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411’s UFC 288 Report: Sterling Splits Cejudo

May 7, 2023 | Posted by Robert Winfree
UFC 288 Image Credit: UFC

MAIN CARD (Pay-per-view, 10 p.m. ET)
(c) Aljamain Sterling (134 lbs.) vs. Henry Cejudo (135 lbs.) – for bantamweight title
#5 Gilbert Burns (171 lbs.) vs. #4 Belal Muhammad (170 lbs.)
#4 Jessica Andrade (115 lbs.) vs. #6 Yan Xiaonan (115 lbs.)
#10 Movsar Evloev (145 lbs.) vs. Diego Lopes (146 lbs.)
Kron Gracie (145 lbs.) vs. Charles Jourdain (145 lbs.)

PRELIMINARY CARD (ESPN/ESPN+, 8 p.m. ET)
#14 Drew Dober (155.5 lbs.) vs. Matt Frevola (155 lbs.)
Devin Clark (205 lbs.) vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu (205 lbs.)
Rolando Bedoya (170 lbs.) vs. Khaos Williams (169 lbs.)
#9 Virna Jandiroba (115 lbs.) vs. #5 Marina Rodriguez (115 lbs.)

PRELIMINARY CARD (ESPN/ESPN+, 6:30 p.m. ET)
Parker Porter (249 lbs.) vs. Braxton Smith (262 lbs.)
Ikram Aliskerov (186 lbs.) vs. Phil Hawes (185 lbs.)
Joseph Holmes (189 lbs.)* vs. Claudio Ribeiro (185 lbs.)


Hey there everyone and welcome to 411mania’s LIVE coverage of UFC 288, I’m Robert Winfree and I’ll be your host for the evening. This card has had some serious setbacks along the way to tonight, but the main event is a solid bantamweight title fight when Aljamain Sterling tries for his third title defense when he takes on the returning former champion Henry Cejudo. The co-main event came together very quickly, only over the last couple of weeks but Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad will fight over what has to be the next shot at the welterweight title and somewhat to that end their non-title co-main event will be a five round fight. We lost a pretty good featherweight fight when Bryce Mitchell fell out of his fight with Movsar Evloev, we also lost the original co-main event of Benil Dariush vs. Charles Oliveira, plus lost Zhalgas Zhumagoluv as he had both Nate Maness and Rafael Estevam fall out. Ultimately this card is still alright, Jessica Andrade looks to earn a title shot when she takes on Yan Xiaonan, and Kron Gracie ends his several year hiatus. On the prelims Drew Dober vs. Matt Frevola is a can’t miss fight, and I’m curious to see the UFC debut of Ikram Aliskerov as he’s been a serious hammer on the smaller shows.

UFC 288 comes to the world from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, USA. On commentary we’ve got Jon Anik, Joe Rogan, and Daniel Cormier. As for the rules, the only one of note is instant replay and I believe New Jersey allows it to be used on fight ending sequences but I’ll let you know if that’s not accurate. We’re also in the more normal 30 foot diameter Octagon set up.

Joseph Holmes has gone 1-2 in the UFC and missed weight for this fight, never a good thing, and now needs a win to draw his UFC record even and hopefully smooth over the weight gaff. Claudio Ribeiro lost his UFC debut earlier this year, now he’s trying to get that all important first UFC win under his belt. After the weight miss the odds are with Ribeiro at -170 to +145 for Holmes.

Middleweight Bout: Joseph Holmes (8-3, 189 lbs.)* vs. Claudio Ribeiro (10-3, 185 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Holmes is an inch taller with three inches of reach advantage, plus he missed weight. Both men come out kicking, and the crowd “woo’s” immediately to my chagrin. Right hand from Holmes then a takedown but Ribeiro bounces up and into a clinch. Ribeiro has Holmes on the fence and they start jockeying for position. Holmes gets a body lock and starts working from there, mostly short knees to the leg. Things stall, and crowd boos, and Holmes starts looking to switch for a high crotch lift. Ribeiro is able to spin Holmes into the fence then push free. Calf kick from Ribeiro. Ribeiro lands a couple of hooks then hits a takedown against the fence. Half guard for Ribeiro as he looks for wrist control. Holmes is struggling to wall walk, Ribeiro lands a few punches while keeping him on his back. Full mount for Ribeiro now and he lands punches then Holmes rolls to his knees. More punches from Ribeiro as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Ribeiro, borderline 10-8 with that final flurry

ROUND TWO: Ribeiro lands a leg kick then a right hand and forces a clinch on the fence. Holmes is able to spin Ribeiro into the cage and keep stalling things. Ribeiro is able to spin free and reset. Inside leg kick from Ribeiro, he caught the back leg with that one. Both men already look tired. They both miss left hands. Holmes lands a calf kick. Ribeiro lands a right hand then a left hook and they clinch again. Front headlock from Ribeiro then he drops Holmes with a knee and jumps on top looking to finish. Holmes is keeping his legs in play to stifle the offense of Ribeiro, but Ribeiro lands a few hammer fists then stands over Holmes and unloads punches until the ref steps in.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Claudio Ribeiro via TKO, punches, at 3:21 of Round 2

Mic time for Ribeiro and the translator, he says everything happened as it needed to and puts over his coaches. He thanks a bunch of his coaches especially Demian Maia for working on his grappling.

Here’s the very end. We don’t see the knee that drops Holmes but this is pretty good ground and pound when you’re free to posture up and stand then just drop bombs on the other guy.

Phil Hawes has gone 2-2 in his last four fights and was on the wrong end of both a knee injury then a violent knockout his last time out, now he’s back in action and trying to avoid his first UFC losing streak. Ikram Aliskerov has only ever lost to Khamzat Chimaev and is a decorated combat sambo player, he’s bringing a five fight winning streak into his UFC debut and looks to make good on his only chance to make a first impression. The odds are with Aliskerov at -190 to +160 for Hawes.

