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UFC 288 start time, full fight details | Sterling vs. Cejudo

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is returning to the pay-per-view (PPV) market later TONIGHT (Sat., May 6, 2023) to stage UFC 288 from inside Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Headlining the event will be a Bantamweight title fight as division champion, Aljamain Sterling, puts his belt on the line against former division kingpin, Henry Cejudo. In the co-main event, Belal Muhammad will face off against Gilbert Burns in a Welterweight affair.

What’s Hot:

It’s been three years since Henry Cejudo last stepped foot inside the Octagon, opting to retire from the fight game after his knockout win over Dominick Cruz, leaving behind his Bantamweight title, as well as questions regarding just how greater his career would have been had he not walked away. He was, after all, on a six-fight win streak and had the very rare title of former “champ-champ” on his resume as the ex-Flyweight champion, as well. But “Triple C” is now back and ready to reclaim the strap he left behind and he will have to get through a determined champion whose road to the title was a strange one.

It’s well known that Sterling became champion after Petr Yan was disqualified for an illegal knee. He then took a year off and defeated Yan a second time, this time via split-decision to unify the straps. He then scored a knockout win over TJ Dillashaw, which brings us to present date. Cejudo will undoubtedly be one of, if not the toughest challenge to date for Sterling. But “Funk Master” has been active, Cejudo has not. That’s not to say the king of cringe has just been sitting on his couch gaining weight, On the contrary, he has still been in the gym training and preparing other fighters — including Jon Jones — for their fights. So Cejudo is in shape and he is a world-class athlete and has an Olympic gold medal to prove it. It remains to be seen if those three years of not fighting have any affect on him, but it’s safe to say that with his pedigree he will be just fine.

This is a great stylistic matchup. Cejudo is obviously a wizard when it comes to wrestling, but he has shown throughout his career that he is far from a one-trick pony. In fact, his last three wins have come by way of knockout, so “Triple C” can win the fight in more ways than one. If it becomes a wrestling match Cejudo has Sterling covered, though “Funkmaster” will have a size advantage coming into the title fight and is far from a slouch in the grappling department. Still, Sterling’s best chance of winning is to keep the fight standing, keep his distance and eventually find enough room to get in close enough to attempt a submission or aim for a knockout. That’s easier said than done against Cejudo. This is why it will truly be Sterling’s toughest challenge thus far.

What’s Not:

One of my lone gripes is the fact that the 155-pound scrap between Drew Dober and Matt Frevola is not on the main card. This is my pick to win “Fight of the Night” honors because both of these men bring the heat. But, I can understand to an extent why the promotion wants this fight as the last fight on the undercard in an attempt to leave fight fans wanting more because they are banking (like I am) that this fight will deliver the goods and prompt them to purchase the PPV. Still, Dober and Frevola have paid their dues and deserve some main card love.

Original Card vs Actual Card:

Bryce Mitchell was set to face off against Movsar Evloev but was forced out of the fight a few days from the show after he was spotted with mysterious spots on his body (see for yourself here). UFC newcomer, Diego Lopes, agreed to step in and take the fight.

LIVE! Watch UFC 288 PPV On ESPN+ Here!

BLOCKBUSTER BANTAMWEIGHT BATTLE! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Newark, N.J., for the first time in more than three years on Sat., May 6, 2023, with a blockbuster Bantamweight collision inside Prudential Center that will see Aljamain Sterling attempt another successful title defense against returning two-division titleholder and former gold medal-winning Olympic wrestler, Henry Cejudo. In UFC 288’s last-minute pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event, former Welterweight title challenger, Gilbert Burns, locks horns with No. 4-seeded contender, Belal Muhammad, in a five-round, 170-pound No. 1 contender eliminator match.

Don’t miss a single second of EPIC face-punching action!


The original co-main event was set to feature an intriguing Lightweight bout between former champion, Charles Oliveira, and Beneil Dariush, but the fight was scrapped after “Do Bronx” suffered an injury. The two will now fight at UFC 289 next month. Nate Maness suffered an undisclosed injury and was forced out of his fight against Zhalgas Zhumagulov. Stepping in to fill the void was Rafael Estevam, who, in turn, was forced out of the fight as a result of weight issues. Daniel Santos also withdrew from his scheduled bout against Johnny Munoz as a result of an undisclosed injury.

