-2 in her last 4. IMO Xiaonan beat Marina, but it was still a really close bout. I think this fight is a bit closer than most think. Xiaonan is a really solid striker on the feet & has some pop in her hands, & she’s a solid offensive wrestler when she wants to be. The issue here is going to be how well can she fight off of her back? Has she made major improvements there? Mackenzie Dern had her moments, it was just solid submission defense from Xiaonan. Given the same situations vs Andrade, a much stronger person physically, I’m not sure we’ll see the same such luck. Andrade is going to pressure early, & knows she has the power to crack her opponents. However, I think Andrade wants this fight where she knows there’s a clear advantage, & that’s on the mat. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her shoot within the 1st 60 seconds of getting this going; & if that first entry is successful & looks easy, it’s going to be a long night for Xiaonan. At the least, I feel Andrade can bank 2 RDs with her wrestling, she’ll be able to bully Xiaonan there, but if she thinks she has something to prove on the feet, Xiaonan could very easily get out in front. Andrade is a sneaky play on both platforms, because she could smash with another early KO/submission.

PICK: Jessica Andrade $19 FD ($8800 DK)

Yan Xiaonan $11 FD ($7400 DK)


Movsar Evloev vs Diego Lopes


Bryce Mitchell was originally scheduled to fight Jonathan Pearce, then Pearce backed out; then comes Evloev on short notice to replace him, but then Mitchell backs out due to injury, so now we have 2 completely different opponents facing each other. Evloev is probably on the short list of guys next up to get a title shot at FW. I mean o guess he could make it competitive vs Volkanovski, but probably not. But for the time being, he’s still undefeated professionally, at 16-0. He’s an extremely well rounded fighter, backed by a heavy pressure wrestling gm. He averages nearly 5 TDs per 15mins (4.8); & even with that, still has solid output on the feet, landing 4.3 SS/m (absorbing 2.7 SS/m). Lopes is taking this on seemingly days notice & to be quite frank is completely outmatched. He can try to lock up submissions in quick fashion, but this is a different level & it won’t come that easy. Sure, you could throw a Hail Mary LU together that has him in it, but I wouldn’t waste it. This is just about figuring out if you whine Evloev’s FS will be worth it at this price point now. He could certainly go out & rag doll him for 3 RDs, or he could settle in early & find a submission hisself. Hard to really get a good gauge on it. I do think he’ll find a finish, just cautiously optimistic on how soon. I say 2nd RD. Making him a solid play.

PICK: Movsar Evloev $23 FD ($9400 DK)

Diego Lopes $8 FD ($6800 DK)


Charles Jourdain vs Kron Gracie


At one point in time, earlier in Jourdain’s current UFC stint, I had high hopes for him, & thought he’d eventually take the next step, but he hasn’t. He’s talented, best as a pressure striker, just hasn’t evolved much over the last couple years; & his fight IQ is concerning at times, especially in wrestling/grappling exchanges. Sometimes he can look brilliant there, like he did vs Vannata, & others not so much. And now he’s matched up with Gracie, who hasn’t been in the octagon since late 2019. And honestly only getting a PPV slot due to his namesake. There’s a couple other fights on this card you could swap with. However, we know where there’s a clear advantage for Gracie in this fight, & that’s on the canvas. He’s a submission specialist, & the sooner he gets it there, the better. The question will be how good does he look on the feet now vs what he did a few years ago. His durability isn’t an issue, so I don’t see Jourdain being able to get a KO/TKO win here, his win condition will be pace & pressure while keeping it on the feet. Jourdain’s TDEF is sub 50% (48%), & one would assume Gracie has been working on that part of his gm as well. Given all those factors, Gracie looks like a solid dog to take a chance on. He’ll make Jourdain look silly on the mat if he gets there, especially in top control. I’m calling for a 2nd RD submission for Gracie here.

PICK: Kron Gracie $12 FD ($7500 DK)

Charles Jourdain $18 FD ($8700 DK)


Drew Dober vs Matt Frevola


Dober had an amazing 2022. He bounced back from the Riddell loss in late 2021, & racked up 3 KO/TKO wins. The dude has an impeccable chin with solid power in his hands. He gets Frevola who’s 2-2 over his last 4, but has won 2 straight, the last one via KO in which he polled Twitter & asked if he should ‘stand and bang’ or ‘wrestle’, & the consensus was to trade blows & it worked out. I’m not sure he’ll want to take that approach in this one. He’s shown he’s chinny & can be KO’ed hisself; & Dober has some of the heaviest hands in LW. However, if he can somehow manage his pace, fight smart in the pocket, it could lead to TDs. Dober has questionable TDEF (55%), but he’s a solid wrestler. Frevola averages over 2 TDs per 15mins (2.39), he’ll be wise to utilize that. On the feet, both are solid, but everything there favors Dober. He lands 4.4 SS/m (absorbs 4.4 SS/m), Frevola lands 3.46 SS/m (absorbs 3.49 SS/m), so both basically take one to give it. All signs point to Dober here, even if it goes to a decision, he’ll be able to land more damaging shots to say the least. I don’t really think this’ll go deep no matter the outcome though, I see Dober being able to find a finish within the first 2 RDs. He’s honestly live for a 60 second bonus on DK if Frevola decides to trade early.