Middleweight Bout: Ikram Aliskerov (13-1, 186 lbs.) vs. Phil Hawes (12-4, 185 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: These two are the same height while Hawes has an inch and a half of reach advantage. They touch gloves to get us going. Hawes looks to kick. Bit of a jab from Aliskerov. Body jab from Aliskerov. Aliskerov lands a leg kick. Bit of a leg kick from Hawes, Aliskerov lands a left hand to counter. Hawes goes southpaw to land a right hand then a body kick. Aliskerov slips a right hand and lands a right of his own. Body kick from Hawes, his southpaw stance is messing with Aliskerov a little bit. Aliskerov lands a couple of punches, then a glancing head kick. Hawes is a little rattled, Aliskerov lands a knee in close then absolutely SLEEPS him with a right hand.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Ikram Aliskerov via KO, punch, at 2;10 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Aliskerov for his work this evening. Mic time for Aliskerov and the translator, he thanks everyone for being here and hopes they enjoyed the fight, then says with God’s help he’ll be making noise here. Asked what he’d like next, he switches to English to say he’d like to fight Bo Nickal. That would be a heck of a fight.

This doesn’t show the head kick that kind of spelled the end for Hawes, but you can see that Hawes is still not himself. His feet don’t move, he just plants and Aliskerov clobbers him with a one two that shut the lights off.

Braxton Smith brings a five fight winning streak into his UFC debut and now looks to announce his arrival in the promotion with a memorable win. Parker Porter has gone 3-3 in the UFC but he’s on a two fight losing streak and needs a win pretty badly here if he’s going to make something of his UFC run. Porter is your -175 favorite to a +150 comeback on Smith.

Heavyweight Bout: Parker Porter (12-8, 249 lbs.) vs. Braxton Smith (5-1, 262 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Porter is an inch taller with three inches of reach advantage, plus Smith is several pounds heavier. Some circling from both men, then Smith lands a right hand. They both miss wide punches for a bit. Smith shoves Porter away and they reset after Smith had found himself against the fence. Both men land lefts in close. One two from Porter then they just unload in close. Smith keeps running into punches looking for finishing blows. Porter lands a couple of jabs then they tie up and he lands uppercuts then a knee. Smith is hurt from that knee and tired from this pace. Porter with a snap down then he moves to the ride position and starts working punches. Hammer fists from Porter, Smith just covers up as Porter gets to full mount and keeps punching until the ref stops this.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Parker Porter via TKO, punches, at 2:10 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Porter for his work this evening. Mic time for Porter, he puts over Smith and knew he’d be coming at him with big power early but Porter has slimmed down a bit and that helped him stay mobile. He notes this is his first finish in the UFC, and his mother as well as his wife are both present for the first time in his UFC run and he’s emotional. He talks us through the finish and puts over his coaches for all of their work with him.

Here’s the finish. Smith might have serious upside, but he’s still very green as he has no idea what to do here, plus his gas tank is a serious issue. Porter gets mount and is happy to just sit on him and drop bombs until the ref gets involved.

Marina Rodriguez just had a four fight winning streak snapped by Amanda Lemos, now she’s trying to retain her ranking while also avoiding her first ever losing streak. Virna Jandiroba has traded wins and losses while going 2-2 in her last four fights, but she’s coming off of a win and could build her first winning streak since 2020 here while also moving up the rankings. This is a pretty close one but the odds are with Rodriguez at -130 against +110 on Jandiroba.

Strawweight Bout: #9 Virna Jandiroba (18-3, 115 lbs.) vs. #5 Marina Rodriguez (16-2-2, 115 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Rodriguez is three inches taller with an inch of reach advantage. They touch gloves to get us going. Rodriguez looks to jab early and keep distance. Jandiroba hits a double leg against the fence and looks to mount the legs. Things are stalling out a bit but Jandiroba is creeping her way up the legs of Rodriguez. Rodriguez is trying to wall walk, but she’s eating some lefts as she gets to her knees. Jandiroba jumps for the back, only one hook at the moment. Choke attack from Jandiroba, then she switches to half guard on top. Jandiroba is attacking an arm triangle now but Rodriguez is able to defend. Some lefts from Jandiroba, then an elbow. Jandiroba grabs a kimura attack, that’s pretty tight but she’s more looking to use it to force motion as they’re not in a great spot to finish it. Jandiroba moves towards full mount and bails on the kimura to land elbows. Rodriguez kicks Jandiroba upright and fires some up kicks before Jandiroba comes back down into her half guard. A few elbows from Rodriguez, I think she cut Jandiroba with those. Jandiroba lands an elbow of her own to close the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Jandiroba, borderline 10-8

ROUND TWO: Jandiroba misses a spinning back fist. Rodriguez looks to get some bounce back in her step, she lands a few long range punches then avoids a takedown. Jandiroba tries a single leg, they hit the fence and Rodriguez lands elbows while Jandiroba works to finish the takedown. Rodriguez eats some lefts as she wall walks but she does get upright. Jandiroba tries a sacrifice throw, winds up in backside 50/50 looking for a leg lock. Rodriguez lands a few punches but Jandiroba is able to get on top in a more traditional half guard. They wind up against the fence where Jandiroba lands a few more lefts. Jandiroba looks to pass, she winds up in side control. Some elbows from Jandiroba start landing as she moves for a north-south choke. Jandiroba is going for that north-south choke, Rodriguez is able to block that and see out the round eating elbows.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Jandiroba, 20-18 Jandiroba overall

