Weekend Warrior: Chicago Feels UFC’s Winds of Change

Photo: Sarah Stier (Getty Images)

Henry Cejudo has fixed his sights on history.

The reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight titleholder will face Marlon Moraes for the vacant bantamweight crown, as he seeks to become the fourth simultaneous two-division champion in the promotion’s history in the UFC 238 headliner on Saturday at the United Center in Chicago. T.J. Dillashaw vacated the bantamweight title in March after he tested positive for the performance enhancer recombinant human erythropoietin.

Hall call: 5 Things You Should Know About Former UFC Champion Rashad Evans

Few in mixed martial arts possess Cejudo’s amateur pedigree. He hit paydirt in freestyle wrestling at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, where he became the youngest American to win a gold medal in the discipline. Cejudo was also a three-time gold medalist at the Pan American Championships and a onetime winner at the Pan American Games. The 32-year-old Los Angeles native made the transition to MMA in 2013 and has compiled a stellar 14-2 record since, with wins over Jussier da Silva, Wilson Reis, Sergio Pettis and Demetrious Johnson. Cejudo last competed at UFC Fight Night 143, where he retained his flyweight championship with a 32-second technical knockout of Dillashaw on Jan. 19.

UFC Chicago

Henry Cejudo kicks TJ Dillashaw. Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC (Getty Images)

Moraes has pieced together a four-fight winning streak since a controversial decision defeat to Raphael Assuncao in his organizational debut at UFC 212 in 2017. The former World Series of Fighting champion sports 16 finishes among his 22 professional victories, six by submission and 10 by knockout or technical knockout. Moraes, 31, last appeared at UFC Fight Night 144 in February, when he avenged the aforementioned loss to Assuncao by submitting the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with a first-round guillotine choke.

Meanwhile, Valentina Shevchenko puts the women’s flyweight title on the line against Jessica Eye in the co-main event at 125 pounds. UFC 238 “Cejudo vs. Moraes”—which airs live on ESPN+ pay-per-view at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT—also features a lightweight showcase matching Tony Ferguson with Donald Cerrone, a bantamweight clash pitting Jimmie Rivera against Petr Yan and a heavyweight tilt pairing Blagoy Ivanov with Tai Tuivasa. ESPN (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) and UFC Fight Pass (6:15 p.m. ET/3:15 p.m. PT) will share coverage of the eight-fight undercard.

Beauty among the Beasts: UFC Octagon Girl Arianny Celeste Sets Instagram on Fire

UFC Chicago

Marlon Moraes punches Aljamain Sterling. Photo: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC (Getty Images)

The all-female Invicta Fighting Championships promotion holds down the fort on the regional scene with Invicta 35 on Friday at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. Scheduled to stream live to UFC Fight Pass at 8 p.m. ET, the event will be headlined by the flyweight tournament final between DeAnna Bennett and Karina Rodriguez. Bennett eked out a split decision over Rodriguez in March 2018.

Follow Mandatory on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.