UFC 288 Prop Bets: 8 Picks, Including Sterling vs. Cejudo, Muhammad vs. Burns (Saturday, May 6)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: UFC bantamweight Henry Cejudo
- If you're looking for UFC props for UFC 288 tonight, the MMA Prop Squad has you covered.
- We've got prop bets for the Aljamain Sterling vs. Henry Cejudo headliner and many other bouts.
- Check out all of our favorite UFC 288 prop betting angles and our analysis below.
Welcome to the latest edition of MMA Prop Squad, in which we offer an array of UFC 288 prop bets with oversized odds for Saturday’s event.
Each Prop Squad installment features a handful of picks from our squad of prop-betting enthusiasts, who have tallied +35.5 units and a +22.4% ROI to date.
We’ve got a full squad this week with bets from Tony Sartori, Billy Ward, Liam Heslin, Dan Tom, Clint MacLean, Bryan Fonseca and Dann Stupp.
Check out their picks for Saturday’s event, which streams (6:30 p.m. ET) on ESPN+ and ESPN+ PPV from Newark, New Jersey, below.
As with all betting endeavors, always wager within your means. That guidance is especially important when dealing with prop bets. Although the props often offer tantalizing odds, they also cash far less frequently than standard bet types. And be sure to shop around for the best price since prop odds can vary substantially depending on the sportsbook.
Tony Sartori: Joseph Holmes by Submission (+410)
Contributor at The Action Network
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 6:25 p.m. ET
In the UFC 288 opener, we have a middleweight bout between Joseph Holmes and Claudio Ribeiro. Both guys are looking for a bounce-back performance following a loss in their most recent fights.
The bigger fighter in this scrap, Holmes boasts a three-inch height and reach advantage. However, despite this size differential, I still believe Holmes will attempt to bring this fight to the mat, a place where he is more comfortable.
A Contender Series veteran, Holmes has posted six of eight professional victories via submission. With an incredible knack for finding the neck from behind, five of those six submission victories came via rear-naked choke.
This is where Ribeiro could get in trouble. Although only one of his three professional losses came via submission, it was by rear-naked choke against Guilherme Miranda in his pro debut.
Holmes’ submission prop is likely so long in this contest because Ribeiro has yet to get taken down in the UFC. However, his Contender Series fight against Ivan Valenzuela lasted less than 30 seconds, and his other opponent, Abdul Razak Alhassan, is not known for his grappling or takedown game.
My main concern in backing Holmes to win via submission is that he may want to utilize his size advantage to keep Ribeiro at distance, but at better than 4-1, it is worth taking a flier on Holmes to resort to what he does best.
The Pick: Joseph Holmes by submission (+410 at BetRivers)
Billy Ward: SGP – Braxton Smith by KO & Under 2.5 (+650)
Staff Writer at The Action Network
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 7:25 p.m. ET
The UFC has an insatiable need to subject us to at least one lower-level heavyweight fight every event, and this week it’s Parker Porter against Braxton Smith.
Porter is a veteran of the how-is-this-guy-in-the-UFC half of the heavyweight division, with a 3-3 UFC record. Anytime he’s attempted to fight even slightly tougher competition, it’s gone poorly, with three first-round losses – most recently in just over a minute against 5-3 Justin Tafa in February.
A bad knockout that came that recently isn’t a great sign for Porter’s chin, which could be starting to fail him as he gets up there in years (38) and knockout losses (four).
On the other side we have Smith, who has five wins in the last calendar year, all of them by knockout. Only one of those went over the two-minute mark – and then by only three seconds. The level of competition was low, but he clearly has the power to make short work of less-athletic heavyweights.
I have major concerns about Smith’s cardio, though, and am fully planning on placing a live bet on Porter if he makes it more than a couple of minutes. I’d be genuinely shocked if Smith won the fight – but not this prop, though. So, getting it at +650 when his moneyline is +140 or so is a big edge.
The Pick: Braxton Smith by knockout & Under 2.5 minutes same game parlay (+650 at DraftKings)
Liam Heslin: Virna Jandiroba by Submission (+475)
Contributor at The Action Network and host of Liam Picks Fights
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 7:55 p.m. ET
Virna Jandiroba is one of the most underrated fighters in the women’s strawweight division. She is one year younger than Marina Rodriguez, significantly more well-versed on the mat, and she returns to the division looking as physically imposing as ever.
Rodriguez has been plagued with poor takedown defense her entire career, but she has shown admirable submission defense along the way. However, Jandiroba has the grappling chops and the 13 submission victories in tow that suggest she could become the first woman to submit Rodriguez.
This is bolstered by the fact that Rodriguez is returning quickly after her first finish loss in the UFC, which came against Amanda Lemos. Predicting fighter motivation is difficult, but this could be a flat version of Rodriguez compared to a highly motivated Jandiroba.
If you have access to an inside-the-distance price at 4-1, I would prefer to have coverage of a positional TKO from Jandiroba, but the “Jandiroba wins via submission” bet at +475 is also a reasonable play given the stylistic dynamic. If Jandiroba is to win and outperform her moneyline, she is likely to be in dominant grappling positions throughout the fight.
The Pick: Virna Jandiroba via submission (+475 at BetRivers)
Dan Tom: Kennedy Nzechukwu in Round 2 (+500), Round 3 (+1100)
Contributor at The Action Network and host of the Protect Ya’ Neck podcast
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 8:55 p.m. ET
This week, I decided to go back to the well with some round props, targeting a preliminary bout between Devin Clark (+144) and Kennedy Nzechukwu (-174).
Clark can be a real Jekyll and Hyde in regard to the performances you get from him, but range strikes and southpaws have traditionally made him uncomfortable on the feet.