ROUND THREE: Rodriguez gets back to jabbing and pushing forward. Both women land rights in close. Jandiroba again misses a spinning attack and this time Rodriguez lands a three punch combination. Another combination from Rodriguez land then a jumping knee that rattles Jandiroba. Jandiroba reaches for a single leg, that hits the fence and she’s able to finish the takedown. Rodriguez lands some elbows from her seat, then she starts looking to build for a wall walk. Jandiroba is sitting on the legs of Rodriguez and stopping her ability to build up. Jandiroba starts walking up for the mount, then grabs at an arm triangle but she’s caught in half guard. The half guard is on the wrong side though and Jandiroba is able to go after the choke. There’s not quite enough pressure right now, and Jandiroba’s head needs to scoop the shoulder closer to the neck, but she’s able to retain top position as she bails on that to land elbows. Rodriguez fights to full guard and kicks Jandiroba upright then lands a series of up kicks but she’s not able to get up yet. Jandiroba goes back into the guard and that’s where the round will end.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Jandiroba but the closest round, 30-27 Jandiroba overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Virna Jandiroba via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)

No issues with Rodriguez taking the third. No mic time for the winner.

Kalinn “Khaos” Williams has gone 2-2 in his last four fights, most recently dropping a decision to Randy Brown that snapped a two fight winning streak. Williams is trying to get back on the winning side of things here. Rolando Bedoya brings an impressive 11 fight winning streak into his UFC debut, and he’s got a chance to make a good first impression if he can take out Williams tonight. Williams is a rather heavy favorite at -360 to a +295 payout on Bedoya.

Welterweight Bout: Rolando Bedoya (14-1, 170 lbs.) vs. Khaos Williams (13-3, 169 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Williams is an inch taller with three inches of reach advantage. They touch gloves to get us going. Bedoya comes out kicking and switching his stance. Williams fires a flurry of punches, which mostly miss. Calf kick from Williams. Bedoya lands a right hand. One two from Williams. Bedoya lands a left then a right as Williams is coming forward, Williams is a little stunned and forces a clinch on the fence. They trade knees then break apart. Some leg kicks go back and forth. One two from Bedoya lands. Glancing right from Williams. Williams lands a body kick then they trade in close. Bedoya lands a couple of leg kicks. Right hand then a left hook from Williams. Williams lands a right and they clinch up. Bedoya lands a couple of knees then Williams lands one himself before they break. They trade leg kicks, then both miss punches in close. More leg kicks are traded. Both men land rights. Williams looks to unload in close before Bedoya spins off the fence. Front kick from Bedoya then they clinch to end the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Williams but a really close one

ROUND TWO: Williams lands a leg kick. Another calf kick from Williams. Bedoya is trying to front kick but he’s getting leg kicked more often this round. Williams lands a left hook in close. Bedoya lands a leg kick. Left hand from Bedoya. Bedoya lands a right hand to counter a leg kick. Williams lands another leg kick, Bedoya has started reaching for those and Williams might be able to catch him with a head kick. Bedoya lands a few lefts in close. Williams goes back to the calf kick, those are adding up. Both men land power shots in close. Williams lands a right, Bedoya returns it and they clinch up. They break with an uppercut from Williams. Bedoya lands a hard calf kick. Williams lands a left hook, Bedoya has a heck of a chin. Another leg kick from Williams. Bedoya lands a leg kick of his own. Glancing left from Williams, but the leg kicks from Bedoya are adding up now. Williams lands a body kick. Bit of a left from Williams, Bedoya lands a calf kick then a left hand. Another calf kick from Bedoya but Williams cracks him with a left hook. They trade rights then kicks to close the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Bedoya but another close one, 19-19 overall

ROUND THREE: Could reasonably be 2-0 either way, both guys need a good round. Williams comes out looking to land calf kicks and punches. They trade calf kicks then Williams lands a right hand in close then they clinch. They break safely. Left hand from Bedoya, then Williams lands a right hand. They trade punches in close then Bedoya lands a calf kick. Right hands are traded, then Bedoya lands a calf kick. Williams lands a right but eats an elbow. Both men land punches in close again. Bedoya lands a calf kick and they split jabs. More jabs from Bedoya. Bedoya lands a right hand. Williams lands a calf kick. Now Williams looks to jab while moving. Bedoya lands a calf kick. Another jab from Bedoya then a leg kick. A double jab then a right hand from Bedoya. Williams lands a hard calf kick then they clinch up. Bedoya lands an elbow then they break. Williams lands an overhand right. They split jabs again. Bedoya lands a right hand and avoids some counters. Chopping right from Bedoya in close lands then a calf kick. Williams lands a couple of punches. Another calf kick from Williams, that one hurt. Both men land rights as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Bedoya, 29-28 Bedoya overall but these could be all over the place

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Khaos Williams via split decision (27-30, 29-28 x2)

Like I said, not complaining about any scores for that one as those two just lumped each other up. The crowd doesn’t like the decision, which again is fair. Mic time for Williams, he puts over Bedoya as a very tough guy who’s going to make waves. He tried to keep firing as the fight went on and just persevere through adversity.

Kennedy Nzechukwu has gone 2-2 in his last four fights but he’s won his last two bouts and is trying to find his second three fight winning streak during his UFC career. Devin Clark has gone 2-3 in his last five fights but he won his last time out and now tries to secure his first winning streak since 2020. Not too surprising to see Nzechukwu as the favorite at -175 while that +150 payout on Clark is a decent little value bet.

