UFC 238: Cejudo vs. Moraes
It’s Fight Week and you know what that means. It’s time for some fight picks and predictions. The highly anticipated PPV airs live this Saturday from the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. While I try to remain Stoic and unbiased in my articles, I’m personally so stoked for this event and I don’t care to hide it.
The card is headlined by the reigning Flyweight Champion Henry Cejudo who attempts to become the latest two division Champion with a run at the Bantamweight crown. Opposing him is the former World Series of Fighting Bantamweight Champion “Magic” Marlon Moraes.
If that wasn’t enough, we have a second title on the line as Valentina Shevchenko defends her Flyweight title against Jessica Eye. This whole card has great fights top to bottom but for the sake of keeping this article from turning into a novel, I’m only going to make a handful of predictions. Now let’s make some picks shall we?
Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs Alexa Grasso
Polish fan favorite Karolina Kowalkiewicz returns to face young upstart Alexa Grasso. Kowalkiewicz is currently on a two fight losing skid following an absolutely vicious KO loss (the first of her career) from current Strawweight Champion Jessica Andrade. Most recently she dropped a unanimous decision to rising contender Michelle Waterson.
Alexa Grasso is also coming off a very one sided submission loss to Tatiana Suarez. The 25 year old Grasso (10-2) as well as her opponent will both be looking to get back into the win column.
Kowalkiewicz (13-4) has certainly been up against much tougher competition than Grasso. The former KSW Flyweight Champion holds a win over former Strawweight queen Rose Namajunes, challenged long time Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in a losing effort for the title at UFC 205, as well as faced top contenders Claudia Gadelha and the aforementioned Andrade.
The fledgling Grasso has been competing since she was 18 but the experience Kowalkiewicz brings into their fight on Saturday is undeniable. Though 9-0 before joining the UFC, Grasso has since gone 1-2 with her only win being a narrow split decision to Randa Markos.
This fight will most likely stay on the feet. Kowalkiewicz will use her footwork to stay active and may even look to take Grasso down, control her and land some good shots from the top. Grasso will need to stay patient, not chase her opponent and make full use of her slight height and reach advantage over Kowalkiewicz.
While the future is very bright for the Mexican born Grasso, I believe she still has a lot left to learn and the experience of Kowalkiewicz will no doubt show in this contest.
Official pick: Karolina Kowalkiewicz by decision.
Tatiana Suarez vs Nina Ansaroff
Nina Ansaroff had a rather rough start to her career. After winning her first fight, she lost 3 straight. When she joined the UFC she lost her first 2 to Julianna Lima and Justine Kish. Following that though, Ansaroff (10-5) has chalked up 4 straight wins including an impressive unanimous decision win over perennial contender Claudia Gadelha.
Opposite her, Tatiana Suarez has been on a terror. After submitting Amanda Cooper on the Ultimate Fighter, Suarez (7-0) dominated Viviane Pereira to a decision win and submitted Alexa Grasso, who just so happens to join her on the prelims of this event. In her last fight, the undefeated Suarez injected nightmare fuel into the division with a mauling of the inaugural, former UFC Strawweight Champion Carla Esparza.
Most certainly a number 1 contender fight, this one is setting up the next potential opponent for Strawweight Champion Jessica Andrade. The number 2 ranked Suarez and number 3 ranked Ansaroff have a lot on the line. Ansaroff has been looking very good lately, which is probably due in no small part to her fiance, UFC Women’s Bantamweight and Featherweight Champion Amanda Nunes.
After tightening up the weak points in her game, Ansaroff is gonna look to show her growth as a fighter and stuff the takedowns of Suarez. If she remains patient and out of the grasp of Suarez, she could pull off the upset. However, it should come as no surprise that the surging contender Suarez is the favorite going into this one.
The two-time bronze medalist in freestyle wrestling and cancer survivor Suarez is gonna do what she does best. Wrestle. Esparza, who is known for her wrestling skills, was manhandled by Suarez and I don’t see this fight being any different. Once Suarez closes the distance on Ansaroff, it will only be a matter of time before she grabs her opponent and drags her to the mat.
As objective an opinion as I can give, Ansaroff needs to maintain distance and try to outstrike Suarez and keep her from getting ahold of her. Suarez does have a 3 inch reach advantage on her opponent but I highly doubt she’ll need it. Ansaroff’s takedown defense will be thoroughly tested in this one but honestly I see this one playing out much like Suarez’s last fight. And that’s what’s terrifying.
Official pick: Tatiana Suarez by submission.
Tony Ferguson vs Donald Cerrone
It’s been called the people’s main event and for good reason. The UFC believed this card was too weak (really?) and needed to add more weight to it. How would they do that? By sticking 2 of the biggest fan favorites who always put on an exciting fight against one another.
Donald Cerrone, affectionately known as “Cowboy”, needs no introduction. With 48 professional fights and at 36 years old, if you’ve ever watch a handful of UFC fights, odds are you saw one of his. Cerrone is notorious for being a fighter willing to take any fight, anywhere, at any time. He will again be making a quick turnaround after just fighting on May 4th against Al Iaquinta in a winning effort.
Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson, one of the best Lightweights on the planet as pundits would call him, is one of two fighters currently riding the longest win streak in the UFC at 11 straight (the other is rival and current Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov). Ferguson (24-3) returns after an 8 month hiatus to “be the super hero” and “save” the card.
Both fighters are coming off Fight of the Night performances. Ferguson’s exhilarating fight with Anthony “Showtime” Pettis was arguably Fight of the Year in 2018. Needless to say, this fight has the entire MMA community’s attention.
