The UFC travels to Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday night for UFC 288. The title fight features current bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling and former two-division champ Henry Cejudo. In the co-main event, welterweight Belal Muhammad goes up against perennial contender Gilbert Burns.
UFC 288 odds for main event
Aljamain Sterling vs. Henry Cejudo
It was almost exactly three years ago when Cejudo defended the UFC 135-pound title with a TKO win over Dominick Cruz at UFC 249 and then announced his retirement in the cage. At the time, it seemed as though it was at least partially a ploy for more money. But instead of adding zeroes to his paycheck in an effort to get him to stay, the UFC wished Cejudo well and immediately moved on.
Cejudo has been teasing a return more or less ever since, but it’s hard not to wonder if it’s coming too late. Sterling has held the belt for two years now, though without really establishing an air of dominance over the division. Stylistically, Cejudo seems like a tough matchup for him. Sterling depends on his grappling as the cornerstone of his game, but in Cejudo he faces an Olympic gold medalist wrestler who will be hard to take down and harder to keep there.
But then, that’s the Cejudo of three or four years ago. We don’t quite know what to expect from this version of Cejudo, who’s 36 and returning from a long time away. It’s not inconceivable that he could walk into the cage after so long and be just as fast and sharp as he was when he left, but it would be extremely uncommon. Three years is a long time to be away, and the lighter weight classes aren’t known for being kind to fighters as they slip into their mid-thirties and beyond.
If Cejudo is the same fighter he was when he left, he presents major problems for Sterling. His wrestling ability likely means he could force a stand-up fight if he wants to, and on his feet, the Cejudo of old is probably faster and more dangerous than Sterling. The tricky part is, we don’t know if that’s the Cejudo we’ll be getting in the cage on Saturday night — and neither does Sterling.
UFC 288 co-main event odds
Belal Muhammad vs. Gilbert Burns
Muhammad is a chronically underrated fighter still trying to prove that he deserves a shot at the 170-pound title. No matter how many fights he wins — and he’s currently on a nine-fight unbeaten streak — many people seem as if they’re not ready to buy him as a top contender. Muhammad has closed as the underdog in his last three fights and won them all. Here again, he opened as the underdog, with the line narrowing somewhat leading up to fight week.
Burns is a tough matchup for anyone, but lately he’s relied on his grappling to carry him through against some opponents who had notable weaknesses in that area. Muhammad will be tougher to beat in that same way, so we could end up seeing a striking match where Burns has to bank everything on landing one big bomb. One extra variable here is that this is the rare co-main event to be scheduled for five rounds. Burns fought last just a month ago, which is a quick turnaround for a potential 25 minutes of fighting.
UFC 288 props and round betting
The main event features two evenly-matched fighters who could well go the distance, or at least end up needing more than one or two rounds to sort things out. The over/under on total rounds for the fight is set at , and them going the distance for a decision finish after five rounds wouldn’t be at all surprising.
It’s a similar story in the co-main event. Both fighters are capable of pulling off finishes. Burns is a threat with submissions. Muhammad may not have one-punch power, but he could earn a TKO stoppage with a volume approach. Still, this particular matchup seems like one in which they’ll each have a hard time getting to do their own thing enough to end it inside the distance.
Full UFC 288 odds and fight card
Aljamain Sterling () vs. Henry Cejudo ()
Belal Muhammad () vs. Gilbert Burns ()
Jessica Andrade () vs. Yan Xiaonan ()
Movsar Evloev () vs. Diego Lopes ()
Kron Gracie () vs. Charles Jourdain ()
Drew Dober () vs. Matt Frevola ()
Kennedy Nzechukwu () vs. Devin Clark ()
Khaos Williams () vs. Rolando Bedoya ()
Marina Rodriguez () vs. Virna Jandiroba ()
Braxton Smith () vs. Parker Porter ()
Phil Hawes () vs. Ikram Aliskerov ()
Joseph Holmes () vs. Claudio Ribeiro ()
How to watch UFC 288
- Early prelims on ESPN/ESPN+ at 6 p.m. ET
- Prelims on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET
- Main card on ESPN+ pay-per-view at 10 p.m. ET