Light Heavyweight Bout: Devin Clark (14-7, 205 lbs.) vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu (11-3, 205 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Nzechukwu is a notable five inches taller with a whopping eight inches of reach advantage. Southpaw for Nzechukwu. Both men with some feinting then Clark lands a side kick to the knee. Nzechukwu avoids a takedown attempt. Clark slips to the back on a takedown attempt and drives Nzechukwu into the fence. Some knees from Clark as he’s on the back. Nzechukwu fights chest to chest. They jockey for position along the fence. A few knees from Clark, Nzechukwu lands a couple of short lefts. Nzechukwu slips to the back in the clinch now. A few lefts from Nzechukwu land before they break apart. A right hand from Clark staggers Nzechukwu, he follows up with punches along the fence then lands elbows and uppercuts. Nzechukwu grabs a collar tie and lands a knee, he seems to have regained his composure. More offense from Nzechukwu, he lands elbows from the back. Clark is able to get a little closer in the clinch and stifle the offense. Nzechukwu with a few uppercuts then a knee to the body. They’ll end the round in the clinch.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Nzechukwu

ROUND TWO: Nzechukwu gets back on forward pressure, he lands a left hand. Clark ties up and they resume working there. Some knees from Nzechukwu before Clark spins free. Bit of a right from Clark. Clark fires a one two in close. Nzechukwu grabs a clinch and lands a few knees to the body. More knees from Nzechukwu then Clark lands a right hand as they break. Bit of an elbow from Clark before Nzechukwu grabs another collar tie and fires knees to the body. Clark tries a single leg, that forces things to the fence but Nzechukwu grabs a ninja choke and uses that to spin Clark into the fence. The choke is still in and Nzechukwu puts Clark to sleep.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Kennedy Nzechukwu via Technical Submission, ninja choke, at 2:28 of Round 2

Mic time for Nzechukwu, he gives glory to God and puts over the UFC and notes this is his first fight since his mother passed. He says pressure was the game plan and while he paid for having his hands a little low he kept going and get the win. Asked what he’d like next he doesn’t have a call out, he’ll fight whoever the UFC puts in front of him. To close he puts over the crowd.

Sadly we don’t see the catch here, but anyone with the long arms of Nzechukwu makes you mind your technique when you shoot head outside. Clark doesn’t address the arm quickly when he goes for the head outside single leg, and that allows Nzechukwu to wrap up the ninja choke and put Clark to sleep.

Drew Dober is on a three fight winning streak and has been showing the best form of his career lately with all of those being finishes. Dober has cracked the top rankings with his current streak and now looks to defend it as well as possibly earning a shot at someone higher ranked next. Matt Frevola has gone 2-2 in his last four but he’s on a two fight winning streak with those being finishes, now he could be poised to crack the top 15 if he’s able to beat Dober. The odds are with Dober at -205 against +175 for Frevola.

Lightweight Bout: #14 Drew Dober (26-11 1 NC, 155.5 lbs.) vs. Matt Frevola (10-3-1, 155 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Frevola has an inch of height and reach over Dober. They touch gloves to get us going, southpaw for Dober. Frevola looks to probe with the jab. Dober lands a counter left. They trade power hand punches then Frevola lands a body kick. Bit of a head kick from Frevola then a right hand. Dober keeps coming forward and lands a stiff right. Body kick from Frevola. They clinch and trade knees then break apart. Both men miss power hand punches. Dober lands a left hand. Frevola lands a right hand. Dober lands a body shot, he’s starting to get Frevola to bite on his feints and level changes. Dober misses a head kick but that was pretty close. Frevola misses a couple of punches. Inside leg kick from Frevola but Dober cracks him with a left hand. Left to the body from Dober, and he’s drawing out big swings from Frevola. Frevola lands a body kick. Dober is bleeding from the nose but seems to be in control and lands a straight left. Bit of a right from Dober. Both men miss lefts. Dober lands a couple of jabs, then Frevola lands a head kick but Dober has a head like a cinder block and doesn’t care. Body shots from Dober along the fence, then Frevola lands a right hand. Bit of a body kick from Dober. Frevola lands a right that drops Dober, he jumps on top looking to finish and the ref winds up pulling Frevola off of Dober and Dober isn’t thrilled with that stoppage.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Matt Frevola via TKO, punches, at 4:08 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Frevola for his work this evening. Mic time for Frevola, he plays with the crowd then puts over Dober but feels it’s his time and he’s going for the title. He talks us through the finish and reiterates that he’s here and feels he can beat anyone, then tells Paddy Pimblett that he sucks and implores him to stop being a bitch and fight him.

Here’s the finish. Dober had a lot of success, backing up Frevola and landing good shots, but here he gets a touch predictable with his body attacks and then doesn’t get his hand back or his head off the center line meaning Frevola’s counter right crushes him.

Well that’s it for the prelims, onto PPV for the main card.

Kron Gracie was last seen losing a decision to Cub Swanson back in October of 2019, now after the prolonged hiatus he’s back and trying to avoid his first losing streak. Charles Jourdain has shown flashes of greatness but he’s just 2-2 in his last four fights and is on a two fight losing streak, now his back is kind of against the wall here as another loss would more or less end his journey up the featherweight ranks. Given the long layoff it’s not surprising to see Jourdain as your favorite at -170 while a Gracie win would payout +145.