PICK: Drew Dober $21 FD ($9200 DK)

Matt Frevola $9 FD ($7000 DK)


Kennedy Nzechukwu vs Devin Clark

Light Heavyweight

This is such an interesting fight, if for nothing more than to hear Devin Clark’s dad scream instructions at his son for the entirety of the fight. Clark bounced back in a nice way over Jung his last time out, after being finished by Murzakanov the fight before. He’s 2-3 over his last 5, so starting a win streak would be nice for him. He’s got solid all around tools, but most of his success can be attributed to his frame, his shorter for the division & his extremely stalky/bulky. He’s one of the more physically imposing fighters in the division. He doesn’t do any one thing excellent, he just goes out there to fight. He’s averaging over 2 TDs per 15mins (2.3); & on the feet, lands 2.9 SS/m (absorbs 2.7 SS/m). He wants to close distance early & make it a clinch fest, he’ll especially want that here due to the much longer frame of Nzechukwu. Both these guys have cardio issues the longer this fight goes. I imagine Clark to be the aggressor in terms of trying to get this fight grounded, but Nzechukwu has solid TDEF (80%), so will he tough, & even if he does get it there, Nzechukwu will scramble/try to get reversals etc. Nzechukwu will be the busier fighter in kickboxing range, he’s landing 4.6 SS/m (absorbs 4.1 SS/m). From a DFS perspective, this one is tough to gauge, Nzechukwu doesn’t really have that one shot power you want to see to take a chance at his price. He’s more of a volume fighter & wins by accumulation. On top of that, he’s generally a slow starter, & Clark is best early on with his wrestling. Nzechukwu will pick things up in the 2nd & have more success defending TDs, from there, he’ll outpoint Clark on the feet, & I think he takes a UD victory. Not really excited about this one for DFS, too many unknowns.

PICK: Kennedy Nzechukwu $17 FD ($9000 DK)

Devin Clark $14 FD ($7200 DK)


Khaos Williams vs Rolando Bedoya


Williams has won 3 of his last 5. He’s coming off a decision loss to Randy Brown back at UFC 274 nearly a yr ago. He’s cooled off a bit since his hit start, but still sits 4-2 overall in the UFC. My favorite part about him is how he stares into the souls of his opponents as soon as he steps inside the octagon. You can tell he loves what he does. He’s now matched with newcomer Bedoya, who has made good work for himself on the regional scene, he’s 14-1 professionally to this point. However his approach will set him up for disaster in this bout if he’s not careful. He seems far too willing at times to engage in the pocket. That’ll feed right into Williams hands, literally. Williams is very patient in the pocket, the he finds times to explode, throwing big shots looking to get his opponents out of there. I see that as the case in this one. Bedoya will get too overzealous & get hisself caught as a result. 1st or 2nd RD KO is on tap for this one in all likelihood. He’s got a chance for another 60 second bonus too.

PICK: Khaos Williams $22 FD ($9500 DK)

Rolando Bedoya $8 FD ($6700 DK)


Marina Rodriguez vs Virna Jandiroba

Women’s Strawweight

This fight could’ve very easily landed on the main card. Rodriguez has had some prime spots of recent, & for good reason. She’s coming back after the late KO/TKO loss to Amanda Lemos back in November. Prior to that had won 4 straight, so she’s looking to get back on track. Rodriguez has an extremely good technical striking gm that she implements with her kickboxing. Not only that, but she has nice power to go along with it. The one criticism I guess you could say is she’s far too patient sometimes. She likes to counter, so she’ll be too passive in waiting on her opponents move before she’ll respond. When she gets it going though, she does have solid output. She lands 4.8 SS/m (absorbs 3 SS/m). For Jandiroba, she’s even more reserved in terms of numbers, she’s landing just 2.4 SS/m (absorbs 3.1 SS/m). But she’s got solid power in her strikes as well. Her numbers are lighter due to her mixing in her TDs. She averages over 2 TDs per 15mins (2.3); & in this matchup, I think she knows that’s her best win condition. It’s how she was able to beat Angela Hill her last time out. We’ve seen committed wrestlers get Rodriguez to the mat & keep her there. Esparza got 5 TDs. I’m not saying Vandiroba gets that many here, but I do think she gets at least 1 in each of the first 2 RDs, and if she’s able to do that, she’ll likely be able to salt away those RDs in top position, she doesn’t lay & pray. She’s constantly looking for ways to lock up submissions etc. This is a solid dog spot to target. I think Vandiroba can do enough with her wrestling to steal this one. Should Rodriguez win, I don’t think her score looks that good if she doesn’t finish her on the feet within the first 2 RDs.

