Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is set to invade United Center TONIGHT (Sat., June 8, 2019) as UFC 238 takes place in Chicago, Ill., featuring a Bantamweight title fight between Henry Cejudo and Marlon Moraes. Co-headlining the event is a women’s Flyweight title bout as division queen, Valentina Shevchenko, defends her belt against Jessica Eye. But that’s not all, let’s dive in to see what this stacked card has to offer.
UFC Flyweight champion Henry Cejudo mopped the floor with former Bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw earlier this year, knocking him out in just 32 seconds at UFC on ESPN+ 1 (see it again here). The win was to set up a rematch between the two men at 135 pounds, this time for T.J.s’ title. But, after Dillashaw popped hot for EPO and was sent packing for two years, the do-over went up in smoke. No fret, as Cejudo still has the chance to become champ-champ, though he will have to get through a different opponent this time around.
Moraes has had his eye on the title ever since he was cracking heads at the now-defunct World Series of Fighting (WSOF) organization. When he got his chance to finally fight inside the Octagon, “Magic” came up short in his debut to Raphael Assuncao. Since then, the Brazilian bomber has been on a mission, winning four in a row, including back-to-back finishes over Aljamain Sterling, Jimmie Rivera and then choking out Assuncao in the rematch.
His fight against Cejudo is sure to be the toughest of his career, as the Olympic gold medalist is one of the best to compete in mixed martial arts (MMA) today, and holds wins over Demetrious Johnson and the aforementioned Dillashaw. While “The Messenger” is widely considered “The King of Cringe” with his trash talk and pre-fight antics, he is anything but that once he steps foot inside the cage and gets on with his business.
That means fight fans are in for an interesting bout, though it seems it’s still very hard to market the “little guys.” Nevertheless, with a monster performance and win, Cejudo can climb up the pound-for-pound rankings, while Moraes can prove once and for all he is without a doubt the best 135-pound fighter on the planet; something he’s been screaming long before he made his way to the Octagon. Furthermore, a win for Cejudo will ensure he has at least one belt moving forward, as it seems the Flyweight division is indeed in trouble of going away.
There really isn’t a ton to complain about here. But if I had to gripe, I really wished the promotion would’ve saved Donald Cerrone vs Tony Ferguson to headline a fight night card in order to have it go five rounds. Don’t get me wrong, the addition of the scrap definitely boosted this pay-per-view (PPV) — just ask Tony — but “The Peoples’ Main Event” needs to be just that, a headliner. While we could very well get a finish here and have it end early, UFC is going to be kicking itself if we get an intense 15 minutes of action, knowing good and well we could have had 10 more. This bout has all the makings of an instant classic, as “Cowboy” and “El Cucuy” have never been in a boring fight, and both have a lot on the line.
If you ask Cerrone, this fight should determine who gets to face the winner of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier for the Lightweight title. And when you look at the 155-pound landscape, he has a point. Ferguson hasn’t lost in six years, and is on an 11-fight win streak, while “Cowboy” has won three in row and is one of the most active fighters in the history of the sport. Still, not having this as a main event somewhere down the line, really blows.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
The only change this card had was Angela Hill stepping in to face Xiaonan Yan after Felice Herrig was forced to withdraw from the event after she suffered a torn ACL.
There is only one newcomer this time around, but this man shows a ton of potential to be a legit threat at Bantamweight. Grigory Popov will make his Octagon debut in “The Windy City” when he faces off against longtime veteran, Eddie Wineland. Owner of a nine-fight win streak dating back four years, Grigory has proven he can outwork his foes for a decision, or knockout or submit anyone put in front of him. As a member of famed Tiger Muay Thai camp, Grigory has seen many of his teammates get their chance under the bright lights of the UFC, and now he hopes to follow in their footsteps after finally getting the call up.
While he hasn’t exactly been battle-tested as far as high-caliber foes go, Grigory has the opportunity to prove he belongs. If he can take out a solid vet like Wineland, he should be able to prove just that. With both men having a preference of striking, we could get a solid stand-and-bang brawl that turns heads. To get a more detailed look at Grigory’s journey and his strengths, click here to see Patrick Stumberg’s “New Blood” piece.
How the ‘Prelim’s’ Look:
The undercard looks pretty damn good, to be honest. If you ask me, that lineup is more than good enough to be its own fight night event, especially if you added Cerrone vs Ferguson as the headliner (Yes, I’m still harping at that). In fact, this undercard has more intriguing matchups than last week’s UFC Fight Night 153 event in Stockholm, Sweden overall.
Yes, I’m serious.
