With UFC 238 just two days away, I wanted to take an early look at the main card, along with some things to keep an eye on from the rest of the card. If you’re looking to play MMA DFS this weekend, keep an eye out for Awesemo’s projections, ownership projections and his cheatsheet.
Henry Cejudo (+115) vs. Marlon Moraes (-135)
I think I’ve been sleeping on Marlon Moraes. Maybe it was all of those years taking out the trash in WSOF. Maybe it was the “loss” in his UFC debut against Raphael Assuncao. [16 media members have their scores tracked for this fight. 15 had the fight for Moraes.]
Since that loss, Moraes went on a killing spree. After taking a split decision win against John Dodson, Moraes stole the souls of Aljamain Sterlin and Jimmie Rivera, and then capped it all off by choking out the aforementioned Assuncao. All three fights ended in the first round. All three received performance bonuses. And yet, he’s about to face the biggest test of his life.
Cejudo has CHAMP CHAMP status hanging in the balance. His last time out, he took down the EPO-saturated T.J. Dillashaw to retain his Flyweight title. This time out, he’s looking to capture the vacated Bantamweight belt. I was shocked to see him as the underdog because I assumed this line would be reversed, at the minimum. I guess what I’m saying is, I’m leaning more towards Cejudo becuase he’ll be able to use his wrestling to dictate where this fight takes place. Cejudo has taken some big shots in the past, but I also think he’s a guy that grows exponentially between fights. Right now, I’m leaning to increased exposure to Cejudo, both due to the price discount and because I need to see from Moraes on the biggest stage before I fade an Olympic gold medalist.
Valentina Shevchenko (-1400) vs. Jessica Eye (+800)
This one’s going to be a bit different. Valentina Shevchenko is fixing to beat the breaks off of Jessica Eye. Shevchenko is a decorated kickboxer and muay thai fighter. Eye is skilled on the feet in general, but is miles behind the champ. Valentina has gone the distance with Amanda Nunes twice. She’s taken out Holly Holm. She’s taken out Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Meanwhile, Jessica Eye is finally getting wins against the likes of Kalindra Faria, Jessica-Rose Clark and Katlyn Chookagian. Just pay the freight for Shevchenko. Her performance is the safest on the entire slate. I wish I had more to say, but this is a complete and utter mismatch.
Tony Ferguson (-140) vs. Donald Cerrone (+120)
And then there’s the people main event.
This is another fight where I was a bit surprised by the line. I expected Tony Ferguson to be a slightly higher favorite. We’ve seen Cerrone in this spot before, and generally, we don’t get the best Donald. Meanwhile, Ferguson just doesn’t lose. His last loss was on May 5, 2012. He’s the only guy at 155 that I see challenging Khabib. But first, he needs to get through the veteran in Cerrone. Cerrone is notoriously a slow starter, while Tony Ferguson turns the dial to 11 immediately. In a three round fight, there’s little margin for error, which makes me concerned for Cerrone. If Tony is healthy, and in a good place mentally, I’m not sure what Cerrone can do. I think Ferguson puts an overwhelming amount of pressure on Cerrone, and he just simply won’t be able to keep up. The reason I’m so comfortable with my assessment for this fight is because I can’t stand Tony Ferguson. I desperately want him to lose. I just don’t see the scenario where it happens, unless Tony is at less than 100%. Even then, he’s crazy enough to not care.
Jimmie Rivera (+260) vs. Petr Yan (-330)
Yan is the third most expensive fighter on the slate, behind Shevchenko and Tatiana Suarez. His path to victory is simple: box Jimmie Rivera’s face off. He landed 80 significant strikes in his decision win over John Dodson. He landed 76 in two rounds against Douglas Silva de Andrade. He’s simply just going to throw leather. Rivera, on the other hand, needs to drag this fight to the ground in order to succeed. I just don’t see that happening. I have very little interest in Rivera on this slate. I’m not sure he offers much upside in GPPs, so I’m focused on Yan getting the finish, or just hammering him for 15 minutes.
Tai Tuivasa (-150) vs. Blagoy Ivanov (+120)
I think we’re all on the same page here. We want Tai Tuivasa to pick up the win so we can see him do a celebratory “shoey” after the fight. I’m not sure either guy is all that interesting. They both have losses to Junior dos Santos. Tuivasa was finished in his most recent fight; Ivanov dropped a decision to JDS just before his most recent win versus Ben Rothwell. Ivanov’s goal will be to leverage his black belt in judo to try and win this fight via grappling. Tuivasa is coming to land a bomb. Normally, that’s not a bad strategy at heavyweight. Unfortunately, he’s looking to stop a guy that has never lost via strikes. Ivanov took out Fedor Emelianenko is a combat sambo match in 2008, back when a win over Fedor meant EVERYTHING. Ultimately, while I’m cheering for Tuivasa, I don’t see this as a fight worth targeting on either side. I don’t see a quick finish from either fighter, and I’d be shocked to see enough volume from either to be worth it in a decision.
Similar to Shevchenko, Tatiana Suarez is fixing to beat Nina Ansaroff senseless. Suarez is the second-most expensive fighter on the card, and she’s coming off of a terrifying destruction of former champ Carla Esparza. I think Ansaroff is solid, but she’s in way too deep of water in this one. Suarez rolls.
The Aljamain Sterling/Pedro Munhoz should be a back and forth affair, with both guys being a threat to finish. I expect to use both guys regularly, with Sterling being my slight preference. The winner of this fight likely gets the Cejudo/Moraes winner.