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Emrick UFC 288: Sterling vs. Cejudo Predictions and Picks

UFC 288: Sterling vs. Cejudo

May 6, 2023

Emrick’s 2023 UFC Fighter Pick Record (99-68-3)

Main Events (5-9)

Lock of the Week (9-4, 1 NC)

Dawg of the Week (5-9)

Lifetime Fighter Pick Record (397-230-6)

Prelim Predictions:

CATCHW: Joseph Holmes (8-3) vs. Claudio Ribeiro (10-3)

  • Pick: Claudio Ribeiro

MW: Phil Hawes (12-4) vs. Ikram Aliskerov (13-1)

  • Pick: Ikram Aliskerov

HW: Braxton Smith (5-1) vs. Parker Porter (13-8)

  • Pick: Parker Porter

WSTRAW: Marina Rodriguez (16-2-2) vs. Virna Jandiroba (18-3) 

  • Pick: Marina Rodriguez

WW: Khaos Williams (13-3) vs. Rolando Bedoya (14-1)

  • Pick: Khaos Williams *Lock of the Week*

LHW: Kennedy Nzechukwu (11-3) vs. Devin Clark (14-7)

  • Pick: Kennedy Nzechukwu

LW: Drew Dober (26-11) vs. Matt Frevola (10-3-1)

  • Pick: Matt Frevola *Dawg of the Week*

Main Card Predictions:

FW: Kron Gracie (5-1) vs. Charles Jourdain (13-6-1)

  • Pick: Charles Jourdain (-180)
  • Quick Reasoning: It’s been 3.5 years since Gracie entered the octagon, losing via UD to Cub Swanson after not landing a single takedown. Gracie has the ability to submit anyone, but the time away scares me here. Jourdain is the pick here because of his activity. He has a solid level of competition against Nathaniel Wood and a close fight with Shane Burgos in his last two bouts. If Jourdain fights patiently and keeps his distance without giving his back, he should be able to win this via decision with his striking acumen. With the long layoff from Gracie, the recommendation is to not bet this one.

FW: Movsar Evloev (16-0) vs. Diego Lopes (21-5)

  • Pick: Movsar Evloev (-789)
  • Quick Reasoning: Evloev has the potential to be a title challenger, and a short notice opponent in Lopes will have a slim chance at stalling this trajectory. Movsar lands nearly 5 takedowns per 15 minutes and a near 2:1 striking differential. Lopes lost on DWCS, where he gave up 3 of 4 takedowns to Joanderson Brito and was controlled for over 7 minutes. Evloev is coming off a dominant win against Dan Ige and was originally my lock of the week against Bryce Mitchell. Evloev by decision is the pick, but the odds are too generous to Movsar for any value. 

WSTRAW: Jessica Andrade (24-10) vs. Yan Xiaonan (16-3)

  • Pick: Jessica Andrade (-190)
  • Quick Reasoning: I understand that Andrade laid an egg against Erin Blanchfield, but it was a short notice bout and Andrade has only lost to those who have – or will fight for – a title. Personally, I don’t like the fact that Yan was finished by Carla Esparza and was controlled by Mackenzie Dern for long portions of their fight. I expect a full camp Andrade to press on the gas pedal and pressure Yan en route to victory. A third round finish or 29-28 decision is my pick for Andrade here, but Yan is a good opponent.

WW: Belal Muhammad (22-3) vs. Gilbert Burns (22-5)

  • Pick: Belal Muhammad (+105)
  • Quick Reasoning: Belal gets a lot of grief from the MMA community, largely because he has issues finding a finish. However, he’s improved vastly in his striking and wrestling abilities over the years and has a good argument at the next title shot with a win. Burns will be fighting for the third time in 2023 on Saturday, and I’m a little skeptical about his health and recovery entering this fight week. Although he had impressive performances against Magny and Masvidal, I’m worried about this five round bout pushing his body too far for Burns. Both guys are impressive on the feet and floor, but Burns has the greater finishing capabilities while Belal can control position from the top. Burns hasn’t won a fight where he’s absorbed more than 47 significant strikes in the UFC and – barring an early finish by Burns – I believe Belal can put up strikes over time. Also, Burns has been able to dominate strikers and failed to capitalize against wrestlers such as Chimaev and Usman. I love Gilbert Burns, but I think Belal will be ready to face the moment with a 48-47 UD win.

BW: Aljamain Sterling (22-3) vs. Henry Cejudo (16-2)

  • Pick: Aljamain Sterling (-105)
  • Quick Reasoning: Similar to Kron Gracie, I’m worried about what we may see in the return for Cejudo. I would still say I’m less worried with Cejudo than Gracie, as he’s been involved in the training of many higher-level UFC fighters during his 3 year absence, but it is important to note. We know that Cejudo can rub his talents off onto others, but what about Sterling? Well, he has Ray Longo, Matt Serra, Merab, and Al Iaquinta, among others, in his training. This group has continued to push each other in wrestling and cardio performance, and the size advantage – 3” in height and 7” in reach – for Sterling, plus activity is what separates him here. With a recent performance, I’d probably go with Cejudo, especially after he finished three straight before his time away. But the comfortability isn’t there to take Cejudo, and instead I’ll be siding with the improving Sterling via decision or late-submission. Do not bet the moneyline here. 

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