Flyweight champion Henry Cejudo will take on Marlon Moraes for the vacant UFC bantamweight championship at UFC 238 on Saturday at the United Center in Chicago.
The bantamweight title was vacated by former champion TJ Dillashaw last month after he tested positive for EPO, which resulted in a two-year suspension.
UFC 238 Could Clarify Bantamweight Picture
That leaves the 135-pound division in flux, and many of the fights on Saturday’s card seem designed to provide some clarity to the title picture. That includes a match between Jimmie Rivera and Petr Yan, as well as one between top-five contenders Aljamain Sterling and Pedro Munhoz.
But the main event honors go to No. 1 contender Moraes (22-5-1) and Cejudo (14-2), who is looking to become a two-division champion. Cejudo earned his first title by taking the flyweight belt from Demetrious Johnson by split decision last August, then defended it against Dillashaw in January, denying Dillashaw his own opportunity to snag a second belt.
But with the UFC seemingly taking apart the flyweight division in slow motion – the division no longer even has enough fighters to fill out the promotions top-15 rankings list of contenders – a bantamweight title could go a long way towards cementing Cejudo’s legacy, something he is thinking about in terms that go beyond just his UFC career.
“I’m here to put my stamp on sports, not just MMA,” Cejudo told Yahoo Sports. “I want to be known as the greatest combat sports athlete of all-time. I’ve got an Olympic gold medal and a UFC title. After Saturday, I’ll have two UFC titles. And I’m not slowing down.”
Moraes Wants to Prove He Belongs
Moraes is a relative newcomer to the UFC, only joining the promotion in 2017. His last fight came in February, when he submitted Raphael Assuncao to avenge his only loss in the company so far, while also confirming that he is a legitimate bantamweight title contender.
Ahead of UFC 238, Moraes made it clear that while he has respect for what Cejudo has accomplished in the Octagon, he has no doubt that he can beat the flyweight champion.
“We all got holes and matchups make champions and I think Henry Cejudo is a great matchup for me,” Moraes told MMA Junkie Radio. “It’s the chance to show to everybody and prove one more time where I belong.”
As Moraes alluded to, styles do make fights, and this bout offers a definite contrast. Should the fight go long, Cejudo will likely be able to wear down Moraes through his wrestling and do enough to win rounds, even if he can’t find a way to finish the fight. Conversely, Moraes could easily score a knockout in the opening minutes of the fight with his devastating power.
Bookmakers seem to think that either scenario could play out, though Moraes has been given the slight advantage. According to the DraftKings Sportsbook, Moraes is the -139 favorite in the fight, with Cejudo listed at +115.
Also on the UFC 238 card is the women’s flyweight championship fight between Valentina Shevchenko (16-3) and Jessica Eye (14-6). While the bout has been placed in a prominent position as the co-main event of the night, oddsmakers aren’t expecting a competitive fight, with the current champion Shevchenko listed as an overwhelming -1115 favorite.