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In his backyard in New Jersey, New York native Aljamain Sterling is ready to defend his UFC bantamweight title for the third time. In his way is the returning Henry Cejudo. Who will walk out the winner at UFC 288 on May 6? 

UFC 288 is inside the Prudential Center and airs on ESPN+ in the U.S. 

The co-main event is a doozy, as Belal Muhammad and Gilbert Burns face off in welterweight action. Whoever wins this fight could be the next contender for the UFC welterweight title. 

Also on the card is the return of Kron Gracie, the dangerous Kennedy Nzechukwu, Parker Porter, and more. 

MORE: Sign up to watch the UFC 288 PPV, exclusively on ESPN+

The Sporting News looks into the UFC 288 card via Sports Interaction. Can we expect any upsets? 

Aljamain Sterling (c) vs. Henry Cejudo for the UFC bantamweight title

Per Sports Interaction, Henry Cejudo is the -135 favorite, while Aljamain Sterling is the +100 underdog. 

It is the first time Cejudo has stepped inside an octagon since 2020. Cejudo lands 3.92 significant strikes per minute and has a 45% strike accuracy mark, while Sterling has the edge there with 4.70 and 51%. On the ground, Sterling has a takedown average of 1.98 and an accuracy mark of 24% (2.12 and 33% for Cejudo). 

Sterling is the better striker. Even though his ground game isn’t as strong, he still landed eight in three fights. However, against a known wrestler following a few bouts against brawlers, can Sterling overcome “Triple C’s” tiring onslaught? 

Time away will play a factor in this, but Cejudo has been training with other fighters while not fighting. Sterling has something to prove, and ridding himself of Cejudo, while healthy, can help him look past the odds. “Funk Master” should retain here, but it won’t be an easy win. If his hands get raised, will he finally get respect from doubters within MMA? 

Sporting News prediction: Sterling via TKO (round three)  

Belal Muhammad vs. Gilbert Burns; Welterweights

Gilbert Burns is the -140 favorite, while Belal Muhammad is the +105 underdog. 

It is a fight to potentially determine the next challenger for UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards. Burns, who just beat Jorge Masvidal in April, wanted this all along. 

Muhammad is on a nine-fight unbeaten streak and is 4-0 since fighting Edwards to a no-contest in 2021. Burns is 3-1 in his last four and on a two-fight win streak. The Tale of the Tape for this bout shows that Burns has a better strike accuracy mark (47% compared to 42%) than Muhammad, but the latter lands more significant strikes (4.47 compared to 3.38). On the floor, Muhammad has the edge in average takedowns landed (2.19 compared to 2.16), while Burns has a takedown accuracy mark of 37% (35% for Muhammad). 

MORE: Breaking down Aljamain Sterling and Henry Cejudo’s purse history, net worth

Burns has landed eight takedowns in five bouts, while Muhammad has landed 12. Muhammad will have a one-inch advantage in reach and height. Both patient fighters, Muhammad likes to work from the outside, while Burns works on the inside. The latter will have a short training camp, but that shouldn’t play a factor. What will is Muhammad’s quick wrestling capabilities. If he can get Burns to the floor and control the cage, Muhammad’s “Remember the Name” nickname will be for real. 

Look for this to be a real contender for Fight of the Night. 

Sporting News prediction: Muhammad via unanimous decision

Jessica Andrade vs. Yan Xiaonan; Strawweights

Jessica Andrade is the -195 favorite, while Yan Xionan is the +155 underdog. 

Andrade, a former strawweight champion, has moved from that weight to flyweight and is 3-1 in her last four. “Bate Estaca” lands 6.84 significant strikes per minute and has a 51% strike accuracy mark. Xiaonan, 2-2 in her previous four, lands 5.45 significant strikes per minute and has a strike accuracy mark of 44%. The Chinese fighter averages 0.87 takedowns per 15 minutes (2.64 for Andrade) but has landed more (seven compared to one) in five bouts.

A striker, Andrade can attack on the feet and floor and, if she catches you, can suffocate you into submission. Xiaonan has been on the outside looking in for a while and wants to secure her spot as a strawweight contender. If she can stop Andrade’s efficient strikes, Xiaonan will tire the Brazilian out. That is a big ask, something The Sporting News is confident she can get done. 

