UFC goes coast to coast and lands at the Prudential Center for UFC 288, Sterling vs Cejudo. This is the closest Sterling has gotten to a home game as a New York native, and it seems the public is already favoriting the returning Cejudo. This card has gone through many changes, but still remains stacked with Welterweight contenders Belal Muhammad and Gilbert Burns in the co-main event, and tons of finishing power in Drew Dober, Matt Frevola, Khaos Willliams, and the debut of first round heavyweight finisher Braxton Wright.
Let’s take a look at this card from a Reignmakers angle, and see who the best plays are for this slate.
Khaos Williams, RARE Floor: $22
Williams is far from a lock, but is my most confident pick on the card. A hard hitting UFC veteran, Khaos needs to live up to that nickname to take down similarly voluminous UFC rookie Rolando Bedoya. The one guarantee in this fight is that there will be offense, pressure, and some BIG swings by both guys. I’ll lean on Williams to get the job done and probably finish Rolando in his debut.
Mosvar Evloev, RARE Floor: $23
Given that he is fighting a late replacement, it makes sense that Evloev is expected to win in this matchup. At -900, he’s by far the heaviest favorite on the card, but does that mean he’s a great DFS and Reignmakers play this week? I’m honestly not sure. Primarily a decision fighter, I’d consider Evloev lucky to have back-to-back 130-plus point fantasy days with nine takedowns in each, and project him under 100 for this fight against Lopes. Another UFC newbie taking on a surging veteran, Lopes is super talented, but has not made the most of his recent opportunities, as he is relatively undisciplined in striking as he searches for finishes. He could find one here, but I’ll again give the nod to the vet in Evloev for the win. His fantasy day will rely on his takedowns, and if he can secure those against Lopes, we’ll be on our way to another decision win.
Gilbert Burns, RARE Floor: $11
I have zero concerns about either fighter’s game, and am ecstatic to watch this matchup. As an avid listener of the Anik and Florian Podcast, and someone who has met Belal Muhammad personally, I feel gross picking against him in this five-round fight.
Belal is on an eight-fight win streak spanning four years, and has taken down some impressive opponents like Wonderboy Thompson and Vincente Luque to get here. However, Burns has simply been more active and fought even better competition than Belal. While he has lost more recently than Belal, those losses were to Khamzat Chimaev and former champion Kamaru Usman.
In a five-round fight, this matchup should be more expensive and higher played than others on this card. I would gladly play either Burns or Belal in a fight I expect to go the full five rounds. However, if I had to pick one to play, I’m taking Burns to pull this one out in a relatively high upside co-main event.
Main Event: Aljo Sterling ($10) vs Henry Cejudo ($12)
If you thought Jon Jones was a good play in March, you’re probably on Cejudo here as well. A former “GOAT” returns to the UFC after a three-year layoff and gets an instant title reclamation opportunity. The crowd seems to be behind him as one of the more entertaining fighters in UFC history, and they’re against the current champion and underdog Aljo “Funkmaster” Sterling. Sterling is one of UFC’s most controversial champions, with three of his four title fights ending with at least some suspicious activity. DraftKings Sportsbook has 76% of the money on Cejudo to win, with 91% of money on the fight to go Under 4.5 Rounds.
I am much more torn than the public, and actually side with Sterling in this matchup. He has significant size and reach advantages over Cejudo. Additionally, I’m not sure Cejudo will be at the same form following his three year retirement, and I’m not willing to give him the same leeway as I gave to Jon Jones at UFC 285. I’ll take Sterling by Decision here, as I think the backpack will take advantage of Cejudo, but Henry’s experience will keep him alive during the fight.
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