Aljamain Sterling continued his streak of defying the odds by successfully defending his UFC title against former two-division champion, Henry Cejudo, in the main event of UFC 288. It was a closely contested bout, with Sterling showcasing his striking and grappling skills to secure a victory that was deemed just enough by two of the judges, who scored the bout 48-47 in Sterling’s favor, while the third judge scored the same 48-47 score for Cejudo.
Sterling acknowledged the difficulty of the fight and credited Cejudo for his toughness but expressed his joy at earning what he called the biggest win of his career. The 25-minute fight was a war of attrition, with both fighters having their moments, but there were no near finishes, making scoring harder.
Sterling began with a lot of movement but found himself on the mat after an attempt to close the distance backfired on him. He quickly regained his footing and resumed his strategy of keeping Cejudo at the edge of his punches and kicks.
Sterling soon regained the momentum by taking Cejudo to the ground and striking with knees to the body before nearly taking his back just before the bell. Cejudo became more aggressive in the second round, throwing power punches to try to overcome Sterling’s reach and length, but the champion was able to control the clinch and respond with his own strikes.
The third round saw Sterling working for takedowns, while Cejudo displayed his wrestling expertise by stuffing some of Sterling’s attempted moves.
The fourth and fifth rounds saw Cejudo ramping up his forward pressure, connecting with some of his best punches, but Sterling responded with a straight punch and a calf-kick that slowly wore down Cejudo’s foundation. Although Cejudo managed to land late takedowns, it was not enough to sway the judges’ decision.
After the fight, Sterling turned his attention to Sean O’Malley, calling him out and challenging him to a future fight. O’Malley accepted the challenge and had a heated exchange with Sterling, leading to a brief altercation with Sterling’s teammate Merab Dvalishvili security quickly intervened.
With his victory over Cejudo and his upcoming fight against O’Malley, Sterling is cementing his reputation as one of the top fighters in bantamweight history.