Henry Cejudo (right) is a good bet at UFC 288

Sterling vs Cejudo Odds & Pick: The Messenger Won't Be Rusty

Aljamain Sterling (22-3, 14-3 UFC) will defend his bantamweight championship against UFC legend Henry Cejudo (16-2, 10-2 UFC), who returns after three years away from the sport. 

The five-round title fight takes place at UFC 288 on May 6 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, and will be co-headlined by a tussle between Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad

Two weeks away from the bout, the Sterling-Cejudo fight carries pick'em odds. 

Aljamain Sterling vs Henry Cejudo Odds

Sterling vs Cejudo Odds
Aljamain Sterling-110
Henry Cejudo-110

Odds as of May 5

Per our odds calculator, each fighter carries a 52.38-percent chance to win. A successful $10 bet on Sterling or Cejudo pays out $19.09.

UFC 288: Sterling vs Cejudo Preview

Let's map out how each fighter can win.

How Cejudo Wins

There's the obvious factor of ring rust after three years away, but Cejudo, in his best form, is good enough to defeat Sterling. Few fighters in the UFC boast Henry's wrestling background. As an Olympic gold medalist, "The Messenger" won't have any trouble on the ground, and he's also defended 93 percent of takedown attempts. Sterling, for all his wrestling gifts, may find himself outmatched in the takedown game, which will force him to fight off his back — which he can comfortably do — at the cost of precious control time. 

Cejudo needs to keep this fight locked in tight. That means clinches, knees and trips will all be very important for the 36-year-old, who faces a seven-inch reach disadvantage. Watch for Henry to crack Sterling on separations, then storm back in for more action. Cejudo will want a busy fight where he can use his short, explosive energy to pop out at Sterling and sting him on the chin. 

How Sterling Wins

"Funk Master" is fresher and longer — which helps his jiu-jitsu off his back — but I'm not sure he packs enough punch to fold the experienced Cejudo. I don't foresee many outcomes where Sterling takes advantage of Cejudo with his striking. Instead, he might use some overhands and jabs to set up a takedown. That realm of the fight will be about positioning and angles more than knocking his opponent out.

Sterling's fighting flair comes as a submission artist (four of his 14 wins via SUB). He's a king of the back mount and rear-naked choke sequence, though I'm not sure that will be available against Cejudo. Aljo mushed through an injured TJ Dillashaw, and before that, dominated Petr Yan in a five-round wrestling victory. He hasn't really contended against a wrestler with Cejudo's pedigree. Cejudo's never been submitted (or even had a submission attempted against him) — that's very concerning if I'm betting on Sterling, as the New York native's only route to victory might be by five-round decision. 

Sterling vs Cejudo Betting Pick

This should be a fun one, but I'm envisioning a scenario similar to Jon Jones' performance at UFC 285. With Cejudo, like Jones, the public questions his readiness after years out of the Octagon, then the veteran returns and steamrolls a high-caliber opponent, making everyone look foolish for doubting him. Sterling almost certainly won't go as quietly as Ciryl Gane did, but my gut tells me Cejudo will remind the world why he's one of the greatest fighters in company history.

My official prediction for UFC 288 is Cejudo will win inside the distance and do so in UNDER 3.5 rounds.

Pick: Cejudo to win (-110); uNDER 3.5 Rounds (+160); Value Pick on Cejudo ITD (+280)

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