For the first time in his career, Aljamain Sterling, the bantamweight champion headlined a UFC event against former champion Henry Cejudo, and Sterling did not disappoint. Sterling was able to defeat Cejudo in a close split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47) and as a result he has now defended his bantamweight title successfully for the third consecutive time. Currently, Sterling has defeated three former champions in Petr Yan, T.J Dillashaw and Henry Cejudo.
In a welterweight eliminator match, Belal Muhammad defeated Gilbert Burns by unanimous decision and will now face the winner of Leon Edwards and Colby Covington in the fall. With UFC 288 in the books, here are the major takeaways from fight night:
Aljamain Sterling is legit- What a story arc for Sterling. When he first became champion off a DQ from an illegal Petr Yan knee, many saw Sterling as a paper champion. Ever since then, all Sterling has done is dominate Yan in a rematch, defeat two-time bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw and defeat former Olympic gold medalist and former UFC champion Henry Cejudo in consecutive fights. With his win over Cejudo, Sterling is now in the conversation as one of the best ever in his division. His next opponent is top contender Sean O’Malley who got into a heated verbal altercation with Sterling after the match:
If Sterling wins and defends his title for a fourth consecutive time, he would move up a weight class to take on Alexander Volkanovski and challenge him for the featherweight championship.
Henry Cejudo eyes Merab– After taking three years off from competitive fighting, Cejudo was impressive in his loss to Sterling. After the fight it seemed that he was ready to retire. But it seems that has changed and Cejudo wants to fight Sterling’s teammate and top bantamweight contender Merab Dvalishvili. Cejudo took to twitter to call out Merab:
To which Dvalishvili responded:
Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad are warriors: Gilbert Burns fought a month ago after he successfully defeated Jorge Masvidal. He took a fight against Belal Muhammad and fought in less than a calendar month with a separated shoulder. The 36-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist is fearless and has taken on all the top contenders, not making excuses for injuries, nor pulling out of fights when other fighters would have done so. Belal Muhammad also took the fight on short notice, with only a month of training camp and coming out of a month-long fasting cycle because of Ramadan. Muhammad was very impressive in his victory over Burns and has now earned the right to fight for the title after the Edwards- Covington fight sometime in the fall. After the fight Dana White talked about how much heart Burns showed by fighting injured and for the second time in less than a month:
He also confirmed that Muhammad is in prime position for a title shot after his win over Burns:
UFC 288 card and results:
Aljamain Sterling (c) def. Henry Cejudo via split decision
Belal Muhammad def. Gilbert Burns via unanimous decision
Xiaonan Yan def. Jessica Andrade via first-round knockout
Movsar Evloev def. Diego Lopes via unanimous decision
Charles Jourdain def. Kron Gracie via unanimous decision
Matt Frevola def. Drew Dober via first-round TKO
Kennedy Nzechukwu def. Devin Clark via second-round submission
Khaos William def. Rolando Bedoya via split decision
Virna Jandiroba def. Marina Rodriguez via unanimous decision
Parker Porter def. Braxton Smith via first-round TKO
Ikram Aliskerov def. Phil Hawes via first-round knockout
Claudio Ribeiro def. Joseph Holmes via second-round TKO
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