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UFC 238 Pick

MMA Fight: UFC 238
Key Matches: Henry Cejudo vs. Marlon Moraes
When: Saturday, June 8, 2019
Time: 8PM EST
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
TV: PPV

by Loot, MMA Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Henry Cejudo, (+110), 14-2 (6 KOs) vs. Marlon Moraes, (-130), 22-5-1 (10 KOs, 6 Submissions)

Henry Cejudo will battle Marlon Moraes for the vacant UFC Bantamweight Title in the main event of UFC 238 from the United Center in Chicago on June 8. Cejudo is the flyweight champion, coming off a win over bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw, a first-round KO that was the biggest win of his career. Dillashaw, however tested dirty for EPO, incurring a two-year suspension and leaving a title vacant for Cejudo to now go for a second belt. But it won't be easy, as Moraes is a highly-respected fighter now starting to get his just due.

Cejudo was really impressive in his 32-second dismantling of Dillashaw in January in Brooklyn. The stoppage was controversial, but with Dillashaw popping dirty, not many are still debating the outcome of that bout. Cejudo came out and started laying heavy leather on TJ immediately and the bantamweight titlist couldn't regroup. The win gave Cejudo his biggest win, even if he had beaten long-reigning champion Demetrious Johnson in his last fight to win the flyweight belt. The bout was controversial, but at the end of the day, a two-fight window of beating both Johnson and Dillashaw is about as impressive as it gets for a lower-weight fighter. That's two legends that are now notches on Cejudo's belt.

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Therefore, it's a bit quizzical how after that run of success, the still relatively-unknown Moraes is actually a favorite in this fight. He is 4-1 in his UFC career, which followed a long reign as the WSOF Bantamweight champ. After losing to Raphael Assuncao in his organizational debut, he has looked good in winning four straight, while finishing his last three opponents. The last one was a first-round submission over Assuncao in a rematch. The Brazilian is a year younger than Cejudo at 31, with a deep resume in BJJ and Muay-Thai kickboxing. His career followed a strange trajectory, as he won only five of his first ten fights in his pro career. Since then, he was won 17 of his last 18 fights, with his only loss being avenged in a first-round stoppage. That's not too shabby.

Moraes has long been known to hardcore mixed martial arts fans, even if he's a more-recent addition to the UFC. With defense after defense in the World Series of Fighting, he distinguished himself as a top 135-pounder, even if he wasn't in the UFC. His skill was that unmistakable. But when you look at Cejudo's body of work, it's hard to match. Cejudo is coming off wins over legends. He has twice shared the octagon with Johnson, lost a close split nod to Joseph Benavidez, and just disposed of a man many considered the best bantam ever in Dillashaw, who was juiced-up on top of it. And here he is—world champ. This is not to demean Moraes' list of considerable accomplishments. But with an Olympic gold medal in wrestling, UFC gold around his waist, and multiple legends on his resume, it's fair to say Cejudo's accomplishments resonate a bit clearer than those of Moraes. His improvement in the sport has been something to behold. The Olympic champ knows how to win, has a tremendous fight IQ, and is always in pristine condition. His standup has improved and continues to get better—a far cry from when he started MMA. He is supremely confident and is an all-around great athlete.

Cejudo has always been a handful and whenever an Olympic gold medal wrestler switches to MMA, he's going to be a force one way or another. But in the last few years, Cejudo has continued to improve and is really a legit double-threat with his off-the-charts wrestling, combined with some lethal striking. We have seen his deadly hands play a more focal role in recent outings. We are now looking at the best version of Cejudo, a fighter who has really come into his own and put everything together. But with a disputed decision over Johnson and a quickie KO of Dillashaw that some felt was stopped prematurely, some apparently feel that there are still questions looming over his true sense of worth as a champion. Normally, such a fabulous recent body-of-work would appear to be enough to rate him a favorite over a fighter in his first real big UFC fight.

Still, even if he achieved fame in a lower-tier organization and has a limited amount of UFC fights, there is no mistaking the worth of Moraes. His quick submission of Assuncao, a 33-second head-kick KO over red-hot Jimmie Rivera, and a 67-second knee-strike KO over Aljamain Sterling gives him three straight high-quality first round endings over great opposition heading into this fight. He is in fact very versatile, able to win fights in a variety of ways. He can knock guys out with his legs, knees, and punches. He can submit opponents with a wide variety of chokes. And if need be, he can win a drawn-out battle of attrition. Having competed at 145 pounds, he is a little bigger than Cejudo with more ranginess, to boot. He has deadly leg-kicks, heavy hands, a great ground-game, and wonderful stand-up. He looks for finishes and has a ruthless approach once he has an opponent hurt. A close look creates a pretty clear picture as to why Moraes could be a favorite in this spot.

This is really an underrated main event, one that might not appeal much to the mainstream, but is a hardcore MMA fans' delight. Both men are in their prime. I see Moraes being more dangerous, with more-bankable skills at his disposal. He can't compete with Cejudo wrestling, but he has better standup and has been able to sink in submissions against quality opposition—unlike Cejudo. But the flyweight champion is as strong as they come and this will in no way be easy. I just see the aggression and better all-around skill of Moraes winning the day. Between his better-rounded standup and danger-potential on the ground, I see him actually having some value, even at -130 odds. I'm taking Moraes.

Loot's Pick to Win the Match: I'm betting on Marlon Moraes at -130 betting odds. Did you know... that you could be wagering on fights at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying inflated odds with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!

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