March 15, 2024

Five Star Sport

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Sterling Beats Cejudo to Retain UFC Bantamweight Title

3 min read
Sterling Beats Cejudo to Retain UFC Bantamweight Title

After a three-year absence, Henry Cejudo, a former two-division champion, was welcomed back to the UFC but fell short to Sterling by split decision.

In the main event of UFC 288 in Newark, New Jersey, Aljamain Sterling defeated Henry Cejudo by split decision to retain his bantamweight title and possibly send the former two-division champ back into retirement.

In the hotly contested fight on Saturday night, Sterling won 48-47, 47-48, and 48-47.

As the betting favorite going into the fight, Cejudo was making his three-year absence from the octagon.

“I wasn’t sure which way the decision was gonna go,” Sterling said. “I regret not being able to do a little bit better, but Henry is a legendary [expletive] dog, so it was difficult to get through him as I did the others.”

Cejudo dropped to 16-2 while he improved to 23-3.

Sterling, 33, outhit Cejudo overall 174 to 110, including a 110 to 63 advantage in signature strikes.

In a 2021 match against Petr Yan that he was easily losing, Sterling was declared the winner at 135 pounds after an illegal strike. He won a rematch by split decision the following year to firmly establish his claim to the title.

Following Sterling’s victory on Saturday, challenger Sean O’Malley entered the cage, took off his jacket, and stood face-to-face with the winner as the two competitors exchanged profanity-laced tirades before having to be separated.

Maybe later this summer they’ll have their championship match. Dana White, the president of the UFC, preferred a fight between Sterling-O’Malley and Boston in August rather than a late-night match in New Jersey.

Cejudo, 36, is the only person to have won both a UFC championship and an Olympic gold medal. He was one of only four UFC fighters to have simultaneously held the bantamweight and flyweight titles at one point. However, he abruptly announced his retirement in 2020, giving up both titles.

Cejudo said he was a “little confused” about his future plans and would return home to his family – his wife is expecting the couple’s second child – and think hard about his fight future. 17,559 spectators paid to watch Cejudo attempt to turn back time, and they roared him on through all five rounds.

“Who knows, this may be the last time in the octagon,” he said.

New York native Sterling, who is from Long Island, successfully made a record-tying third defense of the bantamweight title.

Earlier in the evening, Gilbert Burns was defeated by unanimous decision in a five-round fight at 170-pounds by Belal Muhammad (23-3, 1 NC), who delivered enough powerful kicks to Burns’ upper body.

The crowd let the fighters have it at the end of another round on the card that lacked consistent action as Muhammad and Burns traded a few kicks in the third. Burns could not muster much offense after attempting a failed takedown, which was one reason for the methodical pace. He also appeared to have hurt his left shoulder.

Muhammad was booed when he was announced as the 50-45, 49-46, 49-46 winner and then told the crowd, “New Jersey, you suck.”

Muhammad’s win established him as a top contender for a title shot against Leon Edwards, even though he entered the fight with less than two weeks’ notice. It also extended his winning streak to five and his unbeaten streak to ten straight fights.

In a fight that Diego Lopes agreed to on five days’ notice after an injury forced Bryce Mitchell to withdraw, Movsar Evloev defeated Lopes by unanimous decision. Jéssica Andrade was knocked out by Yan Xiaonan via technical knockout at 2:20 of the first round after taking a big right hand from the former UFC strawweight champion.

After winning, Yan might face Zhang Weili, another Chinese fighter, in the 115-pound championship bout.


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