UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling once again showed his grit and resolve as he outpointed returning former two-division champion Henry Cejudo at UFC 288.
Sterling retained his undisputed UFC bantamweight title via split decision at the Prudential Center to extend his remarkable run of fork to nine straight wins as he turned back the challenge of Cejudo with a gutsy display in Newark, New Jersey.
The action was fast, furious and evenly contested as Sterling and Cejudo both placed their faith in their wrestling and scrambling skills, while the striking exchanges saw Sterling punish the challenger with leg kicks, while also using his reach advantage effectively with a smartly-deployed jab.
Ahead of the fight, Cejudo had highlighted the difference in the level of wrestling pedigree between the pair, but in the Octagon, Sterling’s Division III collegiate wrestling skills were a worthy match for Cejudo’s Olympic gold medal-winning wrestling. Both men scored takedowns over the other, with Sterling earning four takedowns to Cejudo’s three.
It was a similar story on the feet, with Sterling comfortably outlanding Cejudo with significant strikes in Rounds 1, 3, and 4, while Cejudo narrowly edged Rounds 2 and 5. But, in terms of the in-cage action, the rounds were at times almost too close to call.
Predictably, the scorecards were all over the place, with the three judges, Mike Bell, Derek Cleary, and Eric Colon, only agreeing on three of the rounds: Round 1 (to Sterling), Round 3 (to Cejudo), and Round 4 (to Sterling). The second and fifth rounds split the scorers, leading to a split-decision verdict, with Bell’s 48-47 scorecard for Cejudo overruled by Cleary and Colon’s cards, which both saw it 48-47 to Sterling.
It meant “Funkmaster” retained his title and added the name of another legend to his resume. But there was little time for Sterling to bask in the victory, as his next challenger, Sean O’Malley, was brought into the Octagon to face off with the champion in a heated face-to-face confrontation ahead of a title clash later this year.
UFC 288: Official results
- Aljamain Sterling def. Henry Cejudo via split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47) – for bantamweight title
- Belal Muhammad def. Gilbert Burns via unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-46)
- Yan Xiaonan def. Jessica Andrade via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 2:20
- Movsar Evloev def. Diego Lopes via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Charles Jourdain def. Kron Gracie via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Matt Frevola def. Drew Dober via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 4:08
- Kennedy Nzechuwu def. Devin Clark via technical submission (guillotine choke) – Round 2, 2:28
- Khaos Williams def. Rolando Bedoya via split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28)
- Virna Jandiroba def. Marina Rodriquez via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Parker Porter def. Braxton Smith via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 2:10
- Ikram Aliskerov def. Phil Hawes via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 2:10
- Claudio Ribeiro def. Joseph Holmes via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 3:21