Featherweight Bout: Kron Gracie (5-1, 145 lbs.) vs. Charles Jourdain (13-6-1, 145 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: These two are the same height while Gracie has an inch of reach advantage. Southpaw for Gracie. Very slow start from both men as they probe with the lead hand. Right then a left from Jourdain land. Combination from Jourdain all lands, Gracie looks slow and stationary at the moment. Gracie reaches for a clinch and gets it, but can’t keep it. Jourdain tosses Gracie away from another tie up attempt. Uppercut from Jourdain lands. Gracie is in zombie mode, just walking forward looking to close distance. Jourdain cracks Gracie with a right hand and a few follow up punches. Gracie just walks forward and is getting hit every time he tries to close up. Eventually Gracie ties up and pulls guard. Gracie can’t get anything going and Jourdain is able to break free and force a reset. Jourdain lands a right hand to close the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Jourdain

ROUND TWO: Jourdain gets back to jabbing and circling. Gracie has started switching his stance and forces a clinch but again can’t keep it. Another clinch, and Gracie pulls guard but Jourdain presses him against the fence while standing and lands a few punches before they finally drop to the mat. Jourdain has Gracie at an awkward angle against the fence and is using that to limit the offensive options of Gracie. Some punches are traded. Jourdain lands some body punches. Elbows to the body from Jourdain. Gracie tries to get his hips in play but Jourdain is able to stand free and force a reset. Jabs from Jourdain as he circles, then a right hand and a knee to the body. Left hook from Jourdain. Gracie just has nothing to offer. Body shots and uppercuts from Jourdain, he can basically use Gracie as a heavy bag at distance. Hard elbow from Jourdain. Uppercut from Jourdain. Gracie lands a left hand. Jourdain lands an uppercut and Gracie gets another clinch then pulls full guard yet again. The round will end with Jourdain on top.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Jourdain but borderline 10-8 given Gracie’s ineffectiveness, 20-18 Jourdain overall

ROUND THREE: Jourdain keeps sniping at distance as he circles. Gracie isn’t cutting off the cage and Jourdain keeps landing punches and angling off on him. Gracie tries to pull guard, Jourdain avoids it this time and resets. Knee from Jourdain. Jourdain lands an uppercut. Body shots from Jourdain land. Jourdain lands an elbow. Uppercuts then a knee from Jourdain. Gracie misses a kick, eats an uppercut, but then pulls guard. Jourdain lands some body shots but things are stalling again as Gracie can’t get his guard going. Jourdain stands free and lands a couple of leg kicks while Gracie just butt scoots around. The ref makes Gracie stand and they’re back on the feet. Jourdain digs the body again as he moves around. Gracie ties up and Jourdain gets him on the fence then lands a knee and breaks away. Jourdain has gone southpaw and lands a leg kick. Body shot from Jourdain then a left hand behind it. Right hand from Jourdain lands. Gracie avoids a flying knee but Jourdain follows up with a combination to close the round.

SCORECARD: 10-8 Jourdain as Gracie did nothing, 30-26 Jourdain overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Charles Jourdain via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)

Mic time for Jourdain, he calls himself an immature fighter which his record reflects, but he’s working on being a better overall fighter. He puts over some sponsors, then apologizes for the fight not being great and thanks the crowd for being awesome. Asked what he’d like next, he says he wants an exciting fight and thinks Edson Barboza would do that.

Movsar Evloev is undefeated including six wins in the UFC, he was supposed to be fighting a ranked opponent here but has to settle for a late substitution. On the plus side that might lead to Evloev getting his first UFC finish. Diego Lopes replaced Bryce Mitchell during fight week but has a chance to turn the featherweight division upside down by halting the seeming inevitable rise of Evloev. The odds are with Evloev as the biggest favorite on the card at -900 while Lopes sits at +625.

Featherweight Bout: #10 Movsar Evloev (16-0, 145 lbs.) vs. Diego Lopes (21-5, 146 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Lopes is four inches taller but the reach is identical. They touch gloves to get us going. Both men with some feinting as they circle. Calf kicks go back and forth. Lopes lands a right hand then a calf kick. Evloev lands a right hand then they trade in close and Lopes tags Evloev. Evloev catches a kick and gets a takedown, Lopes tries for a leg lock but Evloev out scrambles him and gets on top and lands hammer fists. Lopes tries to get his guard in play but Evloev smothers him and starts working body to head punches. A few short elbows from Evloev. Lopes lands an elbow from his back. Evloev lands some hammer fists as Lopes tries to get his guard high and Lopes has to bail on that attack. Lopes keeps throwing up his guard, he’s got an armbar and stretches it out but Evloev has his elbow past the hips and isn’t in too much danger then Evloev comes back up on top in full guard. Evloev postures up and lands more punches. Hard right from Evloev seems to stun Lopes for a second. More body to head punches from Evloev, Lopes tries to invert for a leg attack but he can’t extend the leg as Evloev keeps landing punches and Lopes goes back to full guard. Triangle attack from Lopes, that might be dangerous but there’s not enough time to develop the position before the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Lopes but could go either way

ROUND TWO: Another touch of gloves. Evloev gets back to feinting and pressuring, he lands a right hand. Left hook from Evloev, Lopes returns it. Evloev lands a few jabs, Lopes seems to be slowing and who could blame him. Right hand from Evloev. A couple of rights from Evloev land. Hard left from Evloev. Evloev lands a body kick. Combination from Evloev then he gets a takedown into full guard. Evloev stands and lands a few punches. Body to head punches now from Evloev, he’s staying consistent with his offense while Lopes seems to slow further. Elbows from Evloev. More punches from Evloev, Lopes is trying to control his posture and stem the bleeding. Evloev with body to head punches as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Evloev and all the momentum, 19-19 overall