Headlining the underbelly is a women’s Strawweight showdown between top-ranked fighters Tatiana Suarez and Nina Ansaroff. Tatiana hasn’t tasted defeat in her career (7-0, 4-0 UFC) while Nina has had a career resurrection of sorts, winning four in a row. The winner should get next dibs against recently-crowned champion, Jessica Andrade. Then we have Aljamain Sterling taking on Pedro Munhoz. Both men are on three-fight win streaks and are anxiously waiting for their shot at the title. A win here for either man gets them at least one step closer. Pedro is coming off a knockout win over former champion Cody Garbrandt, while “Funkmaster” is coming off an impressive showing against Jimmie Rivera.
In more women’s’ Strawweight action, former title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz will face off against top prospect Alexa Grasso. Alexa hasn’t competed in over a year due to injury, so she is eager to get back into the mix after losing to the aforementioned Suarez in her last fight. Karolina, meanwhile, looks to erase the memory of her back-to-back losses to Jessica Andrade and Michelle Waterson with her quick turnaround.
At Featherweight, Ricardo Lamas looks to earn his first back-to-back wins since 2017 when he faces Calvin Kattar, a man who has only one loss in the last nine years. That defeat came at the hands of Renato Moicano back in 2018.
To get a better look at those matchups, as well as all of the UFC Fight Pass prelims, click here and here.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
As mentioned earlier, Karolina Kowalkiewicz has suffered back-to-back defeats, the second time she’s done so in her last six fights. If she can’t get out of her funk against Grasso, it will be a very hard climb back to another shot at the title. While she likely won’t get cut with a defeat, she still needs to get an all-important “W” if she wants to remain in the mix.
Interest Level: 8/10
While the fight card doesn’t scream stacked, it’s actually pretty solid all the way around. We get not one, but two title fights, as Valentina Shevchenko looks to defend her title for the first time against Jessica Eye, who seems to be okay to play the underdog role time and time again. After a horrid stretch that saw her lose four in a row, “Evil” has really turned it around, winning three in a row and making it to a championship fight. Meanwhile, Shevchenko finally got her hands on UFC gold after defeating Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the vacant Flyweight title in Dec. 2018. Prior to that, “Bullet” came up short in her bid to win the women’s Bantamweight title, losing a close split-decision to current champ-champ, Amanda Nunes.
Also in main card action, Petr Yan will look to continue his ascension up the 135-pound mountain when he faces Jimmie Rivera. Petr hasn’t been shy in calling out the entire weight class, title contenders included. Winner of seven in a row, including four fights inside the Octagon in an eight-month span, “No Mercy” is primed for stardom. Yan is adamant a win over “El Terror” gives him the next title shot, but Rivera is ready to stop that train dead in its tracks. After reeling off 20 straight wins over the course of nine years, Rivera has gone on to lose two of his last three to the aforementioned Moraes and Sterling. A loss to Yan will send him tumbling a bit further, and making his way back to the top will be that much harder will all of the potential flyweight’s moving up to 135 in the near future.
Kicking off the PPV card is a hard-hitting showdown between Tai Tuivasa and Blagoy Ivanov. Tai has quickly become a fan-favorite thanks to his outgoing personality and love for shoeys. Plus, the man can crack, and brings it night in and night out. After suffering the first loss of his career to Junior dos Santos, “Bam Bam” is looking to make a big statement in “Chi-Town.” After running the Heavyweight division under WSOF, Blagoy has gone a tepid 1-1 thus far inside the Octagon, with his UFC debut getting spoiled courtesy of JDS. Ivanov needs a big showing against Tuivasa if he wants to stay relevant…or even hang on to a job.
All in all, the card is filled with intriguing matchups that will have major championship implications moving forward. New contenders will rise and perhaps new champions will be crowned when it all goes down later tonight. Enjoy the fights!
Full UFC 238 Fight Card:
UFC 238 PPV Main Event:
135 lbs.: UFC Flyweight Champion Henry Cejudo vs. Marlon Moraes
UFC 238 PPV Co-Main Event:
125 lbs.: UFC Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Eye
UFC 238 PPV Main Card on ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Donald Cerrone vs. Tony Ferguson
135 lbs.: Jimmie Rivera vs. Petr Yan
265 lbs.: Blagoy Ivanov vs. Tai Tuivasa
UFC 238 Prelims on ESPN (8 p.m. ET):
115 lbs.: Nina Ansaroff vs. Tatiana Suarez
135 lbs.: Pedro Munhoz vs. Aljamain Sterling
125 lbs.: Alexa Grasso vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
145 lbs.: Calvin Kattar vs. Ricardo Lamas
UFC 238 Prelims on UFC Fight Pass (6:15 p.m. ET):
115 lbs.: Angela Hill vs. Yan Xiaonan
185 lbs.: Bevon Lewis vs. Darren Stewart
135 lbs.: Katlyn Chookagian vs. Joanne Calderwood
135 lbs.: Eddie Wineland vs. Grigory Pipov