At UFC 228, three pivotal top #10 bantamweight bouts entertained spectators watching across the world, and various questions were answered.
First off was Aljamain Sterling vs. Pedro Munhoz, a fight many were regarding a number one contender matchup. It did not disappoint, as both men threw caution to the wind and used their impressive skillset to put on an entertaining bout for the fans. Sterling’s precise and technical striking was enough to earn him the unanimous decision victory. In his post-fight interview, “Funkmaster” called out the winner of the main event…
In the second bantamweight bout of the evening, Petr Yan once again proved why he is one of the division’s very best. Yan was able to knock his opponent down twice and take him down, securing a unanimous decision.
The final 135-pound fight of the evening was the main event, where flyweight king Henry Cejudo became the fourth simultaneous “Champ Champ” in UFC history. The American has his sights set on the pound-for-pound throne and has already cemented his place as one of the greatest combat sports athletes of all time.
With Cejudo planning to defend both belts, there’s already debate over which bantamweight deserves the next shot.
Aljamain Sterling is the man for the job.
Aljamain Sterling’s streak
In 2017, Aljamain Sterling suffered his third professional loss inside the octagon, where a knee from top contender Marlon Moraes knocked him unconscious. The loss hit Sterling hard and only made him a better mixed martial artist.
Since that defeat, Sterling has won four fights in a row, with three being over top #10 opposition. His submission win in September of last year over Cody Stamann earned him extreme notoriety, as it was nominated for “Submission of the Year” by numerous media outlets.
“Funkmaster” has also defeated Jimmie Rivera; he outpointed the crafty veteran to force his name into title contention. On top of beating two top-class fighters like Stamann and Rivera, the 29-year-old soundly defeated Pedro Munhoz at UFC 228.
A win such as this one solidifies Sterling’s bid for an opportunity to face Henry Cejudo for the bantamweight title. However, the two weight world champion has a difficult decision to make – does he defend the flyweight or bantamweight throne first?
At this very moment, there is no clear number one contender at 125-pounds. Top-ranked Joseph Benavidez is scheduled to face Jussier Formiga later this month, but who knows if the winner will receive a title shot; history is proof that the number one contender can be overlooked in replacement for a more popular, ‘entertaining’ fighter.
In this particular situation, it makes sense for Henry Cejudo to defend the bantamweight championship first. Not only for his personal preferences, but a matchup with Aljamain Sterling is more than just intriguing.
Both men possess incredible wrestling ability. Cejudo may be the superior wrestler on paper, but “Funkmaster” has the ability to deny and escape the Olympian’s takedown attempts through his unorthodox scrambling techniques.
Henry Cejudo has an ever-improving boxing game that looks more and more impressive with each Octagon appearance. His hand speed and power give him the opportunity to finish the fight whether it’s on the feet or the canvas. His comeback victory versus Marlon Moraes showcases this, along with his resilience and determination which only gets stronger as the occasion gets bigger.
Aljamain Sterling brings volume, precision, and range, all of which can and will cause problems for the newly crowned bantamweight champion. His distinct size advantage will give him a chance to piece up his opponent at range, and if done successfully, will result in less damage being consumed on his part.
For now, it is unclear how long both men will out of competition, but if all goes to plan we could see one of the most interesting bantamweight title fights of all time.
Steven specialises in MMA and Lethwei. He loves a good 1-2 down the middle.