UFC 238 hits Chicago’s United Center this weekend and we take a closer look at the main card which is headlined by UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo as he moves up a division to face Marlon Moraes for the vacant bantamweight championship.
Henry Cejudo vs Marlon Moraes
A high stakes bantamweight match up for the recently vacated belt.
Cejudo is coming off two of the most impressive victories of his career with wins against former champions Demetrious Johnson and TJ Dillashaw, so the 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist will be at the epitome of self-confidence. There’s no question Cejudo has faced higher level competition than ‘Magic’ Marlon in the UFC and will be holding the advantage in the speed and wrestling department, although we haven’t seen Cejudo utilise much of his ground-and-pound and wrestling within the octagon, I expect him to be intelligent and pressure Moraes with speed and feints to set up his takedowns.
Moraes will be the bigger man on the night and is a physical specimen in the bantamweight division, holding KO power in his vast arsenal of strikes. Moraes has shown incredible maturity and patience in his UFC run evident in his avenged loss against durable veteran Raphael Assuncao. He has proven extremely dangerous against opponents that would like to take him down, timing perfect head-kicks and knees. Moraes is the superior striker in this matchup and would be wise to use his kicks to chop down the legs of Cejudo early in the fight to take away Cejudo’s mobility and speed.
Moraes’ striking and ability to slip just out of range and counter is so dangerous that it’s obvious even the best are in danger of being knocked out or hurt to the point that he can earn a submission finish.
If Cejudo is sharp on the night, he will be well prepared to takedown Moraes avoiding the counter knees & kicks, something Moraes has dropped previous opponents with, to take the fight via decision.
Valentina Shevchenko vs Jessica Eye
I really feel as if Valentina Shevchenko is the best women’s flyweight in the world will hold on tightly to that belt. She is on a whole different level than Jessica Eye in my opinion and has so many tools in her game utilising a variety of strikes from her Muay Thai background. She is capable of grinding opponents in the clinch and against the fence, with the ability to take down and submit her opponents should the opportunity arise.
Jessica Eye will be the heavy underdog in this fight. She is one of the divisions best boxers with toughness that is second to none. She truly believes in herself and is constantly improving on her strengths and weaknesses. Eye will be coming forward and aggressively looking for opportunities, but I believe Shevchenko is too much for Eye and will be the more technical all-rounder that outworks Eye to a unanimous decision.
Tony Ferguson vs Donald Cerrone
The stars align on Saturday night for this dream fight that could easily have been the headliner of most cards. Rumours had Cerrone vs McGregor but I’m just as ecstatic about this matchup.
This is the pick of the fights on the card as we finally get the return of number one contender Tony Ferguson, who has been riddled with setbacks, both physically and within his personal life. He will be facing off against a hungry Cerrone who has won the last three of his fights in what would have been just as many finishes if ‘Raging’ Al Iaquinta wasn’t one of the toughest contenders on the roster. What is most impressive was the fashion in which Cerrone won these fights, with him being the underdog on all occasions.
Ferguson hasn’t fought since October whilst Cerrone has three fights this year so Cerrone will be carrying the momentum in this one despite Ferguson’s nothing short of his impressive 11 fight win streak.
Ferguson’s last fight played out like many of his fights often do, he got dropped by creative striker Anthony Pettis and came back to dominate with his relentless tenacity. No matter what, against all odds Ferguson shows his heart and comes back from adversity and where other fighters wouldn’t, he always finds a way to win. Ferguson does have a habit of walking into big shots and counters, because of his unparalleled pressure which plays well for Cerrone who likes to stand his ground and exchange strikes in the centre of the Octagon. This will be Cerrone’s greatest advantage and if he cannot put away or significantly hurt Ferguson, his opponent will take over the fight as he has shown time and time again. Taking Cerrone by a decision or Ferguson with a submission. It’s a pick’em but leaning towards Tony Ferguson. This fight is going to be a barn burner.
Jimmie Rivera vs Petr Yan
This fight could easily steal the show as both fighters are wild men. Yan is the more measured and cleaner striker whilst Rivera is the better wrestler and all-rounder. Yan will definitely have more confidence and momentum on his side coming off four UFC wins and a seven-fight undefeated run, dominating the fast and craft John Dodson in his last outing. Rivera has lost two of his last three fights and was dominated by Aljamain Sterling in his last outing. His back is against the wall in this fight and has stated himself that if he feels like the gatekeeper of the division. If Rivera wants to remain relevant in the rankings he needs a win!
I feel as if this is Yan’s first real test in the UFC as the rising Russian is yet to show his wrestling and ground pedigree. Rivera’s best chances are to level change while his opponent is pressing forward to take this fight to the ground, avoiding the striking of Yan who has always been the bully on the feet. I expect Yan will rise to the occasion and prove his legitimacy within the division keeping this fight standing and earning a KO/TKO or convincing decision.
Tai Tuivasa vs Ivanov Blagoy
We could see fireworks as these two heavyweights clash in the opening fight of the main card.
Sydney’s Tai Tuivasa was riding a lot of momentum coming into his last fight and the overwhelming confidence may have ultimately led to his demise, as he overcommitted to a punch against the former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos, in which he paid for in spades. Despite this loss, he was looking like he belonged in the top echelon of the heavyweight division and was having more success than Blagoy Ivanov who also notably has a loss to Junior Dos Santos.
Tuivasa is a true KO artist and will be coming forward with one intention and that’s to knock his opponents head off. Despite his loss against Dos Santos, Tuivasa’s personality is as laid back as it comes and I believe he will come back with confidence and tenacity. At the ripe age of 26, he’s one of brightest prospects of the heavyweight division and a true KO artist.
Ivanov does well against aggressive fighters as shown in his last outing, a decision against Ben Rothwell. Ivanov is comfortable moving backward, staying on the outside and countering with combinations. He has a solid gas tank and is no stranger to heavy hitters trying to put him away.
Ivanov’s credentials are confusing at times, since he has the capability to employ his judo and wrestling background but he has yet to do so within his two UFC appearances. I would hope that Ivanov saw the holes in Tuivasa’s game last time around, where the Sydney fighter struggled on the ground, albeit under the heavy mount of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt.
I give Tuivasa the KO/TKO in this fight but as we saw in the boxing last weekend, anything can happen in the heavyweight division.