New Blood:

Diego Lopes didn’t win his fight on the Contender Series back in 2021, and he then went on to lose his next fight on the regional circuit. But after earning two straight knockout wins, he now finds himself with a golden opportunity after he agreed to step in and face Movsar Evloev after Bryce Mitchell was pulled from the fight. It’s not ideal to face someone like Evloev on just a few days notice, but when opportunity knocks you answer it, and Lopes is ready to shock the world by becoming the first man to defeat the 16-0, 6-0 UFC fighter.

Ikram Aliskerov will make his UFC debut when he takes on Phil Hawes in a 185-pound tilt. Aliskerov is currently on a five-fight win streak and earned his shot in the big leagues following his impressive submission win (kimura) over Mario Filipe de Sousa on the Contender Series in Sept. 2022. All in all he has a 13-1 record with nine stoppage victories. Hawes, meanwhile, is coming off a loss to Roman Dolidze and is just 1-2 in his last three UFC fights.

On the heels of a five-fight win streak, Heavyweight slugger Braxton Smith will step foot inside the Octagon for the first time to trade heavy leather with Parker Porter. After losing to UFC veteran, Chase Sherman, in his pro MMA debut, Smith has gone on to rack up five consecutive first-round knockout wins. Porter is currently on a two-fight losing streak so if he wants to hang on to his spot on the roster, a win here is of the utmost importance.

Talented Welterweight prospect, Rolando Bedoya, will make his way to the UFC Octagon for the first time to battle Kalinn Williams. Bedoya is on an 11-fight win streak and is the owner of a 14-1 record. At just 26 years of age, Bedoya has shown promise and if he can kick off his UFC career with a win over “Khaos” he will put the division on notice from the jump.

How The ‘Prelims’ Look:

We’ve already discussed several undercard matchups, so let’s dive in to break down the rest of the preliminary fights, shall we?

In early action, Joseph Holmes will battle Claudio Ribeiro at a catchweight of 189 pounds after “Ugly Man” came in three pounds heavy for the Middleweight showdown. So now not only does he lose 20-percent of his fight purse to his opponent, but he has even more pressure added to deliver a win (or an epic performance in defeat) in order to hang on to his spot on the roster because he is coming off a loss to Jun Yon Park and is just 1-2 in his last three fights. After coming up short in his UFC debut against Abdul Razak Alhassan — ending his six-fight win streak in the process — Ribeiro is out to get back in the win column himself.

One time considered a legit potential title contender, Marina Rodriguez lost all of her steam after she was knocked out by Amanda Lemos in Nov. 2022, ending her four-fight win streak. Now, the Brazilian bomber faces an uphill climb to get back in the mix and things won’t get any easier for her against Virna Jandiroba, With a UFC record of 4-3, Jandiroba hasn’t strung together enough wins to be put herself in contention, but she has proven to be a tough draw for anyone standing in front of her. Jandiroba was last seen defeating Angela Hill, but that was a year ago so she has some work to do in order to remind everyone just how tough she is. Alternating wins and losses for the last three years, Jandiroba is looking to be a bit more consistent moving forward, and scoring her second straight win against someone like Rodriguez will be huge for her stock.

In the Light Heavyweight division, Kennedy Nzechukwu will look to tie his UFC career best three straight wins when he goes toe-to-toe against Devin Clark. Nzechukwu’s last four UFC wins have come by way of knockout so he knows a thing or two about putting it on his foe from jump. He has insane knockout power, but if he wants to get close to the Top 15 for the first time in his career he will have to work a bit harder and keep on winning. Clark, meanwhile, is a few months removed from his win against Jung Da-un, his first win in over a year. Throughout his seven-year UFC career, Clark has not been able to garner enough momentum to get a spot on the rankings. In 15 UFC fights he has only managed to collect eight wins. While not bad, it’s not good enough to get him anywhere other than collecting a check. And some fighters are content with that, but Clark wants bigger things and stopping Nzechukwu’s momentum is a huge step for his career.

