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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:58 PM

UFC 238 - Best Bets

The Octagon returns to Chicago this Saturday night for a 13-fight card that includes a pair of championship bouts. However, the People’s Main Event for UFC 238 will be a three-round lightweight contest between Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson and Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone.

With all due respect to the co-main event and the headlining scrap between Henry Cejudo and Marlon Moraes for the vacant bantamweight belt, we insist on starting our conversation with Ferguson vs. Cerrone. As of Friday afternoon, most betting shops had Ferguson (24-3 MMA, 14-1 UFC) installed as a -155 favorite with Cerrone as the +125 underdog. The total was 2.5 rounds (-120 ‘over,’ +100 ‘under’).

Ferguson has won 11 fights in a row, the longest winning streak in UFC lightweight history. He hasn’t tasted defeat since a unanimous-decision loss to Michael ‘The Menace’ Johnson on May 5 of 2012. Ferguson has eight finishes during his winning streak and 10 during his UFC tenure. He is off a TKO victory (corner stoppage between Rounds 2 and 3) over former lightweight kingpin Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis at UFC 229 last October.

Ferguson, the 35-year-old who won Season 13 of the The Ultimate Fighter, owns notable career scalps over the likes of Kevin Lee, another former UFC lightweight champ in Rafael dos Anjos, former Strikeforce lightweight champ Josh Thomson, Edson Barboza, Lando Vannata, Danny Castillo and Gleison Tibau.

Cerrone (36-11-1 MMA, 23-8 UFC) is the UFC’s all-time leader in wins, finishes (16), knockdowns (20) and fight-night bonuses (17). The 36-year-old is second in the promotion’s history in Octagon appearances, as he’ll make his 32nd career walk in the Windy City. Cerrone is also second in lightweight history in finishes (10) and wins (17).

After a three-year detour into the welterweight loop, Cerrone announced his return to the 155-pound shark tank with a second-round knockout of Alexander Hernandez in January. Then on May 4, he captured a unanimous-decision victory over Al Iaquinta (49-45, 49-46, 49-45) in a dominant performance as a +125 underdog.

Cerrone is making a quick turnaround here, the third-fastest of his career and the second-fastest during his run in the UFC. After defeating Myles Jury by UD at UFC 182 on Jan. 3 of 2015, he beat Benson Henderson via UD on Jan. 18 of 2015. After submitting Nate Mohr in his pro debut on Feb. 11 of 2006, Cerrone submitted Cruz Chacon on Feb. 24 of ’06.

Cerrone has compiled a 10-1 record in his last 11 fights in the 155-pound loop. He has wins over former UFC lightweight champs Eddie Alvarez and Henderson, in addition to a victory over former WEC lightweight kingpin Jamie Varner. Cerrone has other notable career wins over Matt Brown, Rick Story, Alex Oliveira, Patrick Cote, Mike Perry, Jim Miller, Barboza, Jeremy Stephens, Melvin Guillard, Dennis Siver, Charles Oliveira, James Krause and Castillo.

Prediction: Both guys are killers and you can easily make a strong case for either man to get his hand raised. Cerrone is an underdog for the sixth straight time, going 4-1 in those five previous spots. I’ve supported him in each of those instances and don’t feel like jumping off the Cowboy Train now. Give me two units on Cerrone at the +130 price at [...] (as of late Friday afternoon). I’ll also go with one-half unit on ‘under’ 2.5 rounds at even money (Westgate SuperBook and William Hill).

As of late Friday afternoon, most books had Marlon Moraes (22-5-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) listed as a -130 ‘chalk’ against UFC flyweight champ and former Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo, who is a +110 underdog. The total was 3.5 rounds (‘over’ -125, ‘under’ -105).

Moraes is on a tear with a 17-1 record in his last 18 scraps. His only loss since December of 2011 came in his UFC debut against Rafael Assuncao by split decision at UFC 212. Since then, the 31-year-old Brazilian has won four consecutive fights, including three straight first-round finishes that earned him Performance of the Night bonuses.

Moraes picked up his first win in the Octagon over John Dodson via split decision. Next, the former Word Series of Fighting bantamweight kingpin knocked out Aljamain Sterling (knee) in 67 seconds. Then Moraes needed only 33 seconds to KO Jimmie Rivera (head kick and punches). In the UFC Fortaleza headliner his last time out on Feb. 2, Moraes avenged his loss to Assuncao with a first-round submission (guillotine choke).

Moraes took four of his five losses and his lone career draw when he was fighting at featherweight from 2007-2011. He has compiled a 16-1 record in 17 bantamweight bouts. Moraes won the inaugural WSOF bantamweight belt and successfully defended it five times before signing with the UFC. He has gone the distance in five-round fights twice, winning UDs over Josh Hill and Josh Rettinghouse.

Henry Cejudo (14-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC) won the gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The 32-year-old Los Angeles product turned pro in mixed martial arts in 2013 and quickly won his first six fights before signing with the UFC. His first appearance in the Octagon was a UD win over Dustin Kimura in a bantamweight contest.

