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Monday Morning Hangover: What’s next for Aljamain Sterling after brutal loss at UFC 292?

UFC 292 went down this past weekend (Sat., Aug. 19, 2023) inside TD Garden in Boston, Mass., leaving several combatants feeling the post-fight blues. Among them was Chris Weidman, who was beat down by Brad Tavares, suffering another leg injury in the process.

And Amanda Lemos, who came up short in her bid to dethrone Zhang Weili from the top of the women’s Strawweight mountain, losing a one-sided unanimous decision (recap here). But which fighter is suffering from the worst post-fight hangover, now a few days removed from the show?

Aljamain Sterling.

Coming into his main event Bantamweight title fight against Sean O’Malley, “Funk Master” had already declared that it would likely be his last bout in the division because he had plans to move up to Featherweight in an attempt to win that strap, too. And that move would have been solidified with one more defense of his 135-pound title.

But the script did not go as Sterling planned because early in round two he fell victim to a perfectly-placed right counter from "Suga" that dropped him on his face. He did attempt to recover, but O’Malley was all over him, using his length to rain down power punches that ultimately forced the referee on duty to call the fight (full video replay here).

While many felt the stoppage was premature, it seemed warranted for most.

After the tough loss, Sterling was all respect toward the new champion during his in-Octagon interview, as well as backstage during the post-fight presser (watch it here). Nevertheless, the now-former champion says he’s earned the right to a rematch.

“[An immediate rematch] is 100 percent what I would like the most. And it’s not saying, like, Sean doesn’t deserve- he could go out there and beat me again; I think it just strengthens his case that he’s as good as he says he is. But, I think I’ve earned it. I would like to think that I’ve earned my right to get an immediate rematch.”

Whether or not the promotion grants him his wish remains to be seen, but O’Malley already has his sights set on his first title defense against bitter rival, Marlon Vera, who defeated Pedro Munhoz earlier that same night on UFC 292’s pay-per-view (PPV) card (recap here). Not to mention, if Sterling does get a rematch and wins, then it will likely setup a trilogy fight and further delay Merab Dvalishvili’s wish to fight for the belt, which was one of the reasons “Funk Master” wanted to move up in the first place (details here).

All that said, if Sterling did already have plans to move up to 145 pounds, stick with that and let the 135-pound weight class move on. While an immediate title fight against Alexander Volkanovski won’t be in the books as a result of the loss, perhaps a showdown against Yair Rodriguez could be.

“Pantera” was the last man to face Volkanovski, losing to the champion via third round technical knockout. If Sterling can defeat the Mexican-born sensation then he will be right in the thick of the championship picture. If he does stay at 135 pounds, the only fight that seemingly makes sense (other than an O'Malley rematch) is a bout against the aforementioned Vera. That's because Sterling has already faced and defeated every fighter ranked from No. 3 to No. 5 ... and Vera sits at No. 6.

For complete UFC 292: ‘Sterling vs. O’Malley’ results and play-by-play, click HERE.

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