Aljamain Sterling and Henry Cejudo put on an intense and evenly-matched fight in the main event of UFC 288 on Saturday in Newark, N.J. Sterling ultimately won the fight in a split decision, but it was a close call, with two judges awarding him the victory by a score of 48-47 and the third judge scoring it for Cejudo by an equally narrow margin.
The judges were all in agreement on a few key points: Sterling won the first and fourth rounds, while Cejudo took the third. However, the second and fifth rounds were up for grabs, and it was these disputed frames that ultimately tipped the scorecards in Sterling’s favor.
Neither fighter was able to fully take control of the striking or grappling phases of the fight, with both men struggling to assert themselves for any extended period of time. Sterling appeared to have the edge in the standup exchanges, but Cejudo held his own despite this being his first fight since 2020.
With this latest victory, Sterling has successfully defended his title three times in a row, setting a new record for the best streak of any bantamweight champion in UFC history. Two of these defenses have been won by split decision.
The judges’ decision was a controversial one, with fans split almost right down the middle on whether or not they got it right. Nonetheless, it was a hard-fought battle from two top-tier fighters, each of whom had moments of brilliance and tenacity throughout the fight. Ultimately, Sterling emerged as the victor, but just barely.