Sporting News prediction: Xiaonan via unanimous decision

MORE: Exclusive: Q&A with UFC heavyweight champ Jon Jones

Movsar Evloev vs. Diego Lopes; Featherweights

*Odds are currently unavailable for this matchup

Lopes replaces Bryce Mitchell, who backed out a few days before the bout. A Dana White’s Contender Series alum, the Brazilian lost his first appearance on the show in 2021. Since then, he has gone 2-1 and is on a two-fight win streak. He has seven wins via knockout and eleven via submission.

Undefeated, Evloev lands 4.36 significant strikes per minute. He has a strike accuracy mark of 46%, and has a takedown average mark of 4.83. In three fights, the Orthodox fighter landed 20 takedowns. 

While Lopes has the skills on the ground and feet, Evloev is supposed to be the dominant fighter here. Unless he is careless, Evloev can swing Lopes around and force him to the ground, tiring him out the entire fight. Let’s hope we get that Mitchell matchup someday. 

Sporting News prediction: Evloev via unanimous decision 

Kron Gracie vs. Charles Jourdain; Featherweights

Charles Jourdian is the -180 favorite, while Kron Gracie is the +140 underdog. 

For the first time in four years, Kron, of the legendary Gracie family, enters the octagon. His last fight was a unanimous decision loss against Cub Swanson, ending a five-fight win streak. The submission specialist landed 5.15 significant strikes per minute in his brief time with the UFC. Gracie faces an exciting fighter in Jourdain, on a two-fight losing streak, who lands 5.84 significant strikes per minute.

Jourdain is the better fighter, but Gracie can grapple you into submission. However, all that time away from the octagon will be tough for the latter unless muscle memory comes into play. I see Jourdain as the winner, as his overall game could bring him luck against someone who has to basically reset his career.

Sporting News prediction: Jourdain via unanimous decision 

Drew Dober vs. Matt Frevola; Lightweights

Drew Dober is the -235 favorite, while Matt Frevola is the +180 underdog. 

Frevola is 3-2 in his last five bouts and is on a two-fight win streak. “Steamrolla” lands 3.43 significant strikes per minute and averages 2.47 takedowns per 15 minutes, but hasn’t landed one since 2019 against Luis Pena. He is known to head right into battle, making him susceptible to the early knockout. However, if he can suffocate his opponent and control cage time, he can make it a difficult fight for Dober.

Dober, on a three-fight win streak, has landed about 4.47 significant strikes with a 40% accuracy mark. He has a 55% takedown defense mark but has been taken down 14 times in six fights.

To win, Frevola will rely on his wrestling. However, even with recent struggles on the floor, Dober’s boxing capabilities can be enough to minimize Frevola’s abilities. 

MORE: What does Aljamain Sterling think of his doubters heading into UFC 288?

Sporting News prediction: Dober via KO (round two)

Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Devin Clark; Light Heavyweights

Kennedy Nzechukwu is the -190 favorite, while Devin Clark is the +150 underdog.

Nzechukwu is on a two-fight TKO win streak, last fighting in November. He lands 4.63 significant strikes per minute and has a 44% strike accuracy mark. The “African Savage” also averages 0.74 takedowns per 15 minutes and landed five against Karl Roberson in July 2022. Clark, signed by the UFC in 2016, is 8-7 with the promotion and is 2-3 in his last five. He lands 2.92 significant strikes per minute and has a takedown average of 2.36, landing five in his past three fights. 

Clark will have a disadvantage in reach (eight inches) and height (five inches). While the upset is possible, Nzechukwu dismantling Clark seems likely. 

Sporting News prediction: Nzechukwu via TKO (round two)

Khaos Williams vs. Rolando Bedoya; Welterweights

Khaos Williams is the -320 favorite, while Rolando Bedoya is the +235 underdog. 

Williams is 2-1 in his last three bouts, losing to Randy Brown a year ago. Bedoya, a Fusion FC welterweight champion, has not lost a fight since 2015 but will step inside the octagon for the first time. Williams, who loves to use his long calf kicks to halt any opponent in their tracks, lands 5.00. significant strikes per minute. That could be a problem for Bedoya, even with the undefeated streak. The unknown factor inside the octagon is dangling for all bettors to see.

It could be a slugfest, with Williams coming out on top. 

Sporting News prediction: Williams via knockout (round one)

MORE: Sign up to watch the UFC 288 PPV, exclusively on ESPN+

Marina Rodriguez vs. Virna Jandiroba; Strawweights

Marina Rodriguez is the -140 favorite, while Virna Jandiroba is the +110 underdog. 

