UFC 238: Cejudo vs Moraes Preview

This Saturday’s UFC pay-per-view is stacked with not one but two championships on the line and a third fight that is being called “the people’s main event.” To add to the stackedness of the card, there are no less than 15 top 15–ranked fighters looking to improve their championship aspirations throughout the card.

People’s Main Event (third main card fight, but most anticipated)
Lightweight Division 155 lbs
Tony Ferguson #2 24-3-0-0NC vs Donald Cerrone #4 36-11-0-1NC             

The most anticipated fight on the card is not the main event or co-main event, instead the honor belongs to the third fight down from the top when former interim lightweight champion and owner of an 11-fight win streak Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson takes on Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone for number one contender status. This fight is interesting on so many levels, and it is unfortunate that one of them has to lose.

Ferguson has not fought since October of 2018, when he went to war with former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. That fight ended in a corner stoppage win for Ferguson, and since then he’s been mired by contract disputes with the UFC and personal issues that have kept him from challenging for the undisputed lightweight title. With those distractions behind him, he has agreed to fight a surging Donald Cerrone to set up a fight with the winner of the Khabib Nurmagamedov and Dustin Piorier fight that is scheduled to take place in September. Ferguson has been scheduled to fight Nurmagamedov four times in the past four years, but each of the fighters have pulled out of the scheduled bouts twice each due to injuries sustained during training camps.

Ferguson is a freak athlete with an endless gas tank. He fights with reckless abandon and has a granite chin that has not been cracked in 27 professional fights. He comes from a wrestling base but also complements that ground game with a black belt in jiu-jitsu from Eddie Bravo. His striking is awkward and relentless and is always coming forward.

Donald Cerrone is enjoying a career resurgence, even though this counts as his third or fourth one. He is a veteran of 48 fights with 36 wins and 27 finishes. His long and storied career spans over thirteen years, and he has wins over former UFC champions Benson Henderson, Eddie Alvarez, and Anthony Pettis. Cerrone is one of the more prolific fighters in UFC history and does not say no to a fight, especially when a potential title shot is on the line. In his latest run he’s finished 170-pounder Mike Perry by submission, lightweight prospect Alexander Hernandez by TKO and lightweight contender Al Iaquinta by as devastating a decision as possible. This set up the “people’s main event” against Ferguson.

Cerrone is as technically sound a striker as you will find in the UFC. He has devastating head kicks and throws his hands in combinations. His ground game is underrated and he holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Eliot Marshall. Cerrone struggles with boxer wrestlers who push the pace and continue to back him up; Rafael Dos Anjos used this strategy to beat Cerrone twice. He is also notorious for being a slow starter, and this fight being a three-round fight instead of a five-round fight might be the deciding factor.

I have picked against Cerrone in his last three bouts, and he’s proved me wrong. One more is the charm: I have Ferguson by decision.

Main Event
Bantamweight Championship 135 lbs
Henry Cejudo (C 125lbs) 14-2-0-0NC vs Marlon Moraes #1 22-5-1-0NC

The main event for UFC 238 is a title fight that has been brewing since TJ Dillashaw decided to drop down in weight and fight Cejudo at the flyweight division limit. Cejudo knocked out Dillashaw and vowed to claim the title at 135 lbs. Standing in his way were several fighters ranked in the top five of the bantamweight division who felt Cejudo was jumping the line to a title shot in a division that he had never fought in. One of the fighters making those overtures was #1-ranked bantamweight Marlon Moraes. Cejudo talked his way into a championship bout that was originally scheduled against Dillashaw. But due to Dillashaw’s positive steroid test, this fight will now come against Moraes and will crown a new bantamweight champion.

Cejudo is on a run few predicted. His victims include a pound-for-pound great in Demetrius Johnson and a champion from a different weight division in Dillashaw, even though Dillashaw was on performance-enhancing drugs. Now, Cejudo feels a win against Moraes and champ champ status will put him at the top of the pound for pound rankings.

Cejudo uses his base of Olympic freestyle wrestling (which he’s won a gold medal in) to dictate where the fight takes place. Against Demetrius Johnson he used his wrestling to put his opponent down on the mat several times in a position that Johnson was not used to being in. He then counter-wrestled Johsnon and used leg kicks along with combination striking to keep Johnson off balance and win a close decision. Against Dillashaw, he used his speed, quickness and power to land awkward shots that put Dillashaw on skates. As soon as he saw Dillashaw hurt, Cejudo pounced with a barrage of hard shots that forced the referee to step in and call the fight.

Moras is a former World Series of Fighting champion and is on a four-fight win streak including avenging his only UFC loss against Raphael Assuncao in February of this year. He has two highlight-reel knockouts over top 5–ranked bantamweight contenders Jimmie Rivera and Aljamain Sterling that elevated his status to must-watch. A fight with Dillashaw would have been a barn burner, but a fight against 125-pound champion Cejudo is a good fallback.

Moraes is a talented and creative striker. He is extremely quick and powerful and has shown a mastery of landing impossible looking strikes, including flying knees, devastating head kicks and heavy punches. He is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Ricardo Almeida, and is comfortable anywhere during a fight.

Warranted or not, this fight makes a lot of sense and sets up future fights for whoever wins this bout. I have Cejudo winning via decision and gaining champ champ status.   

Co-Main Event
Women’s Flyweight Championship 125 lbs
Valentina Schevchenko (C) 16-3-0-0NC vs Jessica Eye #1 14-6-0-1NC

This is the first defense for champion Valentina Schevchenko, and it comes against #1 contender Jessica Eye. Eye lost four consecutive fights between 2015 and 2016 but has strung together three wins during the 2018 calendar year. Since 2011, Shevchenko has only lost to champ champ Amanda Nunes and has wins over Holly Holm, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Sarah Kaufman. Shevchenko is a talented striker and should win this fight handily.

Shevchenko by TKO in the 3rd round

Undercard and preliminary fights

The undercard has several high-profile, ranked fighters looking to make their way up the ladder to championship status. It includes three bouts that could produce the next challenger for their respective weight division. In the bantamweight division we get #3 Aljamain Sterling taking on #4 Pedro Munhoz, and in the same division we have #7 Jimmie Rivera taking on #9 Petr Yan. In the women’s strawweight division we have undefeated and #2-ranked Tatiana Suarez taking on #3-ranked Nina Ansaroff. Opening the fight card, #2 Flyweight Katlyn Chookagian takes on #6 Joanne Calderwood in what is likely to determine the next challenger to the winner of the co-main event.

This card has a ton of action on paper from top to bottom; will it deliver? We’ll see tomorrow night.  

What: UFC 238 Cejudo vs Moraes
Where to watch: ESPN+ app for prelims and PPV
When: Saturday, June 8, 2019
Time: Main Card 9:00 p.m. CST

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