PICK: Virna Jandiroba $15 FD ($7700 DK)

Marina Rodriguez $16 FD ($8500 DK)

Parker Porter vs Braxton Smith


Porter is on the last fight of his contract, & has come into this one seemingly in the best fight shape he’s been in since he’s been in the UFC. He weighed in at 249lbs, normally he’s at 260 minimum. He’s coming off of a bad KO loss to Justin Tafa just 2 months ago, & before that was fed to Almeida. He’s looking for a bounce back win. He’s one of the more active HW’s who lets his hands go. He lands 6.4 SS/m (absorbs 6.3 SS/m), he also averages just under 2 TDs per 15mins (1.4). So should this fight get dicey, he has a fall back plan. For Smith, he’s 5-1 professionally, all wins via 1st RD KO/TKO. But his level of competition is suspect, one of his opponents he fought twice. He hasn’t seen a fight last longer than 2mins. He’s got heavy hands, but throws big looping shots. Porter coming in lighter could do even worse things for his chin, but I think he can weather the early storm Smith will offer, once that happens, he should be able to melt Smith’s cardio with pressure & pace. Smith even mentioned that he wasn’t training at all really until recently. He wasn’t in anyone’s gym, it was all self taught stuff. I’m definitely going to have shares of Smith, because it’s just smart to do that if playing ME, but will be heavier on Porter. Think he can find a late 1st RD finish or definitely get it by the time RD 2 ends. Solid mid range piece today.

PICK: Parker Porter $18 FD ($8600 DK)

Braxton Smith $12 FD ($7600 DK)


Ikram Aliskerov vs Phil Hawes


I’m very interested in seeing this fight. Aliskerov’s claim to fame this week has been a highlight of him in a scramble with Khamzat Chimaev earlier in both their pro careers, before Khamzat flatlined him about 1.5min later. It’s no secret he comes from that Dagestan background of wrestling/grappling while he hunts for submissions. He’s 13-1 professionally, but this another fighter that begs to question his level of competition faced etc. Now you get a debut against an up & down fighter with solid tools in Hawes. Hawes is coming off of the nasty leg injury suffered in his bout with Dolidze this past October, but one assumes he’s recovered well. Hawes is known to be chinny, & therefore suspect against better competition, but for me Aliskerov doesn’t really present a problem in terms of his power on the feet, everything he does is to close distance & get TDs. Hawes has 100% TDEF to this point in his UFC tenure, so will be tough sledding to get this grounded. He won’t come in & just bully a guy like Hawes; & on the feet, I give Hawes the advantage, he has better striking & will have more dominant output. He lands 5.4 SS/m (absorbs 3.4 SS/m). Averages nearly 3 TDs per 15mins hisself (2.4); & I honestly don’t think he’ll be intimidated enough to not go to the mat with this guy. Aliskerov’s most used submission is the kimura, so Hawes just needs to be careful. I’m not sold on Aliskerov in this spot. He could prove me wrong in a big way though, but I’m taking Hawes via decision. He can bank 2 RDs on the feet.

PICK: Phil Hawes $9 FD ($7100 DK)

Ikram Aliskerov $21 FD ($9100 DK)


Claudio Ribeiro vs Joseph Holmes


To get our evening started we get an underwhelming matchup in the MW division. Ribeiro is another DWCS alum who has some solid skills, but at his current level, will only get so far without major improvements to his gm. He’s known for power in his hands, & if he can let his hands go, has a chance to really hurt his opponent’s and get them out of there. Holmes is an interesting prospect. He’s got the physical tools, just doesn’t quite have the fight IQ to capitalize the way he should in some bouts. His loss to Jamie Pickett stands out to me, if he can’t find a moment where he knows he can physically outmatch you, he becomes timid in his approach. If he really wanted to, he could utilize his wrestling early & often enough to where he could find solid submission success, but he won’t do that. He’ll be patient on his feet & is fine exchanging in the pocket in kickboxing range. This fight can go a few ways, one, Ribeiro finds his range & eventually lands the punch that sits Holmes down for the evening, two, Holmes settles in, gets the TD & works his grappling before he finds a submission, or 3, Ribeiro does enough with the power shots that he wins an underwhelming decision. I think option one is what we see, but really wouldn’t be surprised by anything.

PICK: Claudio Ribeiro $16 FD ($8900 DK)

Joseph Holmes $15 FD ($7300 DK)


Mix & Match

Ikram Aliskerov LESS 92.5 FS

Henry Cejudo MORE 24.75 FT

Marina Rodriguez LESS 71.5 FS

Charles Jourdain LESS 91.5 FS



by: Chris Joseph (cmj0009)

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