Watching prizefighting is always a good way to spend a portion of your weekend. And with UFC 238 coming up we find ourselves been blessed with another round of combat sports goodness.
It all takes place Saturday at United Center in Chicago, anchored with a five-fight main card.
Let’s break down four reasons why UFC 238 is worth your time.
1. A strong championship main event
The UFC’s bantamweight division is without a champion following T.J. Dillashaw’s drug test failure in January. Dillashaw popped positive after losing a bid to drop down a weight class and fight flyweight champ Henry Cejudo. That left him subsequently stripped of his 135-pound title.
So, of course Cejudo (14-2) is now jumping up to bantamweight to attempt to capture gold in a second weight class. In his way is “Magic” Marlon Moraes (22-5-1), a wrecking ball who has only lost one fight in his last 18 outings. It’s worth noting that one loss was a split decision against Raphael Assuncao. And of 17 media outlets whose scores were tracked for the bout, only one did not see Moraes as the winner.
There aren’t many more compelling “on paper” matchups than a division champion moving up in weight. Especially, to face the division’s #1 ranked fighter in a title fight with odds checking in at near pick ‘em levels.
There’s also this:
— Mike Bohn (@MikeBohnMMA) June 6, 2019
“I pulled out Mickey Mouse, which is (former flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson),” Cejudo explained of his antics. “I pulled out the snake, which is T.J. (Dillashaw) And then I pulled out the rabbit, which was Marlon Moraes, and then I kicked it. That’s my magic trick.
“I don’t believe in magic. It’s all a bunch of illusions. Show me Saturday night.”
Cejudo’s act can drift into the cringe and that’s why the Chicago crowd at the open workouts was strongly in Moraes’ favor at the open workouts for the event.
“It’s easy to get the support from the crowd when you’re fighting Henry Cejudo,” Moraes said after open workouts.
Antics aside, the fight is a clash of the top men available in two divisions and it has the potential to be a barnburner.
2. How about a second title fight?
The second championship fight at UFC 238 doesn’t have the betting public as torn as Cejudo vs. Moraes.
Instead, women’s flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko (16-3) is a massive favorite against Jessica Eye (14-6).
As in, upwards of a -1600 favorite.
Shevchenko is 5-2 in the UFC Octagon. A pair of losses being a unanimous decision and a split decision against two-division champ Amanda Nunes — AKA maybe the best female mixed martial artist to ever do the thing.
She also has wins over former bantamweight champ Holly Holm and former strawweight champ Joanna Jędrzejczyk.
Eye’s time in the Octagon has not been so easy. Her first UFC was a split decision win later turned into a no contest after a failed drug test for marijuana metabolites. She then would lose five of her next six fights including a four-fight losing skid that saw her receive her release from the UFC.
A talk with UFC President Dana White led to a second chance. After a year-plus period without a fight, Eye took advantage of the newly opened flyweight division to rattle off three consecutive wins (two by split decision) and ended up in a title fight.
Sure, Shevchenko should pick up the win and continue to try to climb the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings (she’s currently #14). But Eye’s biggest strength has proven to be her ability to fight against the odds.
3. The fight
We’ve already detailed all the reasons to love Donald Cerrone. From his crazy outside the cage personality to his ideal prizefighter mentality to his thrilling fighting style. And there’s nothing better than when that kind of fighter ends up standing across the cage from someone equally willing to throw down.
That’s who Cerrone (36-11) faces in fellow lightweight Tony Ferguson (24-3).
It would be fair to think there’s a bit of an unofficial four-man lightweight tournament happening in the UFC right now. Cerrone and Ferguson will clash in what will almost certainly be the best fight of UFC 238. The winner is almost guaranteed a shot at the 155-pound title.
Meanwhile, interim lightweight champ Dustin Poirier will face off with lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov to unify the belts at UFC 242 in September.
Logic would suggest the winners of those two bouts would meet at the end of 2018, or beginning of 2019. But Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov has been scheduled four times only to fall apart each time due to injuries. And there’s the shadow of Conor McGregor hanging over the entire UFC. The “retired” Irishman could all but book himself into a title fight if he works out an agreeable financial deal with the promotion and decides to return to action.
Speculation about the future aside, Cerrone vs. Ferguson is the here and now and it’s going to be spectacular.
Ferguson is a slight betting favorite but Cerrone will make him fight for every inch through every second of the fight.
This fight alone is worth your time on Saturday.
4. Big boys doing big boy things
Andy Ruiz Jr. is the fight sport heavyweight of the moment after his shocking win over Anthony Joshua in the boxing ring last weekend. But two big men will enter the Octagon this weekend looking to make their mark on the MMA world.
#11 ranked heavyweight Tai Tuivasa (8-1) will face #13 Blagoy Ivanov (17-2) to kick off the night’s main card.
Tuivasa won his first seven career fights by knockout before a decision win over former champ Andrei Arlovski landed him in the Octagon. That was against another former champ in Junior Dos Santos. Dos Santos handed Tuivasa his first career loss and he looks to right the ship when he faces off with Ivanov.
Ivanov is one fight removed from his own loss to Dos Santos, which came in the Bulgarian’s UFC debut. He rebounded from that loss with a win over Ben Rothwell.
If a resume that includes more than a decade as a professional fighter wasn’t enough to prove his toughness, Ivanov was also stabbed in a bar fight in 2012. He ended up in a medically induced coma for 68 days, the stabbing having pieced his heart and lung.
If that story doesn’t hook you on this clash of heavies, what will?