ROUND THREE: Evloev gets back to pressure, Lopes is game but he’s faded. Right hand from Evloev. Lopes lands a left to the body. Evloev lands some jabs while backing up Lopes. Solid right from Evloev. Evloev lands an elbow, Lopes counters with a right hand. The foot speed different is really biting Lopes here, Evloev is in and out while Lopes is a bit flat. Evloev punches into a clinch and pins Lopes on the fence. Elbow from Evloev. Evloev hits a double leg and starts landing punches from the full guard again. Lopes kicks Evloev off and wall walks but Evloev is working mat returns from the back now. Some calf kicks from the back for Evloev as he’s trying to get Lopes back to the mat. Lopes is trying to fish for a kimura grip but he’s kind of stuck. Evloev gets the takedown, Lopes grabs the kimura, rolls with it to full mount but he loses the lock and Evloev comes up on top and they wrestle back into the clinch. Elbows from Evloev now then he slips to the back again. Lopes tries the rolling kimura again, this time Evloev is ready and gets on top. Inversion from Lopes, he’s after the kneebar. Evloev is able to get weight on that leg and keep it safe then lands more punches. Lopes keeps after the kneebar, he’s selling out for it but it’s not looking that close as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Evloev, 29-28 Evloev overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Movsar Evloev via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)

Not sure about that 30-27 as Lopes did better work in the first, but a darn good fight overall. Mic time for Evloev and the translator, he speaks English first to play with the crowd then puts over Lopes and says he was dangerous the whole way through and thanks him for stepping in on short notice and thinks Lopes will have a bright future. He’s asked about the submissions, he says he’s a wrestler but knows his jiu-jitsu needs work but he wont tap and thinks his flexibility helped him. Asked what he’d like next he says a lot of people don’t want to fight him, but Korean Zombie or Brian Ortega would be nice, and he’d like to actually have a full six weeks to prepare next time. To close he thanks everyone for their support.

Jessica Andrade just had a three fight winning streak broken when she stepped in on short notice to fight Erin Blanchfield. Andrade has been looking to settle back into strawweight and possibly get a rematch with Zhang Weili for the title, and if she can get a win here she might well get that title shot. Yan Xiaonan just broke a two fight losing streak when she won a majority decision over Mackenzie Dern last year, now she’s trying to score the biggest win of her career against a former champion in Andrade and stake her own claim to a title shot. Andrade is your -170 favorite to +145 on Yan.

Strawweight Bout: #4 Jessica Andrade (24-10, 115 lbs.) vs. #6 Yan Xiaonan (16-3 1 NC, 115 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Yan is three and a half inches taller but only has an inch of reach advantage. Yan looks to probe with her hands. Inside leg kick from Yan. Body jabs from Yan, Andrade isn’t cutting her off at all. They get close and trade punches. Andrade lands a calf kick. More body jabs from Yan as she works to stay off the fence. They get close and trade punches. Andrade lands a leg kick, eats a right hand then lands a left. Yan avoids a couple of hooks. Right hand from Yan. Andrade lands a calf kick. Lefts from Andrade but she walks into a right hand from Yan that floors Andrade, Yan jumps on top for some follow up blows which prompt the stoppage.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Yan Xiaonan via TKO, punches, at 2:20 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Ms. Yan for her work this evening. Mic time for Yan and her translator, she puts over the crowd and calls this the happiest moment of her UFC career. She puts over her coaches for all of their work. She talks us through the finish and says they trained very hard on circling then planting to counter. Asked about a potential title fight against Zhang Weili she thinks they can represent the women of China in MMA and they’d both be proud to do so.

Belal Muhammad hasn’t lost a fight since 2019 and is on a nine fight unbeaten streak, if he’s able to get that to double digits here he would be the only logical choice to next challenge for the title. Gilbert Burns is making his third appearance of the year here, he’s on a two fight winning streak with wins over Neil Magny and Jorge Masvidal and now looks to secure his second shot at the welterweight title if he can best Muhammad. This one is close but the odds tilt slightly towards Burns at -140 to +120 for Muhammad, also remember that this fight will be five rounds.

Welterweight Bout: #5 Gilbert Burns (22-5, 171 lbs.) vs. #4 Belal Muhammad (22-3 1 NC, 170 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Muhammad has an inch of height and reach over Burns. Some feinting from both men, Muhammad showing stance switches early. Bit of a right from Burns. Burns lands a calf kick. Constant stance switching from Muhammad, he’s vulnerable mid switch if Burns can time it. Muhammad lands a left hand. Burns lands an inside leg kick. Body kick from Burns then a right hand behind it. Burns lands another right hand then an inside leg kick. Muhammad blocks a head kick, then lands a body kick. Burns hits a double leg, Muhammad immediately bounces up and lands a body kick. Another body kick from Muhammad. Burns lands a calf kick. Bit of a right hand from Burns. Burns lands a body kick but Muhammad off balances him with a left hand. Another right from Burns lands. Burns lands a body kick. Bit of a head kick from Muhammad, and that’ll be the last relevant blow of the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Muhammad but a close one

ROUND TWO: Burns gets on pressure more this round. Inside leg kick from Burns. Body kick from Muhammad. Burns lands a right hand, then a left hook behind it. Burns lands an inside leg kick. Another right from Burns lands. Muhammad misses a couple of punches. A right hand from Burns lands and seems to bother Muhammad for a second. Body kick from Muhammad. Burns lands an inside leg kick. Muhammad misses an uppercut. Muhammad lands a body kick. Burns misses a right hand. They punch close, then fight away from a possible clinch. Burns lands another calf kick. They stare away the final seconds.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Burns, 19-19 overall

ROUND THREE: Burns lands a calf kick to start the round. Body kick from Burns, Muhammad briefly complains of it being low but they keep fighting. Bit of a left from Muhammad. Muhammad misses a right hand and Burns lands a calf kick then a right hand. Burns blocks a high kick but his right arm is getting chewed up from all the kicks he’s blocked. Muhammad keeps firing head kicks that are blocked, then lands a jab. Burns misses a right hand. Muhammad lands a body kick. Bit of a knee from Burns. Muhammad pressures forward but he’s not landing too much on the way. Burns lands a body kick. Bit of a right from Burns. Muhammad just keeps throwing those head kicks, he’s committed to them. Bit of a calf kick from Burns, but his left arm seems like it’s off. Something is off with Burns, I’m not sure what but it’s becoming clear that he’s not his usual self. Muhammad misses a few kicks to close the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Muhammad, 29-28 Muhammad overall

