At UFC 238 on June 8 from the United Center in Chicago, two title fights will headline the card. But the fight of the night might just be Donald Cerrone’s tilt with Tony Ferguson that has major title implications in the lightweight division. Before the fighters make their way to the Octagon, we’re here to preview the biggest matches and best stories on Saturday night’s card.
Can Henry Cejudo Become The Best Pound-For-Pound Fighter In UFC?
After Cejudo (14-2) knocked out TJ Dillashaw in their flyweight title fight in January, a doping infraction halted any possible rematch. But Cejudo seemed intent on moving up to bantamweight almost immediately after winning the flyweight crown. And he’ll get his shot at the vacant 135-pound title against Marlon Moraes (22-5-1).
Cejudo is dangerous on his feet and on the ground as a former freestyle wrestling Olympic gold medalist. His strikes from the clinch are blistering and he provides the perfect opposition to one of Moraes’s strongest areas — low kicks. Cejudo’s ability to scoop under leg kicks and fly over the top with an overhand means Moraes’s kicks have to really snap.
That should be no problem for the bantamweight contender, Moraes, who has the highest knockdown average in the division. He’s a patient fighter, who challenges opponents with precise strikes and an ability to scramble from his back when taken down.
For Cejudo, becoming bantamweight champion would allow him to stake a claim as one of the UFC’s best pound-for-pound fighters. With wins over the legendary Demetrious Johnson and Dillashaw, in addition to holding titles in two weight classes at the same time, it would be tough to argue Cejudo’s recent resume. The only thing standing in his way is Moraes, who has ended each of his last three bouts in the first round by submission or knockout.
Should Cejudo claim the bantamweight title, the question then becomes whether or not the UFC folds the flyweight division. With a lack of fighters in the 125-pound division, and it’s budding star earning a title in a higher weight class, it would seem the writing is on the wall for the flyweights to close up shop.
Jessica Eye(s) Her First UFC Title
In Valentina Shevchenko’s (16-3) first flyweight title defense since earning a decision victory over Joanna Jedrezejcyk, she’ll face one of her toughest challenges to date. Jessica Eye (14-6) has the striking and hand speed to keep pace with Shevchenko’s stand-up game, but it’s her takedowns that should have the champ on guard.
Shevchenko is a counter strike artist, and when she’s patient, can pick apart the best UFC fighters in the game. But when she overextends, Shevchenko opens herself up for the takedown. And that’s where Eye will find her opening. She’ll look to take the bout to the ground early and often, using her athleticism to try to overwhelm Shevchenko.
After four-consecutive losses in the bantamweight division, Eye’s move to her natural weight class in flyweight has rejuvenated her career and possibly preceded the first UFC title win of her career.
Can Tony Ferguson End Donald Cerrone’s Cinderella Run?
Even without the title fights on this card, UFC 238 is a card worth tuning into purely for the showdown that will be Cerrone-Ferguson. For 13 years, Cerrone (36-11) has taken every fight that’s come his way, earning the UFC record for wins and finishes. He set the tone for his career with the first two fights in the company separated by only 13 days. After spending the majority of his career indifferent on whether or not he held UFC gold, the 36-year-old Cowboy’s mindset changed following a return to lightweight and the birth of his son.
Cerrone knocked out Alexander Hernandez in January and won by decision against former contender Al Iaquinta. The last man standing in the way of what should almost certainly be a title shot is the electric former champion, Ferguson (25-3), whose freak knee injury forced him to relinquish the interim title in 2017.
Ferguson is aggressive, pressing the opposition with an unorthodox style of fighting that incorporates elbows, knees, and everything in between. He also hasn’t lost since 2012, winning 11 consecutive fights and presenting one of the most challenging opponents of Cerrone’s career. Cowboy is unlike most fighters though, and his ability to match Ferguson’s intensity and pace is unprecedented. With the next match for current lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov rumored for September, the winner of Cerrone-Ferguson would likely be forced to wait until at least December before vying for the title.
UFC prelims will be shown live on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET with the main card available on ESPN+ starting at 10 p.m. ET.
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