There is no way this fight is anything more than an absolute slugfest. Both fighters have no problem standing and exchanging. Ferguson has some of the most vicious elbows in MMA. Both are experienced, have fought a ton of elite talent and have fantastic submission skills. “Cowboy” is on a 3 fight win streak and will be looking to make it 4. Ferguson will have a sizeable reach advantage over Cerrone that I’m sure he will use to full effect.
I’m going with Ferguson via his trademark D’arce Choke. This highly anticipated fight is by the people, for the people. The people’s main event is sure to deliver.
Official Pick: Ferguson by submission.
Valentina Shevchenko vs Jessica Eye
When the UFC finally decided to add a 125 pound female weight class, it would obviously need a Champion to represent the division. Enter Valentina Shevchenko. “Bullet” had just come off her second loss to pound for pound best Amanda Nunes. While the razor thin split decision loss was both controversial and debatable, it didn’t take long for the visibly disappointed Shevchenko (16-3) to transition to the newly created Flyweight division.
Shevchenko made her Flyweight debut against the UFC debuting Priscila Cachoeira. In one of the most lopsided contest, Shevchenko beat down Cachoeira before submitting her opponent in the second round. Shevchenko would then face former long time Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the vacant UFC Flyweight Championship. Shevchenko completely controlled the fight with her Muay Thai and counter striking to claim the Championship via unanimous decision.
After losing a split decision to Bethe Correia, Jessica Eye (14-6, 1 NC) also made the jump to Flyweight. Winning 3 straight, Eye made a case for the title following her split decision win over Katlyn Chookagian. Proclaiming she deserved the shot, she was granted her wish by the UFC.
Eye is going to struggle in this fight. Shevchenko’s ultra tight defense and counter striking skills make it very difficult to get inside her guard and land shots. Shevchenko is very quick to hit with counters and kicks to keep her opponents on their guard. Shevchenko also has very good Muay Thai she will most likely employ if she can back Eye up against the cage or get ahold of her.
Another factor will be takedowns. Shevchenko lands an average of 2 per fifteen mins. Being a title fight, she will have 5 rounds to work and could spend a round or two holding Eye down if Eye isn’t careful. If Eye can shutdown the offense of Shevchenko and control the pace of the fight, she may have a chance. Realistically, this is a bad matchup for the number one contender though.
Official Pick: Shevchenko by decision.
Henry Cejudo vs Marlon Moraes
Becoming a two division champion is a latest trend in MMA. While Randy Couture and BJ Penn were among the first to win titles in two different weight classes, doing so simultaneously is the achievement to go for these days. “The Messenger” Henry Cejudo is the next fighter to attempt this feat.
After winning the Flyweight title from the virtually invincible pound for pound king Demetrious Johnson via a controversial split decision, Cejudo (14-2) was up against arguably his greatest challenge. Not only did the UFC want to book reigning Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw to move down and challenge Cejudo for the belt, it was heavily rumored the UFC wanted Dillashaw to win the belt from Cejudo so they could effectively close the Flyweight division.
Cejudo had more on the line than just his title, he had an entire division to fight for. In one of the most shocking performances, Cejudo knocked Dillashaw out in the first round to defend both his title and his division. When it later came to light that Dillashaw had violated the anti-doping policy sent forth by the UFC when he tested positive for EPO, the win seemed all the more impressive.
Dillashaw surrendered the title he had once defended and with the title up for grabs, a frustrated Marlon Moraes would finally get his chance at the belt while Cejudo has a chance to cement a legacy.
The former and inaugural World Series of Fighting Bantamweight Champion, Moraes (22-5) has been clamoring for a title shot for some time now. After going on a 13 fight win streak that culminated in him defending his WSOF title 5 times then vacating it to sign with the UFC. Moraes has an impressive legacy already. Since signing with the UFC, he only lost a split decision to Raphael Assuncao in his debut, a loss he just reclaimed from Assuncao in his last fight via a guillotine submission win.
“Magic” Moraes has defeated former title challengers John Dodson, Assuncao and ended the 20 fight win streak of Jimmie Rivera with a spectacular head kick KO that also happened to be the first time Rivera had been finished in his professional career. On top of that, he has three consecutive Performance of the Night bonuses for his last 3 fights, all of which he finished his opponents in the first round.
Moraes and Cejudo have more than earned their shot at the belt and one that’s deserving of our attention. Moraes has proven to be a knockout artist and a quick finisher at that. If we blink we might miss. Cejudo brings a big wrestling game with him. The Olympic gold medalist shoots for takedowns and when he gets them, knows how to hold an opponent down at will.
Cejudo’s game will be to take Moraes down, keep him there and never allow him to be on the feet for too long where he can utilize his deadly striking. If Cejudo can manage to control his opponent and the pace of the fight, we could see another dual champion in the ever growing quest for 2 belts.
However, I expect Moraes to be tactical, patient and ready for the takedowns. His striking is precise and the threat of being able to finish at any time has to be weighing on the mind of the Flyweight Champion. Moraes is also a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has shown his impressive submission skills with 6 of his wins coming by way of submission.
The fact that Moraes is so versatile and has many options to win this fight definitely swings it in his favor. The present danger of his finishing power cannot be overlooked. Moraes’ frustration of having to wait for this title shot while the Bantamweight Champion Dillashaw moved down in weight to lose to Cejudo has got to be another driving force that makes Moraes as dangerous as ever.
Many fans will have eyes on this fight and I expect another remarkable showing from either one of these fighters. Whether Cejudo shocks the world once again or Moraes takes his place on top of the Bantamweight throne finally, this one is sure to be exciting.
Official Pick: Moraes by KO/TKO.
Joseph Simons is a Contributor for the Unwrapped Sports Network website. Follow him @shadow__0203 on Twitter.