Henry Cejudo returns from a three-year hiatus to take on bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling at UFC 288.
The UFC heads back to Newark, New Jersey on Saturday for the first time since 2019 when Colby Covington defeated Robbie Lawler by decision.
It’s set to be a special night for New York-born Sterling as he takes on one of the greatest to ever step into the octagon, Cejudo.
Since Dominick Cruz was crowned the first UFC bantamweight champion in 2010, no fighter has made three successful undisputed defences in a row but Sterling could achieve that feat this weekend.
The co-main event at Prudential Center also has plenty riding on it with the winner of Belal Muhammad and Gilbert Burns next in line for a shot at the welterweight title after Leon Edwards defends against Covington later this year.
UFC 288 Betting Tips
- Aljamain Sterling to win on points @ 5/2
- Gilbert Burns to win on points @ 11/4
Aljamain Sterling to win on points @ 5/2
Cejudo became just the fourth UFC fighter to hold titles in two divisions simultaneously when he added the bantamweight belt to his flyweight strap in 2019.
He defended the bantamweight title against Cruz at UFC 249 in 2020 before soon announcing his retirement and vacating.
Now, Cejudo, who also boasts an Olympic gold medal, says he is back to reclaim what he believes is rightfully his – bantamweight gold.
Triple C’s credentials are indisputable, however, the 135lb division has come on leaps and bounds during his time outside the cage.
Sterling claimed the belt via a disqualification after Petr Yan landed an illegal knee at UFC 259 and he’s since gone on to beat the Russian in a rematch, winning by decision, before stopping TJ Dillashaw in round two at UFC 280.
It’s worth noting that Dillashaw entered the fight with an injury and his shoulder popped out of the socket in round one, so it was amazing he was able to even last as long as he did.
Some still question Sterling’s achievements but his ability to secure takedowns and submissions has seen him rise to the top.
Both Sterling and Cejudo are wrestlers, although it’s fair to say the latter is more accomplished, but that could lead to a close quarters fight for the purists.
It remains to be seen how much 36-year-old Cejudo has left in the tank and that’s why Sterling has to be the pick.
Cejudo has only been stopped once in his 18-fight career and Sterling has fought to a decision in 12 of his 25 contests, so backing the champion to win on points appeals.
Gilbert Burns to win on points @ 11/4
The co-main event is also scheduled for five rounds and looks highly likely to go the full distance.
Gilbert Burns makes a quick turnaround from his decision win over Jorge Masvidal at UFC 287 to fight for the third time this year, having also beaten Neil Magny at UFC 283.
Belal Muhammad will be standing across the octagon in his first contest since UFC 280 in October as he seeks a 10th successive win.
Many feel Muhammad is long overdue a shot at the welterweight title and president Dana White has promised the winner of this bout will earn that.
Burns has previously fought for the belt but he lost to former champion Kamaru Usman at UFC 258 in 2021 and has since been trying to put himself back in the conversation.
The Brazilian’s experience at the top of the division might prove the difference here but don’t expect Muhammad to take a beating.
It should be highly competitive and the feeling is for Burns to see it through on points as he has done in three of his last four wins.