What’s next for the stars of UFC 288?

By Cole Shelton - May 8, 2023

The UFC returned to Newark, New Jersey on Saturday for UFC 288 which saw the men’s bantamweight title on the line.

Aljamain Sterling, Henry Cejudo, UFC 288

In the main event, Aljamain Sterling was looking to defend his bantamweight title for the third consecutive time as he was taking on the former flyweight and bantamweight champion, Henry Cejudo. The co-main event was a five-round welterweight scrap between Belal Muhammad and Gilbert Burns.

In the end, it was Sterling winning by split decision in a very competitive that was back-and-forth to defend his title. The co-main event saw Muhammad win a one-sided decision as he arguably won all five rounds against Burns. Now, after UFC 288, here is what I think should be next for these four fighters involved in the main and co-main events of UFC 288.

Aljamain Sterling

Aljamain Sterling has defended his bantamweight title for the third consecutive time which sets the record for most consecutive defenses at 135lbs. Sterling found success with his range and grappling early on in the contest, with Cejudo having success in the fifth and final round. Ultimately it was too little too late for ‘Triple C’, as Sterling got the nod from two of the three judges scoring the fight.

After the official UFC 288 main event result was announced, Sean O’Malley came into the Octagon to faceoff with Sterling to set up the next fight. It will be a massive bout that Dana White said is targeted for Boston in August. However, Sterling said he prefers September, but regardless of the date, Sterling-O’Malley is next.

Henry Cejudo

Henry Cejudo ended his three-year-long retirement to come back and try and reclaim his bantamweight title. Unfortunately, the ring rust did look like it played a role as he struggled with the range early on.

After the loss, Cejudo wasn’t sure if he would fight again but he changed his tune as on Monday he called out Merab Dvalishvili. With Sterling still the champ, Dvalishvili won’t be fighting for the title anytime soon. With that, a bout against Cejudo makes a lot of sense, and it should happen on the same card as Sterling vs. O’Malley.

Belal Muhammad

Gilbert Burns Belal Muhammad

(via Cooper Neil/Zuffa LLC)

Belal Muhammad came off of Ramadan to accept a short notice five-round fight against Gilbert Burns and he had a dominating performance winning every single round.

Although Muhammad stepped up on short notice, Colby Covington will still get the next title shot against Leon Edwards, most likely in the fall. With that, Muhammad can likely weigh in as the backup fighter and face the winner sometime in the first quarter of 2024 as the title fight has to be next for him.

Gilbert Burns

Gilbert Burns made a quick turnaround after his win over Jorge Masvidal to face Belal Muhammad but the fight did not go his way. He appeared to hurt his arm in the first round which no doubt impacted the way he fought.

After already fighting three times this year, Burns should take plenty of time off and look to return sometime in late 2023. When he does return, a logical next fight is to face Geoff Neal who’s coming off a stoppage loss to Shavkat Rakhmonov as both need to string together a few wins to get back in the title picture.

What do you think should be next for the stars of UFC 288?

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Aljamain Sterling Belal Muhammad Gilbert Burns Henry Cejudo UFC UFC 288