Cejudo dropped down to flyweight and won his next three fights to earn a title shot against Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson, who prevailed by first-round KO (knees and punches) at UFC 197. In a bounce-back spot his next time out, Cejudo dropped a split decision to Joseph Benavidez. Since then, however, he has won four consecutive fights.

First, Cejudo KO’d Wilson Reis at UFC 215 to win a POTN bonus. Then he won a UD over Sergio Pettis to earn a rematch against Johnson. As a +360 underdog, Cejudo edged Johnson by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47) to win the 125-pound belt.

For his first title defense, Cejudo took on T.J. Dillashaw, the bantamweight champ who was going down in weight and attempting to become a double champ. Cejudo needed only 32 seconds to starch Dillashaw via first-round KO.

Shortly after that defeat, Dillashaw popped dirty for EPO (the PED known to be used by cyclists such as Lance Armstrong) and was suspended by USADA for two years. This left the 135-pound strap vacant, and now Cejudo goes up to try and become a double champ.

Prediction: This is a fight that likely offers a correlated parlay with the side and total. In other words, Moraes is most likely to win by scoring a KO victory in the first two rounds. If Cejudo is victorious, it’s most likely because he implements his wrestling, shutting down Moraes’s stand-up power in a fight that’ll probably go ‘over’ and into the championship rounds. I like Moraes at a -123 price ([...]) for one unit and will also put one unit on ‘under’ 3.5 rounds for a +102 return. In addition, let’s go with one-half unit on Moraes to win by KO/TKO for a +185 payout and another one-half unit play on Moraes to win in Round 1 (+450 at William Hill!).

In the co-main event, Valentina ‘The Bullet’ Shevchenko is defending her UFC women’s flyweight title for the first time against Jessica ‘Evil’ Eye. As of late Friday afternoon, most spots had Shevchenko installed as an enormous -1200 favorite, with Eye available at incredible +850 underdog odds. The total was 4.5 rounds (‘over’ -125, ‘under’ -105).

Shevchenko (16-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) owns a 3-0 career record in flyweight bouts. The only L’s on her resume are against Liz Carmouche (due to a doctor stoppage) and two narrow decision defeats against current double champ (at 135 and 145 pounds) Amanda Nunes, who is the greatest women’s fighter in MMA history.

After dropping a split decision to Nunes for the bantamweight strap at UFC 215, Shevchenko went down to flyweight and earned a POTN bonus in a second-round submission win over Priscila Cachoeira. Then at UFC 231, the 31-year-old Russian muay-tai specialist won a UD over former women’s strawweight queenpin Joanna Jedrzejczyk to win the flyweight belt.

Eye (14-6-1 MMA, 4-5-1 UFC) is a natural 125-pounder who was forced to fight at bantamweight for years before the flyweight loop was created. All five of her defeats in the Octagon have come by decisions, including a pair of split-decision losses to Alexis Davis and Bethe Correia.

Eye has ripped off three straight wins at flyweight over Kalindra Faira, Jessica-Rose Clark and Katlyn Chookagian. In 21 career fights, Eye has gone the distance 16 times. She’s only been finished once and has just four career victories by stoppage.

Prediction: Only a fool would risk the outrageously expensive straight price on Shevchenko. Therefore, I’m of the belief that there are only two ways to bet the side. You either take Eye for a small amount and the huge payout, or you go with Shevchenko in one of the many prop-bet options for her to win by some sort of finish. These props allow gamblers to shave the price off. For instance, Shevchenko is +425 to win KO/TKO, +110 to win by submission or +115 to win inside the distance. We’ll pass here.

Other Plays

-- Aljamain Sterling has a 17-3 career record and a 9-3 ledger in 12 career Octagon appearances. The 29-year-old New Yorker has won three consecutive fights and is 5-1 in his last six, with the only defeat coming against Moraes. Sterling faces Pedro Munhoz as a -135 favorite. We like Sterling as our favorite play of the night for three units at -135.

-- Let’s go with one-half unit on Jimmie Rivera for a +285 return vs. Petr Yan.

-- A heavyweight fight offering nice plus money for 'under' 1.5 rounds? That sounds like a good buy to me, especially when you consider that Tai Tuivasa has seven wins by first-round knockouts in his nine career bouts. Let’s take one-half unit on ‘under’ 1.5 rounds for a +169 payout in the bout between Tuivasa and Blagoy Ivanov.

-- Karolina Kowalkiewicz is a short favorite vs. Alexa Grasso (and a few books have it as a pick ‘em) in a women’s strawweight scrap. Kowalkiewicz represents a big step up in class for Grasso. Kowalkiewicz has wins over Felice Herrig, former strawweight champ Rose Namajunas, Randa Markos and Heather Jo Clark. She went the five-round distance with Jedrzejczyk in a title fight and one of her recent defeats was against current strawweight champ, Jessica Andrade. I like Kowalkiewicz for one unit at a -105 price.

-- UFC Greenville is scheduled for June 22 with The Korean Zombie squaring off against Renato Moicano in the main event. There’s no need to wait around. I say you go ahead and lock in at least two units on TKZ as a +180 underdog.

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.

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