🧵🪡 #TheSouthpawReport for #UFC288:
• Devin Clark, who faces southpaw Kennedy Nzechukwu, is 1-1 opposite UFC-level lefties (W: M. Rodriguez, L: A. Murzakanov)
Clark was able to dog out takedowns against Rodriguez but got hit with some classic southpaw weapons in both outings pic.twitter.com/hCGjo9aMeJ
— Dan Tom (@DanTomMMA) May 5, 2023
I still give Clark a decent edge when it comes to wrestling, but Nzechukwu – who is still young in the game – has shown marked improvements in that department.
Nzechukwu has also shown impeccable proprioception in recent outings, displaying the ability to knee opposition in transition.
Should Nzechukwu survive an expected fast start from Clark, then I suspect that the Fortis MMA product’s finishing prowess will be too potent in Rounds 2 and 3. So, I will split my Prop Squad bet and put my small sprinkle on these two plays.
The Pick: Kennedy Nzechukwu wins in Round 2 (+500 at DraftKings), Round 3 (+1100 at DraftKings)
Clint MacLean: Belal Muhammad by KO (+550)
Contributor at The Action Network and host of the Die Hard MMA Podcast
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 11:25 p.m. ET
Belal Muhammad is finally in a No. 1 contenders fight, according to Dana White at the UFC 288 press conference. Muhammad has been the darkhorse at 170 pounds for years and had his last opportunity yanked from him when the current champion poked him in the eye.
Since that fight was ruled a no-contest, Muhammad has been out for blood. I know he has a reputation for being pillow-fisted, but if you watch his more recent fights, it’s apparent he’s been working on his striking. His boxing was on display against Vicente Luque, and he used excellent footwork to set up his combinations. Muhammad really boxed up Luque that night, and he finished Sean Brady via TKO in his most recent fight.
Muhammad draws fan favorite Gilbert Burns on Saturday, and the key here is that the fight is a five-round co-main event. Burns is a spectacular finisher, but he is built for three rounds. Even looking at his fight with “Wonderboy” Thompson in which he had a massive grappling advantage, he was struggling and slowing down in the later rounds. Now imagine what will happen to his cardio in a short-notice fight against a strong wrestler who is more than capable of going a full 25 minutes hard.
I believe Muhammad will put a pace on Burns both striking and grappling, and as Burns wilts deep in the fight, Muhammad’s crisp hands will find their way to what is a slightly suspect chin.
Give me Muhammad to KO Burns in or around Round 4 and finally lock up that elusive title shot.
Pick: Belal Muhammad by KO (+500)
Bryan Fonseca: Aljamain Sterling by Submission in Round 1-3 (+550)
Contributor at The Action Network and combat sports host and on-air talent
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 11:55 p.m. ET
I think Aljamain Sterling, the most controversial – some would say luckiest – champion in the UFC, gets it done. And, if he does, people will likely discount his victory, saying he defeated a man coming back from a three-year layoff.
Aljamain Sterling likely wins by decision if he does it all, but the case to sprinkle on the longshot submission – hard as it will be to ground Cejudo – is as follows.
Sterling, who has eight submissions – four in the UFC – will have the ring rust advantage over Cejudo following his challenger’s multi-year retirement. It will be advantageous for Sterling, who fought twice in 2022, to test Cejudo early, but his striking – improved, sure – may not be enough to keep the stronger Cejudo at a distance.
Sterling will need to be crafty when shooting for takedowns and attacking in the clinch, but pressuring Cejudo early could work if he’s smart. If he could ground Cejudo at all early, that’s a win. Working for position, making the fight an ugly one would also be Sterling’s best chance to tire out the former champ. Sterling is likely not going to outstrike or outland him unless Cejudo is just entirely off his game and bit off more than he could chew in his comeback.
The later the fight goes might be better for Sterling, but he’d be wise to pounce early and test Cejudo in unconventional ways. His submission of choice is a rear-nake choke to finish, but Sterling has more in his arsenal he’s showcased, including guillotines, D’arce attempts, and the innovative Suloev stretch against Cody Stamann five years ago.
Pick: Aljamain Sterling to win by submission in Rounds 1, 2 or 3 (+550)
Dann Stupp: Henry Cejudo by KO (+380)
Senior Editor at The Action Network
Fighter walkouts: Approx. 11:55 p.m. ET
After a pretty successful 2022 MMA betting campaign, I’ve found wins a little more difficult to register in 2023. And perhaps that’s made me a bit overly cautious, but for Saturday’s UFC 288 main event, I’m OK being on both sides of this fight.
With Henry Cejudo’s return from a long layoff prompting so many unknowns, I’m actually on champ Aljamain Sterling for a straight-up moneyline bet. But I’m going to hedge a bit – because I think we’re getting to a pretty good price on Cejudo to win via KO (+380). In my mind, it’s his most likely avenue to victory.
As I discussed in our UFC 288 preview show below, I think Sterling’s funky brand of jiu-jitsu could be Cejudo’s kryptonite, especially if the Olympic gold medalist and former two-division champ has lost a step during his three years away. Plus, as I discussed in our UFC 288 preview video below, fighters 35+ have abysmal results (2-28) in UFC title fights at 170 pounds or lighter, which doesn’t bode well for Cejudo.
But as they say, power is one of the last things to go in an aging fighter, and Cejudo can straight-up wallop a dude. Just ask half of the fighters he defeated, including the past three in T.J. Dillashaw, Marlon Moraes and Dominick Cruz. (That list ain’t too shabby, eh?)
Sterling has been knocked out only once in his career. But he’s also faced few fighters who possess the type of lighter-division power that Cejudo does. I’ll take +380 odds (implied win probability of 20.1%) to hedge my Sterling bet in case Cejudo shows up and makes us look silly for ever doubting the King of Cringe.
Pick: Henry Cejudo by KO (+380)
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