UFC 288 has fans buzzing for the return of former flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo, who is set to challenge 135-pound king Aljamain Sterling in the main event.
“Triple C” defeated the likes of former flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, former bantamweight champs Dominick Cruz and T.J. Dillashaw, and Marlon Moraes before retiring. He’s back now, and is ready to take on the “Funkmaster,” who has toppled the likes of Dillashaw, Petr Yan, and Cory Sandhagen, to name a few.
The co-main event of Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad carries massive title implications at welterweight, as the winner could follow Colby Covington in line. “Chaos” is expected to challenge for the belt against Leon Edwards.
The main card also features Jessica Andrade vs. Yan Xiaonan at strawweight, Movsar Evloev vs. Diego Lopes and the returning Kron Gracie against Charles Jourdain.
The UFC 288 action, set to go down from the Prudential Center in New Jersey on Saturday, also boasts a rock-solid preliminary card. Here are some of the best bouts lined up for the undercard:
Drew Dober vs. Matt Frevola
The UFC knew what it was doing when booking these two lightweights as the prelim card’s main event. Dober and Frevola are both known for pushing a torrential pace and bringing non-stop heat. It would be a surprise if this fight doesn’t result in a finish.
Dober, after a 1-3 (1 no-contest) start in the UFC, has really turned his career around, having since gone 11-4 in the Octagon. Dober has wins over Bobby Green, Terrance McKinney, Alexander Hernandez, and Nasrat Haqparast. He also fought the likes of current lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, Beneil Dariush and Brad Riddell.
The surging Dober is currently ranked No. 14 in the deep lightweight division, and he’ll look to protect that spot against Frevola. “The Steamrolla” is riding a two-fight winning streak against Ottman Azaitar and Genaro Valdez, but his best win to date is against No. 10-ranked lightweight Jalin Turner.
Frevola will look to capture the form against Dober that led him to a win against a top-flight lightweight in Turner back in April 2019.
This is a fight you don’t want to miss.
Marina Rodriguez vs. Virna Jandiroba
Two top-10 strawweights with contrasting styles are set to clash on the undercard. No. 5 Rodriguez, who sets a frenetic pace with her striking, will take on grappling specialist Jandiroba, who is ranked No. 9.
A title shot has just barely eluded Rodriguez, whose four-fight winning streak was snapped by a TKO loss to No. 3-ranked Amanda Lemos. Rodriguez has wins over Xiaonan Yan, Mackenzie Dern, Michelle Waterson-Gomez, Amanda Ribas, Tecia Torres and Jessica Aguilar. Should she want to earn a title shot within her next few fights, she’ll need to get back in the win column against Jandiroba.
Jandiroba holds a win over Angela Hill but has lost to former UFC strawweight champ Carla Esparza, Dern, and Ribas.
While the MMAth is on Rodriguez’s side, Jandiroba will look to grapple her way to victory.
Ikram Aliskerov vs. Phil Hawes
Ikram Aliskerov draws a stiff first test for his UFC debut. Aliskerov, who submitted Mario Sousa with a kimura on the Contender Series last September, gets the finish-or-be-finished Phil Hawes in his first official fight with the promotion.
Aliskerov racked up a 13-1 record, mostly under the Brave CF banner. He defeated Nah-shon Burrell under Khabib Nurmagomedov‘s Eagle FC in his last fight before the Contender Series. His lone professional loss was at the hands of top UFC contender Khamzat Chimaev.
Hawes is 12-4 with a 4-2 UFC record and presents danger wherever the fight goes. He has wins over Deron Winn, Nassourdine Imavov and Kyle Daukaus with his only losses coming to top-15 middleweights in Roman Dolidze and Chris Curtis.
What makes this scrap intriguing is Hawes is the perfect litmus test to gauge where Aliskerov is at. If he can defeat Hawes, it shows he is a top prospect who would soon be ready to test the middleweight division’s top-15 in a hurry. Hawes, meanwhile, is hungry to prove he can make a run for the top.
Khaos Williams vs. Rolando Bedoya
Striking dynamo Khaos Williams welcomes another UFC debutant in Rolando Bedoya, who has shown a well-rounded game, securing seven wins by decision, four by T/KO and three by submission.
Bedoya has compiled a 14-1 record, largely on the Peruvian circuit. Like Aliskerov, he draws a tough first test in the UFC. But unlike Aliskerov, who is a slight betting favorite against Hawes, Bedoya is a moderate underdog against Williams.
Williams only has one more professional fight than Bedoya, but oddsmakers are strongly leaning on his UFC experience and strength of schedule compared to that of the newcomer. Williams has wins over Miguel Baeza, Matthew Semelsberger, Alex Morono and Abdul Razak Alhassan, while he has only come up short in the UFC against Randy Brown and Michel Pereira.
Williams will look to get back in the winner’s circle and spoil the debut of the Peruvian.
Devin Clark vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu
Clark and Nzechukwu meet in a clash of light heavyweights who are likely a win or two away from a top-15 match.
Nzechukwu will look to tie his best UFC winning streak with a third straight win, while Clark will look to tie his with a second consecutive win.
Clark, competing in the UFC since July 2016, has fought a who’s who of light heavyweights, including former champion Jan Blachowicz and Aleksandar Rakic. Clark was the first to hand a loss to Alonzo Menifield and has wins over Jake Collier, Da Un Jung, and William Knight.
Nzechukwu, meanwhile, took out Ion Cutelaba and Karl Roberson on his two-fight winning streak. He also finished Carlos Ulberg in Ulberg’s UFC debut – still Ulberg’s only loss.
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