Aljamain Sterling’s first fight in Boston, Mass., didn’t go as planned at UFC 292 this past weekend (Sat., Aug. 19, 2023) in TD Garden, dropping his Bantamweight belt to budding 135-pound superstar, Sean O’Malley, via second round technical knockout (watch highlights).
Sterling was a picture of confidence ahead of his bout with the outspoken Dana White’s Contender Series alum and, in hindsight, some question if it was overconfidence. “Funkmaster’s” patented wrestling game and ability to smother opponents was nowhere to be seen against O’Malley. And ahead of the bout, the now-former champion even asked his most recent rival, Henry Cejudo, how he should approach the match up.
“Let me let you in on a little secret, everybody,” Cejudo said on his YouTube channel in the video embedded above. “I was helping out ‘Aljo’ with the gameplan, but he absolutely followed none of it!
“This is all in the DM,” he continued. “‘What are you expecting him to do tomorrow night? Might as well ask your opinion.’ And I said this, listen to me, ‘He’s going to counter you or move like crazy. He doesn’t have the ability to stick to the center. Stick to your gameplan, push him against the cage. Easy money. But, I’ll be next, tell ‘Merat’ (Merab Dvalishvili) to get ready.’ He’s continuing the conversation, ‘Merab, winky face. I think his strength won’t be there but he’ll be wiry with his height and length. Just gotta be smart closing the distance and cut his ass off.’”
Sterling got by Cejudo via hard-fought split decision at UFC 288 in May 2023. The former two-division UFC champion was originally slated to return on the same night as Sterling, competing opposite another 135-pound contender, Marlon “Chito” Vera. Unfortunately for Cejudo, a shoulder injury led to his withdrawal and replacement by Pedro Munhoz.
Before facing Sterling, Cejudo had hopes fighting O’Malley after reclaiming the title he never lost in May 2020 when he stepped away from mixed martial arts (MMA). A clash with the rainbow-haired warrior is still possible, but Cejudo felt his chances at getting back to a title fight were better had Sterling won and vacated in pursuit of the Featherweight division as he planned.
“I want you guys to listen to what I’m telling him,” Cejudo said. “Because everything that happened in the fight just happened. Watch, ‘Defense is No. 1, hands up and close the distance right away. Doesn’t matter how you close. He’ll be dangerous at the beginning of round one and two but don’t give him that.’
“Then Saturday I’m just thinking I really want to know if Aljamain’s going to really bite into the fakes of Sean O’Malley,” he added. “Now this is Saturday, ‘Hey, one more thing. Don’t react to his fakes. He starts his game like that. If you go away he starts to figure out his distance. Good luck, break a nail,’ with a little kissy. Did Aljamain do any of that? No.”
For complete UFC 292: ‘Sterling vs. O’Malley’ results and play-by-play, click HERE.