Aljamain Sterling Defends Bantamweight Title with Win by Decision vs. Henry Cejudo
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Aljamain Sterling retained his bantamweight championship and added a major bullet point to his resume with a split decision win over Henry Cejudo in the main event of UFC 288 from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
This matchup was really interesting on paper, and it played out that way from the outset. Cejudo scored an early takedown with ease but wasn’t able to do much with it. Sterling earned his own takedown later in the round and took Cejudo’s back, finishing the round with an elbow at the buzzer.
Cejudo was undeterred going into the second round, though. He seemed to make some adjustments and made it a competitive affair. There was a case for either to take the round, as both fighters had their moments.
Former UFC flyweight champion and former Cejudo opponent Demetrious Johnson weighed in with his scorecard three rounds in:
The competitiveness between the two continued into the championship rounds. Sterling continued to shoot for several takedowns from distance that were mostly ineffective but found success in the clinch with his dirty boxing.
Cejudo showed off flexibility in warding off some of the takedown attempts:
In the end, the defense wasn’t enough to get the win in the eyes of the judges.
Sterling’s rise to champion status has been a testament to development and persistence. The New Yorker debuted in the UFC in 2014 as a submission specialist who went 6-3 in his first nine fights.
Since then, he’s won nine consecutive fights and has his eyes on going down as one of the best champions of all time.
“I’m looking to be the winningest bantamweight in UFC history,” Sterling told E. Spencer Kyte of UFC.com. “I’m looking to be the first three-time defending bantamweight champion, and even with the wins in the UFC, this would be the most wins within the Top 5.”
Sterling now has three consecutive title defenses, and each of them has come against a former UFC champion. He originally took the belt from Petr Yan and notched another win against him in the rematch. Then came a defense against T.J. Dillashaw, and now he adds Cejudo.
The loss for the 36-year-old Cejudo leaves his future in question. This was his first fight since retiring three years ago. The former Olympic gold medalist and two-division UFC champion was hoping to once again have gold around his waist.
Instead, Sterling used his name to bolster his own legacy.