UFC 288 Aljamain Sterling vs Henry Cejudo Picks and Predictions: Cejudo Finds Form Quickly

Henry Cejudo's spent some time away from the ring, but he's a bad matchup for Aljamain Sterling and our UFC 288 picks are backing him to knock off the rust quickly, along with his foe in this title fight.

Rohit Ponnaiya - Betting Analyst at Covers.com
Rohit Ponnaiya • Betting Analyst
May 6, 2023 • 20:46 ET • 4 min read
Henry Cejudo UFC 288
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Former two-division champ Henry Cejudo returns to challenge Aljamain Sterling for the bantamweight title tonight at UFC 288

Cejudo retired and vacated the title after beating Dominick Cruz three years ago, but he's aiming to regain the championship and eying a move up to featherweight. But first, he has to get by Aljo, who is looking to quiet his critics with a third title defense.  

Oddsmakers are expecting a close fight with UFC betting lines installing this clash as a pick'em. Here are my best free UFC 288: Sterling vs. Cejudo picks and predictions for May 6.

Aljamain Sterling vs Henry Cejudo fight odds

Aljamain Sterling vs Henry Cejudo method of victory odds

Method of Victory Aljamain Sterling Henry Cejudo
To win by KO/TKO +1,000 +380
To win by Points +250 +210
To win by Submission +410 +1,600
Draw +5,000 +5,000

Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook on May 3, 2023.

Aljamain Sterling vs Henry Cejudo picks

Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.

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Aljamain Sterling vs Henry Cejudo betting preview

Aljamain Sterling is on an eight-fight winning streak and most recently knocked out T.J. Dillashaw for his second bantamweight title defense. However, Sterling hasn't received much respect from oddsmakers, and many MMA fans, who haven't been impressed by his last three wins.

He was dominated by Petr Yan in 2021 before Yan was disqualified for throwing an illegal knee at the end of the fourth round. Sterling won a controversial split decision in a rematch against Yan the following year, and while he easily won his last fight, Dillashaw had concealed a shoulder injury which led to him essentially fighting with one arm.

The "Funk Master" was a two-time NCAA Division III All-American wrestler and is an excellent grappler. He isn't the most dangerous striker but has a diverse attack and can fire kicks from various angles out of both stances. 

After winning an Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling, Cejudo began his MMA career with 10 straight wins. That streak was snapped in a knockout loss to Demetrious Johnson in his first shot at the flyweight championship. 

He lost his next bout in a split decision before going on a historic six-fight winning streak, where he claimed and defended both the flyweight and bantamweight titles. That stretch included a revenge victory against Johnson and stoppage wins against Dillashaw, Marlon Moraes, and Dominick Cruz. 

Cejudo retired after knocking out Cruz three years ago but didn't stray far from the spotlight and announced his comeback in April of 2022. He's an elite wrestler with incredible scrambles and a 93% takedown defense. However, he's also an adept striker who uses good movement, strong boxing, and powerful leg kicks to overwhelm opponents

Aljamain Sterling vs Henry Cejudo tale of the tape

Aljamain Sterling   Henry Cejudo
33 Age 36
5-foot-7 Height 5-foot-4
135 lbs Weight 135 lbs
71 inches Reach 64 inches
22-3 (3 KOs) Record 16-2 (8 KOs)

Aljamain Sterling vs Henry Cejudo UFC prediction and best bet

Sterling was careful not to push the pace early and gas out against Yan in the rematch, and his grappling helped eke out the victory. However, Cejudo's wrestling is on another level and he can neutralize any grappler so expect to see more of what happened in Sterling's first fight against Yan where he was taken down seven times and went just 1-17 on his own attempts. 

When it comes to stand-up, Sterling does a good job of using diverse attacks but he doesn't have the movement or striking ability of a prime Dominick Cruz who Cejudo dispatched.

Sterling's best path to victory will be by staying at range and using his 7-inch reach advantage to pepper Cejudo with kicks. However, Cejudo has the speed to dart in and out of distance and the dirty boxing to land powerful shots in close. His use of leg kicks will also compromise Sterling's mobility and make it tough for him to circle away. 

Prediction: Cejudo moneyline (-110 at bet365)

Cejudo might be annoying and has earned the nickname the "King of Cringe" (although Sterling isn't far behind) but inside the octagon, he's an incredibly cerebral fighter that has shown the ability to adapt to his opponents. 

Three years is a long time to be away from the sport but Cejudo didn't accumulate much damage, and he isn't that old at 36. We've seen other legendary fighters such as Georges St. Pierre and Jon Jones win title fights after coming back while moving up in weight class. 

It's tough to see many areas where Sterling has the advantage here, and Cejudo's high fight IQ and toughness are X-factors that can't be ignored. Sure, Sterling is bigger but Cejudo's powerful and compact frame makes him harder to hit and more difficult to grapple against. 

If you put Cejudo from 2020 in a time machine and sent him to today, he'd be a significant fave and questions about ring rust are the only reason you're able to grab him at this price.

PickCejudo moneyline (-110 at bet365)

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