Aljamain Sterling feels validated by some recent Bantamweight outcomes.
History was made at UFC 259 in March 2021. Albeit, it wasn’t the type of history Sterling hoped to make when he won the UFC Bantamweight title from Petr Yan via disqualification (watch highlights). A fourth-round illegal knee to a downed Sterling spelled the end to “Funkmaster,” awarding him with 135-pound gold.
Sterling (mostly) put to bed the controversy from the first fight in the pair’s rematch nearly one year later. The Uniondale, New York native defeated Yan via a split decision in their second go-around at UFC 273 in April 2022. Unfortunately for Yan, his losing ways continued after the Sterling saga, dropping two more bouts against Sean O’Malley and Sterling’s teammate, Merab Dvalishvili.
“I felt like the UFC had him as this f—king golden goose that was going to make all these eggs for them,” Sterling said on BS w/ Jake Paul (h/t BJPenn.com). “I was like dude, he isn’t as good as you guys think. This is coming from someone who’s in the sport and breaks down and analyzes the fight. I do my podcast, I break down these fights weekly. Stylistically, when I’m looking at him and seeing what he’s doing to the guys he’s fighting, he’s fighting guys that are stationary, standing right in front of him.
“He takes his time, he lets them pick his shots and then he picks his shots and he lands the better shots,” he continued. “If you get a guy who is actually trying to wrestle him, it’s a different fight, man. You saw the fight with Merab, you saw the fight with myself, even the Sean fight, you get a guy with good footwork, it’s not the same fight, man. Things like that bother me.”
The wins for O’Malley and Dvalishvili were enough to launch them up the official UFC rankings and into the No. 1 contender spot. Ultimately, O’Malley received his upcoming title shot off the “No Mercy” triumph, setting the stage for him to challenge Sterling at UFC 292 on Aug. 19, 2023.
Yan has yet to book his next fight after suffering his unanimous decision loss to Dvalishvili in March 2023.