At UFC 238 this Saturday, June 8, the bantamweight division will crown its first new champion since November 2017. In March, former champion T.J. Dillashaw was forced to vacate his title due to a doping violation. Now, flyweight champion Henry Cejudo moves up to 135 to challenge bantamweight No. 1 contender Marlon Moraes.
According to Trent Reinsmith from MyTopSportsbooks.com, the odds for the fight have Moraes as a very slight -125 favorite, while Cejudo is around -105. Looking at recent history, it’s hard to make either fighter the underdog, as Saturday’s title bout will be a battle between two men on impressive winning streaks.
Cejudo has won four straight since a narrow split-decision loss to Joseph Benavidez in December of 2016, and his last two wins were the most impressive of his career.
In August of last year, he captured the flyweight title from the once-indomitable Demetrious Johnson, handing Mighty Mouse his first loss in over seven years. He followed that up by sending Dillashaw to the canvas in January when the former bantamweight king moved down in an attempt to become a two-division champion.
Moraes has also won four in a row heading into UFC 238. Since losing his UFC debut to Raphael Assunção in June 2017, he’s beaten John Dodson, Aljamain Sterling, Jimmie Rivera, and most recently avenged his loss to Assunção in February via first-round submission.
With three straight first-round finishes, Moraes has arguably been the most impressive fighter in the entire UFC over the last year-plus. According to UFCStats.com, he has absorbed just five strikes in his last three fights combined. He also hasn’t conceded a single takedown.
However, when he squares off with former Olympic freestyle gold-medalist Henry Cejudo, Moraes’ career 60 percent takedown defense will be put to the ultimate test.
As impressive as Cejudo’s standup was against Dillashaw, he knows that his biggest advantage against Moraes is his wrestling. Cejudo will likely try to push the pace, relentlessly looking to get the fight to the mat. Moraes’ Thai-boxing prowess is not something “The Messenger” will want to flirt with.
When it comes to securing a takedown, though, the big issue for Cejudo will be size and strength. Moraes will have a significant weight advantage by the time the pair actually step into the octagon. He’s a far more natural 135-pounder and he’s likely to be about 10 pounds heavier than Cejudo on fight night. On top of that, his strength in the clinch is well known, even compared to fighters his own size.
If and when Cejudo shoots for Moraes’ legs from distance, he’s going to open himself up to the Brazilian’s powerful knees, which could easily lead to Moraes’ fourth-straight, first-round stoppage.
The most-plausible script for this fight is that the significantly smaller Cejudo is unable to get the fight on the ground, despite his wrestling pedigree. With the majority of the fight spent in Moraes’ domain, the 31-year-old Brazilian should be able to at least out-point Cejudo, if not score a stoppage, earning the first UFC title of his underrated career.