UFC 238: Cejudo vs. Moraes - Predictions and Picks
After a couple of lesser Fight Night cards over the last few weeks, the UFC finally has a genuinely excellent-sounding show on the horizon this weekend. Chicago, Illinois will play host to UFC 238 on Saturday, and with it comes two title fights as well as an insane-sounding Lightweight match between two of the most exciting fighters in the game.
This isn’t a three-fight card, though – we’ve also got what appears to be a mini-tournament to decide the next top contender at 135lbs, as well as a potential title eliminator at 115lbs, and the presence of some of the fastest-rising stars in the sport. Essentially, this should be a hell of a show.
Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC 238: Cejudo vs. Moraes.
#1 Henry Cejudo vs. Marlon Moraes
Sometimes karma genuinely works in MMA and this is one of those rare instances. Essentially, Marlon Moraes earned a Bantamweight title shot a year ago when he KO’d Jimmie Rivera with a head kick, but of course, once champion TJ Dillashaw dealt with Cody Garbrandt, he then chose to drop to 125lbs to pursue a ‘superfight’ with Flyweight champion Henry Cejudo.
That fight happened in January and in a major shocker, Cejudo took out the much-vaunted Dillashaw in less than a minute with a barrage of strikes. A few weeks later Moraes choked out Raphael Assuncao – the only man to previously beat him in the UFC – to affirm his title credentials, only for the UFC to plan a rematch between Cejudo and Dillashaw, this time with Dillashaw’s title on the line.
Of course, karma then intervened as Dillashaw was outed as an EPO user and subsequently banned for a pretty long time. And thankfully, the UFC saw sense and decided to book this fight between Cejudo and Moraes – clearly the most deserving contenders – for the vacant belt.
It’s a fight that could well have wider implications too when you throw in the future of the Flyweight division; if Cejudo wins there’s definitely a possibility that the UFC could choose to drop the 125lbs division altogether and have ‘The Messenger’ retire that belt to continue as 135lbs champ. If he loses though, I’d expect Flyweight to continue on in the UFC for the foreseeable future. But who’s actually going to win?
Cejudo is a fascinating fighter in that he’s probably the most accomplished amateur wrestler in the UFC right now thanks to his 2008 Olympic gold medal, and yet he doesn’t actually tend to use his wrestling all that much these days. Sure, he’s still capable of taking his opponents down pretty easily – he was the only fighter to really do that to Demetrious Johnson and it was part of the reason he was given the nod over ‘Mighty Mouse’ – but for the most part he tends to strike with his opponents instead, coming out of a karate-esque stance ala Lyoto Machida.
Against Dillashaw that went out of the window as he simply blitzed the then-Bantamweight champ, but I can’t see a repeat of that here simply because I feel like Dillashaw was drawn out from the weight cut and never expected such aggression from Cejudo. The question to me then is how Cejudo deals with the dangerous Muay Thai game of Moraes.
In all honesty, I worry for the Olympian. Moraes is one of the quickest men at 135lbs, able to suddenly switch his opponents off with head kicks and knees as both Rivera and Aljamain Sterling found out in their fights with him. He’s also got arguably the most effective leg kick game in the UFC – with respect to Justin Gaethje – as he simply looks to chop his opponents down and has expert timing to be able to land almost every time.
At 5’6” Moraes isn’t the tallest Bantamweight, but surprisingly he fights quite tall in that he throws out long hooks and jabs, and chains his combinations together while also retaining a tremendous grasp of distance and range in the process. The only times we’ve seen him struggle in the UFC were his first fight with Assuncao and his match with John Dodson, and in all honesty, I thought he beat Assuncao, while Cejudo doesn’t have the footwork or movement that Dodson has.
Given Cejudo showed some issues with low kicks in his fight with Johnson, if Moraes can really focus on attacking the legs early on, it could give him an advantage here. Of course, the problem with throwing leg kicks against a wrestler like Cejudo is the risk of being taken down, but does Moraes really need to worry all that much?
Well, Cejudo is clearly a superior wrestler, but Moraes has never really struggled with wrestlers in his recent fights although he’s fought nobody as good as Cejudo in that area. But on the ground, Moraes owns a legitimate BJJ black belt and was able to tap out a fellow stellar grappler in Assuncao in their fight. Cejudo is a solid submission grappler himself but I’m not sure he’s as good as Moraes in that area, nor has he really shown himself to be a devastating ground-and-pound merchant.
Throw in the fact that I’m not sure how well Cejudo will take to 135lbs – of course he’ll probably enjoy making the weight but whether he’ll possess a speed advantage here is another thing entirely – and I’m leaning towards Moraes here. For me the only way Cejudo can win this one is by taking Moraes down and holding him there every round, and I honestly can’t see him doing that without taking some damage. And when that damage comes I think Moraes can finish him off.
The Pick: Moraes via second round TKO