Rodriguez had her four-fight win streak snapped in November, ending her hopes of becoming a contender. Jandiroba is 2-2 in her last four and needs a big win to be taken seriously in the division. Rodriguez has a three-inch height advantage and a one-inch reach advantage. 

Rodriguez is a known striker, landing 4.80 significant strikes per minute (2.45 for Jandiroba). On the ground Jandiroba averages 2.31 takedowns per 15 minutes and has landed nine in her last six fights. A former Invicta Strawweight champion, Jandiroba can win if she neutralizes Rodriguez on the mat. That is if she can work past Rodriguez’s striking. 

Rodriguez is ready to prove she deserves a shot at strawweight gold, but Jandiroba can use Rodriguez’s height to her advantage. We may see some new blood in the top ten, thanks to Jandiroba. 

Sporting News prediction: Jandiroba via submission (second round)

Braxton Smith vs. Parker Porter; Heavyweights

Parker Porter is the -175 favorite, while Braxton Smith is the +135 underdog. 

A pro since 2014, Smith competed in one bout before disappearing from the sport until 2022. He’s won five in a row since. A knockout artist, he faces someone in Porter who lands 6.49 significant strikes per minute and has faced tough opposition in the UFC. Knowing Porter, this could be a slugfest, which could work toward his advantage. 

Porter does well in avoiding the string capabilities of his opponents, even while absorbing 6.33 shots per minute. That may be the x-factor in him securing the win. 

Sporting News prediction: Porter via unanimous decision 

Phil Hawes vs. Ikram Aliskerov; Middleweights

Ikram Aliskerov is the -205 favorite, while Phil Hawes is the +160 underdog. 

Hawes, a former Dana White’s Contender Series alum, is 4-2 with the promotion since October 2020. “No Hype” has landed 5.46 significant strikes per minute and has a 59% accuracy mark. On the ground, he averages 2.37 takedowns per 15 minutes. Aliskerov is a Brave CF alum who proved himself on Dana White’s Contender Series in September. He has five wins via submission.

Hawes has been known to fade and can’t avoid knockout shots when it matters the most. A man with the power to go along with his grappling, Aliskerov can tire him out, especially in the earlier rounds. 

Sporting News prediction: Aliskerov via submission (round one)

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Rafael Estevam vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov; Flyweights

Rafael Estevam is the -210 favorite, while Zhalgas Zhumagulov is the +165 underdog. 

A pro since 2014, Zhumagulov is 1-5 since joining the UFC. He lands 4.87 significant strikes per minute and has an accuracy mark of 46%. However, he absorbs 5.37 significant strikes per minute, as seen by the 115 landed by Charles Jourdain in his last fight. Landing 6.47 strikes per minute, Estevam will have a three-inch reach advantage. 

Estevam has a strong gas tank and wrestling game to go with his striking capabilities. If he doesn’t knock Zhumagulov down, expect Estevam to tire him out.  

Sporting News prediction: Estevam via unanimous decision

Joseph Holmes vs. Claudio Ribeiro; Middleweights

Claudio Ribeiro is the -175 favorite, while Joseph Holmes is the +135 underdog. 

Holmes is 2-2 in his last four in the octagon, while Ribeiro is 1-1. The former will have a three-inch reach advantage but is susceptible to the takedown. That shouldn’t be an issue here, as Ribeiro is not known for his takedown game. Ribeiro also lost to a 40-year-old journeyman a few fights back. If Holmes, with a strike accuracy mark of 51%, uses jabs and sharp shots, he can take down Ribeiro and force him to submit early. 

Sporting News prediction: Holmes via submission (first round)

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Daniel Santos vs. Johnny Munoz Jr.; Bantamweights

Daniel Santos is the -190 favorite, while Johnny Munoz Jr. is the +150 underdog. 

Munoz, a former KOTC bantamweight champion, is 2-2 since joining the UFC. Santos is 1-1. A younger fighter by two years, Santos will have a four-inch reach disadvantage. However, in his short time in the octagon, “Willycat” has landed 4.82 significant strikes per minute (3.69 for Munoz). Munoz does have a strike defense of 64% (50% for Munhoz). If Santos gets hit, it is tough to provide an answer, as seen by a 7.52 significant strikes absorbed per minute mark. 

Given the offensive output Munoz could provide, it wouldn’t surprise to see the first upset of the night happen in this fight. 

Sporting News prediction: Munoz via unanimous decision



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