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Henry Cejudo returns to the UFC Octagon in our Sterling vs. Cejudo picks.
Henry Cejudo celebrates after defeating Dominick Cruz in their bantamweight title fight during UFC 249 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on May 9, 2020. Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images/AFP

Former “champ-champ” Henry Cejudo makes his long awaited return to the Octagon on Saturday night when he squares off with bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling in the main event of UFC 288. Read on for our UFC picks based on the odds from our best sportsbooks.

The thirst for competition (and the promise of a healthy paycheck) was too much for Henry Cejudo. The former two-division champion walked away from the UFC in his prime, riding off into the sunset following a complete demolition of Dominick Cruz way back at UFC 249. Now, nearly three years later, “Triple-C” has skipped to the front of the line and will look to wrap bantamweight gold back around his waist on Saturday night.

Standing in his way is current 135-pound overlord, Aljamain Sterling. While the King of Cringe faded into the background, Sterling established himself as the standard-bearer at bantamweight, racking up victories over Cory Sandhagen, Petr Yan (twice), and T.J. Dillashaw since Cejudo last graced the cage. Sure, the Dillashaw win is clouded by a potential pre-existing injury, but Sterling looked the part of a champion, easily polishing off Dillashaw while facing little to no danger.

Can Cejudo shake off three years worth of ring rust and emerge victorious? Or will the champ completely derail the former Olympian’s triumphant return?

Here is our best Cejudo vs. Sterling pick for UFC 288 (odds via Caesars Sportsbook; pick confidence based on a 1-to-5-star scale).

Sterling vs. Cejudo pick

Sterling ML (+100 via Caesars) ⭐⭐⭐

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Three years is a long time. If Sterling tangled with Cejudo during the latter’s violent march to flyweight and bantamweight titles, I’d enthusiastically back Triple-C. But that time has passed. Quite simply, we have no idea what Cejudo is going to look like caked in three years worth of ring rust. Yes, Jon Jones looked like an absolute killer after sitting on the sidelines for what felt like an eternity, but the heavyweight division is nowhere near as skilled as bantamweight, especially when you reach the upper echelons. 

Sterling is the longer fighter, who lands significant strikes at a higher rate (4.7 per minute to Cejudo’s 3.92), and with greater accuracy (51% to 45%). Should Sterling use his reach to pick Cejudo apart from the outside, Cejudo may unleash his vaunted wrestling to drag this bout to the floor. Unfortunately for the former Olympic gold medalist, Sterling is hell on wheels once the bout hits the canvas, relentlessly hunting for scrambles and submissions (eight of his 22 wins have come via submission).

This is an incredibly tough call to make, especially when you consider Cejudo’s skills, sparkling resume, and impressive list of victims. At the same time, he’s been sitting on the sidelines while Sterling’s been dutifully putting in the work. I envision a razor-close decision victory, with the “Funk Master” emerging with his hand raised.

Sterling vs. Cejudo best odds

Caesars (+100)


Cejudo is the favorite with every sportsbook, and if you’re backing him, you can snatch that up at -110 over with bet365. If you’re backing Sterling like I am, there’s tremendous value in picking him up at plus money over at Caesars Sportsbook.

As for betting anything beyond the moneyline, I think your best bet would be to favor a decision. Sterling via points is listed at +250 with FanDuel Sportsbook. If you can’t make up your mind between the two fighters, “the fight will go the distance” is listed at -140 with bet365.

Cejudo vs. Sterling fight info

Date: Saturday, May 6, 10 p.m. ET
Location: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ

Cejudo-Sterling pick made 5/5/2023 at 10:45 a.m. ET

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