Who Needs A Win Badly:

Charles Jourdain has all of the talent in the world, but he has yet to keep a consistent pace when it comes to racking up the wins inside the Octagon. With a UFC record of 4-5-1, Jourdain is currently riding a two-fight losing streak going into his fight against Kron Gracie. If he loses his third straight, there is no telling if UFC will opt to keep him around. As for Gracie, while he isn’t on the chopping block, he is hungry for a win after he suffered a loss to Cub Swanson in his sophomore effort inside the Octagon almost 3.5 years ago. That’s a long time to be out of action, but the submission specialist is ready to return to his winning ways and prove the ring rust is, in fact, a myth.

Interest Level: 7.5/10

After Oliveira bowed out of his fight against Beneil Dariush with an injury, Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad agreed to step in on short notice for a Welterweight fight that has just as much title implications as the original co-main event. It will also be a five-round fight. Burns is coming off a dominant three-round drubbing over Jorge Masvidal at UFC 287, his second straight win. Ranked No. 5 at the moment, “Durinho” is trying to work his way back to another title shot and is 3-1 since his loss to former champion, Kamaru Usman, in Feb. 2021. But standing in his way is a man determined to climb the ladder for his first attempt at winning UFC gold. Ranked No. 4 at the moment, Muhammad has not tasted defeat in his last nine fights and is often the forgotten man when it comes to the title conversation. His lone blemish during his run is a no-contest (NC) against current champion, Leon Edwards, so “Remember The Name” has shown he can hang with the best of the best. The winner here will firmly cement his spot right in the thick of the championship conversation.

Sports bras aside, it seems that Jessica Andrade is comfortable staying at Strawweight after bouncing around between that division and Flyweight. She is currently holding on to the the No. 4 spot at 115 pounds, but is coming off a loss to Erin Blanchfield. “Bate Estaca” will attempt to get back on track when she battles Xiaonan Yan in main card action. Yan (No. 6), most recently snapped her two-fight losing streak with a win over Mackenzie Dern, and is out for a big win in order to climb the rankings into the Top 5. She is adamant a win here gets her a title shot, but I highly doubt that will be the case.

It’s a pretty solid card but the main course will let us know if, in fact, Cejudo can jump right in after such a lengthy layoff. Most never thought Dana White would want him back after dismissing his comeback attempts time and again, so it was sort of shocking to see Cejudo get an immediate title shot upon his return. Nevertheless, the ex-Olympian has been talking a good game, and now has to back it up against a champion who has worked too hard to get to the top of the mountain to let it all go so easily. As for Burns and Muhammad, a true title contender will rise as Burns takes part in his third fight in five months, while Muhammad is out to cement his status as the No. 1 contender once and for all in hopes of landing a much-desired rematch against Edwards.

Enjoy the fights!

Full UFC 288 Fight Card:

UFC 288 PPV Main Event On ESPN+:

135 lbs.: UFC Bantamweight Champion Aljamain Sterling vs. Henry Cejudo

UFC 288 PPV Main Card On ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):

170 lbs.: Gilbert Burns vs. Belal Muhammad (five rounds)
115 lbs.: Jessica Andrade vs. Xiaonan Yan
145 lbs.: Movsar Evloev vs. Diego Lopes (not Bryce Mitchell)
145 lbs.: Kron Gracie vs. Charles Jourdain

UFC 288 Prelims Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):

155 lbs.: Drew Dober vs. Matt Frevola
205 lbs.: Devin Clark vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu
170 lbs.: Rolando Bedoya vs. Khaos Williams
115 lbs.: Virna Jandiroba vs. Marina Rodriguez

UFC 288 Early Prelims Card On ESPN+ (6 p.m. ET):

265 lbs.: Parker Porter vs. Braxton Smith
185 lbs.: Phil Hawes vs. Ikram Aliskerov
125 lbs.: Rafael Estevam vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov — CANCELED (details here)
185 lbs.: Joseph Holmes vs. Claudio Ribeiro
135 lbs.: Johnny Munoz vs. Daniel Santos — CANCELED (details here)

*Fight card, bout order and number of fights remain subject to change.*

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 288 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 288: “Sterling vs. Cejudo” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

This story originally appeared on MMA Mania

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