For the first defense of his bantamweight belt, 135-pound champion Henry Cejudo will venture into enemy territory to take on former featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo in the UFC 250 main event.
The show will be held in Aldo’s native country of Brazil in Sao Paulo. Cejudo has fought twice in Mexico and once in Canada during his MMA career. He won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and another gold medal at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio, so he has competed in Brazil before.
On Feb. 26, 5Dimes opened Cejudo (15-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) as a -195 favorite. The number dipped as low as -175 before settling at -185 over the last few days. Aldo is a +160 underdog.
Aldo (28-6 MMA, 10-5 UFC) will be competing at bantamweight for only the second time. He actually lost a controversial split decision to Marlon Moraes at UFC 245, but MajorWager scored the bout in favor of Aldo by a 29-28 score.
The 18 media members for MMADecisions were a split right down the middle, with nine scoring it for Aldo and the other nine giving it to Moraes. All three judges gave Moraes the first round and Aldo the second stanza, so it was the third and final round that was heavily disputed.
UFC President Dana White scored it for Aldo and was emphatic about it at the UFC 245 post-fight presser. White said, “You can’t run away from your opponent for two rounds and win.”
White wasn’t lying. The 33-year-old Aldo was pushing a frenetic pace in the final two rounds, keeping Moraes backpedaling and avoiding the action for most of the 10 minutes.
Aldo has lost four of his last six fights. He lost by third-round knockout to Max Holloway to lose his featherweight strap at UFC 212, and then lost by third-round KO again in the rematch at UFC 218.
After briefly mulling retirement, Aldo decided to return to the Octagon to face Jeremy Stephens on July 28 of 2018. After getting rocked by multiple strikes from Stephens in the opening minute, Aldo valiantly rallied and eventually finished ‘Little Heathen’ via first-round KO at the 4:19 mark of Round 1.
Next, Aldo scored a second-round KO over Renato Moicano on Feb. 2 of 2019. He garnered Performance of the Night bonuses in both wins over Stephens and Moicano.
Since then, however, Aldo dropped a unanimous decision to Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 237 in Rio prior to the Moraes scrap.
Cejudo pushed to defend his belt against Aldo, which is extremely rare considering how Aldo is off back-to-back defeats. However, Cejudo won the strap vacated by T.J. Dillashaw (two-year USADA suspension) by beating Moraes with a third-round KO, so there’s some logic in it since Cejudo and Aldo have never squared off.
Cejudo is on an incredible roll. He has won five consecutive fights, ending the epic, 11-fight and six-year run of Demetrious Johnson as the promotion’s only flyweight champion by defeating him by split decision at UFC 227.
Then Dillashaw wanted to drop down from bantamweight to 125 pounds in an attempt to become a double champ. Even though Dillashaw tested positive for EPO — the same drug that Lance Armstrong was famously busted for — in pre and post-fight testing, Cejudo ended him quickly with a 32-second KO.
Making Cejudo’s win over Moraes more impressive was the fact that he did so with a badly sprained ankle that was still purple after the fight. Cejudo had injured it in training a week or two prior to the bout.
Two other UFC 250 fights have been issued odds. Former heavyweight champ Fabricio Werdum make his return to face Aleksei ‘The Boa Constrictor’ Oleinik in a battle of submission specialists.
Werdum (23-8-1 MMA, 9-3 UFC) has been out since March of 2018 after being issued a two-year USADA suspension. The 42-year-old Brazilian won his first six UFC fights, including a third-round submission win over Cain Velasquez to win the heavyweight title at UFC 188.
Werdum lost his belt by first-round KO to Stipe Miocic at UFC 198. Since then, he is 3-2 with wins over Travis Browne, Walt Harris and Marcin Tybura. Werdum lost his last bout to Alexander Volkov via fourth-round KO in the UFC London headliner.
Oleinik (58-13-1 MMA, 7-4 UFC) is also 42 years old. The Russian has won POTN bonuses in five of his seven victories in the Octagon. He owns the only two wins by Ezekiel choke in UFC history, including one over Viktor Pesta when Pesta had Oleinik in full mount.
Oleinik’s most notable career scalps have come over Mirko Cro Cop, Anthony Hamilton, Jared Rosholt, Browne, Mark Hunt and Maurice Green.
Most books have Werdum as a -195 favorite, leaving Oleinik as a +160 underdog.
Brazilian legends Shogun Rua and Antonio Rogerio ‘Lil Nog’ Nogueira will complete their trilogy. Most spots have Rua listed as a -300 favorite, with Nogueira as a +240 ‘dog.
The 43-year-old Lil Nog is 2-4 in his last six fights and this is probably his retirement bout. He’s lost both previous meetings with Rua, including a UD at Pride Critical Countdown 2005 in the Middleweight Grand Prix quarterfinals 15 years ago.
The rematch was at UFC 190 in Rio on Aug. 1 of 2015, with Rua winning another UD (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Rua (26-11-1 MMA, 10-9-1 UFC), the 38-year-old former UFC light heavyweight champ and former Pride middleweight kingpin, is 4-1-1 in his last six fights. He fought Paul Craig to a split draw last November in Sao Paulo.