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UFC 238 - United Center - Chicago Illinois
12:15 PM EST. While the buzzards circle the flyweight division, it's champion, Henry Cejudo, will once again take a step up to 135lbs and fight for the vacant bantamweight title after former champion, T.J. Dillashaw, failed a drug test after his loss to "The Messenger" at UFC Fight Night Brooklyn in January. That bout took place at flyweight and much has been made of the condition Dillashaw was in after an extreme weight cut, but the man behind it, Sam Calavitta, said "I believe it's feasible to be able to bring him in not just on weight, but stronger, faster and better without ever having missed a meal or a drink." We'll never get to know, as Cejudo dropped Dillashaw in just 32 seconds. Dillashaw would complain of a quick stoppage, but he would not use the "most intricately executed" weight cut in MMA history as an excuse, nor did he mention that the performance enhancer EPO was a considerable part of his training regiment. That revelation resulted in the forfeiture of the bantamweight championship and a two-year suspension, which is how we got to this point.
Cejudo has been criticized this week for his corny and even cringe-worthy schtick outside the Octagon, but it's hard to blame the guy for trying to make a name for himself. Don't forget, the UFC released most of his potential competition and traded his greatest rival and arguably the pound-for-pound G.O.A.T. in Demetrious Johnson to ONE FC after "Mighty Mouse" lost his first fight in 11 defenses over five years in a split decision to Cejudo. Dana White double-downed on his criticism of Johnson saying although "DJ" was dominant, "nobody cared whatsoever." If "Mighty Mouse" couldn't make a mark with the UFC, as one of the best ever, how is Cejudo supposed to act to get attention?
We'll leave "The Messenger's" silly side for the public to debate because his talent is undeniable. Cejudo is a former Olympic gold medal wrestler and while he has been called an undersized bantamweight, let's not forget that he had a history of failing to make weight for the 125lb division and was "forced" by Dana White to move to 135lbs, which he successfully did, before moving back down to flyweight to take a run at Johnson. Cejudo lost in his first attempt to capture the title in 2016, but he showed how much he had improved after wins over Wilson Reis and Sergio Pettis. Cejudo's only defeat on his way back to Johnson was a very questionable split decision to Joseph Benavidez. Yes, Cejudo will be the smaller man here, but the discrepancy isn't as big as the pundits might have you believe. "The Messenger" is just two inches shorter and is giving up three inches in reach. This is no David versus Goliath and Cejudo did not look out of place at yesterday's weigh-ins.
Marlon Moraes has been on a tear after three stoppages over his last three bouts, including knockouts of Jimmie Rivera and Aljamain Sterling. In his last fight, Moraes avenged his only UFC loss by submitting Raphael Assunção at a Fight Night in February. "Magic" has a devastating repertoire of kicks in his arsenal, but those will be hard to land if he's flat on his back. If Cejudo tries to exchange in a striking battle, he will likely lose his chance to become the UFC's latest "Champ, Champ," a phrase trademarked by the original, Conor McGregor. As it often is, conditioning could be the key to this five-round championship fight. Moraes has gone the three-round distance in just two of his UFC fights and his last three contests totaled just 4:57 of Octagon time. He did go the 25-minute distance in the now renamed World Series of Fighting organization, as its champion, against Josh Rettinghouse and Josh Hill in 2014 and 2015 respectively. No disrespect to those competitors, but they are not on the level of Henry Cejudo. This is the classic tale of "striker" versus "wrestler" and at this price, we'll gladly back Cejudo's pedigree as a proven performer at the highest level.
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Henry Cejudo +136 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.72)