ROUND FOUR: Between rounds Burns mentioned his left arm is messed up, he can’t throw it for anything. Burns lands a calf kick. Another calf kick from Burns. Muhammad lands a body kick. Muhammad with a couple of punches. Burns misses a right, but tries another one that does land. Muhammad lands another body kick. That body kick from Muhammad is still working. Bit of a head kick from Burns. Bit of a right from Muhammad. Burns back with a calf kick. Muhammad lands a right and avoids the counter from Burns. Burns reaches for a single leg, can’t finish it but he then cracks Muhammad with a right hand. Muhammad lands a body kick. Another body kick from Burns. Burns with a calf kick. Muhammad avoids a single leg, but the attempt seems to have messed up the shoulder of Burns more. More high kicks from Muhammad, he knows that Burns has a messed up shoulder now and is looking to kick it. Burns lands a calf kick. Muhammad fires a few more high kicks that miss then he lands a right hand. Burns lands another right hand but Muhammad just eats it and lands a body kick. Bit of a flurry from Muhammad, and that’ll be the last relevant thing of the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Muhammad, 39-27 Muhammad overall

ROUND FIVE: Depending on how that shoulder is they should consider stopping this, shoulder injuries are nothing to play around with and there’s not much point in another five minutes of this. They touch gloves for the last round. Muhammad avoids a right hand. Muhammad avoids a takedown attempt and fires a body kick. Burns misses a right hand then avoids a head kick. Muhammad avoids a right hand. Both men land rights in close. Muhammad lands a body kick. Burns lands a calf kick, then a right hand. Muhammad lands a jab. Another calf kick from Burns. Muhammad lands a body kick. Another calf kick from Burns as he blocks a head kick. They trade rights. Burns lands a right hand. Muhammad avoids a right hand. Bit of a right from Muhammad. Muhammad fires a one two. Bit of a right from Burns. Muhammad with a right hand. Burns with a right hand, then eats a counter. Muhammad lands a body kick. Bit of a left from Muhammad and that’ll close the fight to some pretty vocal boos.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Muhammad, 49-46 Muhammad overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Belal Muhammad via unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46 x2)

Muhammad gets an interview despite the anticlimactic fight, he gives glory to God first then says he’ll beat anyone in his division with just three weeks of preparation. He thinks this is all part of God’s plan and he trusts Him. He knew Burns had hurt his left arm but knew he couldn’t get too wild going after Burns because Burns is so game. Asked about a title fight next he insults New Jersey, and says he’ll fight either Leon Edwards or Colby Covington.

Henry Cejudo is one of the more decorated athletes in combat sports as he’s a former Olympic gold medalist and two division UFC champion, but he stepped away after defending the bantamweight title May of 2020. Now Cejudo is back and trying to reclaim his title as well as further his case as an all time great in the sport. Aljamain Sterling is the reigning bantamweight champion with two title defenses under his belt and an eight fight overall winning streak. Sterling is looking to add to his legacy as champion and gain some acclaim here as his title run thus far has been dogged by controversy that largely has been out of his control. The odds for this one have shifted back and forth but closed at -120 Cejudo to an even +100 for Sterling.

Bantamweight Title Bout: (c) Aljamain Sterling (22-3, 134 lbs.) vs. Henry Cejudo (16-2, 135 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Sterling is three inches taller with a significant seven inches of reach advantage. Sterling comes out pressing forward and looking to kick. They clash on some leg kicks, then Sterling lands a body kick. Cejudo starts switching his stance as he circles. More pressure from Sterling, then he lands a calf kick. Cejudo misses a right hand. Both men showing a lot of stance switching. Sterling lands a right hand. Body kick from Sterling, Cejudo catches it and hits a takedown into half guard. Sterling looks to build for a wall walk, he scrambles to his knees, Cejudo grabs a front headlock for control but Sterling fights up and pressures forward again. Body kick from Sterling then Cejudo misses a right hand. The range is a real problem for Cejudo. They clinch again after a Sterling right hand, Cejudo forces things to the fence. Some clinch wrestling, Cejudo avoids a takedown and tries another front headlock, Sterling sits out and comes up looking for a takedown against the fence. A few up elbows from Sterling as he’s after the single leg. Sterling gets a takedown against the fence and lands knees to the body before slipping to the back as Cejudo stands. More body knees from Sterling, Cejudo doesn’t like those. Outside trip from Sterling, he gets the back and puts a hook in. Cejudo breaks the hook but Sterling has pulled him back down. They fight up and Sterling fires more knees then an elbow as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Sterling

ROUND TWO: Cejudo misses a calf kick. Sterling keeps pressuring and feinting, he lands a jab. The pace and pressure of Sterling is getting to Cejudo just a bit. Bit of a right from Cejudo. Cejudo lands a calf kick. Sterling lands a left hand. Cejudo lands a body kick. Sterling partially catches a head kick. Front kick from Sterling. They clinch up, and Sterling lands a knee to the body then avoids a left hook on the break. Sterling lands a left hand. Leg kick from Sterling. Cejudo avoids a takedown attempt. Another left hook from Sterling lands. Cejudo misses a left hand, he just can’t find the range reliably. Sterling lands a jab. Calf kick from Cejudo. Sterling jabs the body. Calf kick from Sterling. Cejudo falls short with more punches. Bit of a spinning elbow from Sterling then a calf kick. Cejudo lands a right hand. Both men miss punches, then a partially successful head kick from Cejudo. Sterling jabs the body again. Body kick from Sterling. They clinch up then break with a knee from Sterling. They trade calf kicks then Cejudo lands a right hand. Sterling lands a calf kick, tries a takedown but they wind up just wrestling as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Sterling but a very close one, 20-18 Sterling overall

