The UFC returns to Pay-Per-View with a title fight doubleheader Saturday evening at the United Center in Chicago.
In the main event, flyweight champion Henry Cejudo moves up to 135 pounds to face Marlon Moraes for the vacant bantamweight belt. In the co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko makes the first defense of her women’s flyweight title against long-time veteran Jessica Eye.
Plus, the people’s lightweight champion, Tony Ferguson, takes on Donald Cerrone in a surefire Fight of the Year candidate. It’s the UFC’s most stacked card of the year so let’s get to it for fans of UFC betting.
Henry Cejudo vs Marlon Moraes Betting Analysis
Any analysis of Cejudo must start with the fact that he won an Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling. Aside from being an incredible accomplishment in its own right, it also speaks to the caliber of wrestling Cejudo brings with him into the cage.
It’s not a stretch to say that Cejudo is one of the three or four best wrestlers in UFC history, based on pedigree. And that wrestling is still the straw that stirs the drink for him. Though he has developed an interesting and effective karate-style of striking, it’s all held together by his ability to score takedowns on the inside and eat up clock.
That’s how he won the belt from Demetrious Johnson, upsetting one of the greatest fighters we’ve ever seen. The question is will that work while fighting up a weight class?
On the other side of the cage from Cejudo will be Moraes, an elite kickboxer who has recently put together one of the most impressive runs in MMA, completely obliterating fighters who don’t get obliterated.
Moraes’ game is much the opposite of Cejudo’s. His is built around a patient, kick-heavy striking attack, punctuated by spots of incredible dynamism. His wrestling is actually Moraes’ weakest part of his game but lately he hasn’t had to show it off much since he’s been knocking people out in the first round.
Cejudo-Moraes Best Bet
Moraes is -135 with the comeback on Cejudo at +110 per 888Sport and those odds are worth considering. Moraes’ game figures to match up well against Cejudo.
In Cejudo’s rematch with Demetrious Johnson, “Mighty Mouse” arguably should have won after figuring out that Cejudo’s newfound karate stance made him very susceptible to low kicks, one of Moraes’ best and most effective weapons.
On top of that, Moraes is one of the fastest bantamweights, meaning the speed advantage Cejudo plans on having is pretty negligible. Cejudo will probably be able to secure takedowns early, but he’s not much of a top-position player so expect Moraes to get back to his feet quickly and win the kickboxing battle cleanly.
Cejudo has proven to be very durable to I’m not sure about a finish - perhaps one late as leg kicks start to pile up - but "I love a bet on Moraes straight at -135 with 888Sport.
Ferguson vs. Cerrone Odds & Prediction
Tony Ferguson vs. Donald Cerrone is not only the best fight on the card, it also may be the best bet.
Ferguson is the man who would be lightweight king, having been denied a proper title shot only through circumstance. Cerrone is the opposite, a man who has had the chance to hold the crown but fallen short every time. Moreover, the style matchup favors Ferguson.
Ferguson is an aggressive, all-out fighter who starts slow and builds as the fight progresses. Cerrone used to be much the same but, as he has grown in the sport, has become a much more measured fighter who still possesses excellent finishing instincts.
What he does not possess though is an effective way to counter aggressive forward pressure, the hallmark of Ferguson’s game.
“El Cucuy” comes forward relentlessly once he gets rolling and though Cerrone has attempted to add weapons to counter this style in the latter half of his career, he’s still never developed the footwork to keep someone like Ferguson off of him.
Add in Ferguson’s willingness to attack the body, a notoriously vulnerable spot for Cowboy and this all adds up to a Ferguson win.
Ferguson is only a -150 favorite at SugarHouse, and that is a good bet in and of itself. However, given the above, I prefer a bet on Ferguson by KO/TKO at +320. I wouldn’t go too crazy on that line since Ferguson is getting up there in years and there’s an outside chance Cerrone clips him early, but barring that, I’d be pretty surprised if “El Cucuy” didn’t hurt and finish Cowboy.
Shevchenko vs. Eye Odds & Prediction
Unlike the main event, the co-main does not have much to discuss or consider. Shevchenko comes into her first title defense as a -1115 favorite per 888Sport, the biggest on the card and one of the biggest ever in UFC history.
There is a reason for that: She is categorically better than Eye in every aspect of the sport. Shevchenko is a master of maintaining range and utilizing a simple store of counters to pull ahead of fighters.
Eye will come forward, run into counters, and do nothing truly effective all night long. The only question is whether Eye would prefer to see the judges or go out on her shield.
If Eye forces the issue, she will run into something and get finished. If she does not, Shevchenko will be content to outpoint her en route to a unanimous decision.
I believe the latter to be much more likely as for all her faults, Eye has proven to be durable in her career. Betting Shevchenko by decision at +150 with PointsBet is a good bet.