ROUND THREE: Cejudo lands a calf kick. Sterling is throwing more kicks now. Cejudo lands a body kick. Sterling lands a left to the body. Cejudo jumps forward looking for a takedown, he winds up grabbing a front headlock. Cejudo stands free and they reset. Sterling with a right hand. Calf kick from Sterling then a front kick to the face. Sterling tries a takedown, Cejudo defends and lands a knee. Calf kick from Sterling then an elbow. They clinch up and Sterling pushes things to the fence. Knees from Sterling as Cejudo pushes things around. More knees from Sterling as he’s then hits a trip takedown. Sterling is in the ride position looking to threaten the back but Cejudo blocks him with a left arm. Cejudo up but Sterling slams home a couple of knees then goes back to looking for trips. Cejudo is able to spin free. Sterling lands a one two, then tries a single leg but Cejudo sprawls without too much issue. Cejudo looks to spin for the back from the sprawl position, Sterling is blocking that. Sterling and Cejudo just wind up back on the feet. Body kicks are traded. Sterling lands a right hand. Another one two from Sterling and they clinch. Knees are traded in the clinch then Cejudo hits an inside trip into full guard. There’s not much time and the round ends in that spot.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Sterling, 30-27 Sterling overall

ROUND FOUR: Sterling gets back to kicking, he lands a calf kick, then another one. Cejudo lands a leg kick, Sterling returns it then lands a body kick. Another body kick from Sterling. More kicks from Sterling, he’s staying active. Right hand from Sterling. Cejudo avoids an elbow and kind of lands a leg kick. Bit of a right from Cejudo. They trade calf kicks again. Knee from Cejudo lands. Sterling lands a calf kick. Cejudo forces a clinch and they hit the fence. They break without incident. Cejudo is pressuring forward a lot now. Sterling lands a jab. Cejudo checks a calf kick but misses his counter punch. Sterling lands a jab. Another calf kick from Sterling, Cejudo forces another clinch. Sterling with knees in the clinch then they break. Cejudo lands a body kick. Sterling lands a right hand. Knee from Sterling, Cejudo gets a clinch off of it though. Sterling pushes things to the fence and starts landing knees. Cejudo is able to hit a modified snap down and grabs a cradle position. Sterling counters and comes up looking for a double leg on the fence, he gets Cejudo down to his seat and moves to half guard. Sterling lands punches as Cejudo scrambles up and the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Sterling, 40-36 Sterling overall

ROUND FIVE: Sterling looks much fresher, he lands a calf kick. They both miss head kicks. Calf kick from Sterling. Bit of a right from Sterling. Cejudo lands a body kick. High kick from Sterling is blocked. Body kick from Sterling. Cejudo is chasing now, he lands a body kick. Spinning back kick from Sterling lands. Jab from Cejudo. Sterling lands a right to the body. Left hook from Sterling lands. Cejudo lands a left hand. Sterling avoids a single leg but eats a right hand. Cejudo misses a few punches but he knows he needs the round at a minimum. Sterling lands a body kick then a right hand. Another left from Sterling lands. Calf kick from Sterling then he tries a takedown, Cejudo defends but can’t counter attack. Knees from Cejudo in close. Sterling catches a kick and they clinch up on the fence. Now it’s Sterling with knees before Cejudo spins free. Cejudo tries a single leg, he tips Sterling over and gets to the ride position. Sterling wall walks with Cejudo holding a waist lock. The get chest to chest and that’s where the fight will end.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Cejudo, 49-46 Sterling overall but this could go either way

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER and STILL UFC Bantamweight Champion – Aljamain Sterling via split decision (47-48, 48-47 x2)

48-47 either way is perfectly acceptable, I’m pretty sure I missed the boat on the second round live. Mic time for the champion, he tries to play with the crowd who are booing him. He puts over Cejudo and didn’t know how that decision was going to do, he wanted to do better but puts over Cejudo. He calls out Sean O’Malley who’s in the crowd. Asked what was tough about the fight he knew the takedowns would be hard to get but he got them and knows he out struck Cejudo the whole way, for what it’s worth that’s true statistically. They bring in O’Malley, and they do the usual bad trash talk at each other. Looks like O’Malley and Merab Dvalishvili get into it a little bit. Sterling tells O’Malley to sign for September. To close Sterling says he’s not pretending to be Mike Tyson, he’s just himself and he’ll drag you up and down the cage and if you don’t like it come do something about it.

Cejudo gets an interview as well, he puts over Sterling toughness as being a surprise. He thinks maybe he won three rounds but ultimately Sterling did his job. He doesn’t want to keep fighting if he can’t beat the best and if he can’t beat Sterling he doesn’t think he can take out featherweights. Asked if he’s retiring (again) he plans on thinking about it and talking with the relevant people in his life but this might be the last time he’s in the UFC cage. To close he thanks the fans and the UFC brass.

Well on that note UFC 288 comes to a close. A little unfortunate that our last two fights went the distance and the co-main was as mediocre as it was. Sterling seems to have O’Malley in his sights so we can look forward to that I guess. Well we’ll unpack all the fallout from this event Sunday on the 411 Ground and Pound MMA Podcast, plus look ahead to next weeks card. As a reminder next week the event starts at 11:30 am EST. I’ll be back for that event next week and I hope you will as well. Until then thank you as always for reading, stay safe out there, and keep checking 411mania for all of your pop culture needs.