HomeSportAljamain Sterling and the Real Winners and Losers from UFC 288

Aljamain Sterling and the Real Winners and Losers from UFC 288

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Aljamain Sterling and the Real Winners and Losers from UFC 2880 of 8

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It’s a big sports day.

So it’s only natural that the UFC would play a role, too.

The mixed martial arts conglomerate took its place alongside horse racing’s Kentucky Derby, a Canelo Alvarez fight and second-round playoff games in both the NBA and NHL with a monthly pay-per-view show that went live from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

UFC 288 was the five-bout PPV topper to a 12-bout card that included a championship main event matching reigning 135-pound claimant Aljamain Sterling against former two-division champion Henry Cejudo.

Cejudo hadn’t competed since handling Dominick Cruz in a bantamweight title fight and announcing his retirement exactly three years ago Tuesday, while Sterling was 4-0 over the same stretch and was making the third defense of the title he’d won in March 2021.

The trio of Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier and Joe Rogan handled the call on ESPN and the B/R combat team was in position to take it all in as well, ultimately compiling the show’s definitive list of winners and losers.

Take a look at what we came up with and drop a thought of your own in the comments.

Winner: Paying It Forward1 of 8

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Aljamain Sterling handled his Saturday night business.

And then he spun the championship timeline forward to September.

The reigning bantamweight titleholder racked up the third defense of his 135-pound belt with a competitive but fair split decision over former two-division champ Henry Cejudo, then moved No. 2 contender Sean O’Malley to the top of his public hit list.

The outspoken Arizonan entered the cage in the immediate aftermath of Sterling’s win—which came by two 48-47 counts to one in Cejudo’s favor—and got right in the champion’s face with a claim that he’d need to be far better if he expected to retain the title in a fight with him.

Sterling replied by saying the fight is signed, sealed and delivered for September and nearly came to blows with O’Malley and his entourage when O’Malley and Sterling’s training teammate Merab Dvalishvili began jawing at each other in Sterling’s corner.

“You step in this cage I’ll drag your ass up and down this Octagon,” he told O’Malley.

“You don’t like it? Do something about it.”

Sterling managed to handle that task against the returning Cejudo, who’d won Olympic gold and two UFC titles but hadn’t fought in three years. He was much shorter and slower than Sterling and found himself on the receiving end of a lopsided strikes margin in rounds one, three and four, during which the champion also scored each of his four takedowns.

Cejudo, who’d never been taken down more than once in a UFC fight, was effective during stretches in rounds two and five in which he applied pressure and was able to win the striking count. He scored three takedowns in eight attempts across five rounds compared to Sterling’s four in 15 tries.

Afterward, he was noticeably unsure about his future.

“I’m a little confused right now. If I’m not first I’m last,” he said. “My biggest goal was to go to 145 and fight for a title there, but I don’t know where this puts me. We’ll go back and think about it. Who knows. This may be the last time you’ll see me in an Octagon.”

Loser: Misreading the Future2 of 8

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This surely wasn’t what Gilbert Burns had in mind.

The fifth-ranked welterweight followed a defeat of Jorge
Masvidal in Miami four weeks ago with a post-fight demand for an immediate title
fight with 170-pound champ Leon Edwards.

Instead, just 28 days later, he found himself in with fourth-ranked Belal Muhammad after jumping in to rescue the card’s co-main event slot when lightweight Charles Oliveira pulled out with an injury.

But the willingness to fight didn’t pay off, instead resulting in a desultory five-round loss in a tedious stand-up battle that wasn’t nearly the action spectacle the combatants had promised.

Muhammad won one card by a 50-45 shutout and two other two
by 49-46 nods.

And it seemingly yielded a left shoulder injury, too, that may have compromised Burns’ future.

Meanwhile, the Chicago-based Muhammad continued an unbeaten
streak that stretches back to 2019 and includes nine wins and a no-contest
against Edwards from a non-title bout in 2021.

“Gimme eight weeks I’m gonna beat Jon Jones. Gimme three weeks and I’ll beat any welterweight in the world,” Muhammad said. “God put me in the shape to take the fight and make the choice.”

Muhammad opened with effective kicks to the body in the
first round and gained an advantage when Burns sustained the apparent injury to
his left shoulder on a takedown try in the second. Ultimately, Muhammad earned
a 132-81 edge in significant strikes that was exclusively contested on the

“You can’t deny him anymore,” Daniel Cormier said on the ESPN broadcast. “He has earned that championship opportunity.”

Winner: Making a Match3 of 8

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So, you want to be considered for a UFC title fight?

Do what Yan Xiaonan did.

The 33-year-old strawweight thrust herself squarely into the
title picture at 115 pounds with a dramatic one-punch finish of fourth-ranked opponent
and former champ Jessica Andrade.

The victory was the eighth in 10 UFC fights for the
sixth-ranked Xiaonan, who moved backward to elude three straight wide left
hands from a charging Andrade before countering with a single right hand that left
her Brazilian opponent flat on her back.

Another pair of quick ground shots prompted an intervention by
referee Vitor Ribeiro at 2:20 of the first.

“This is the happiest moment of my life,” she said. “My boxing coach told me it could happen.”

And it could set up an all-China championship match with
titleholder Zhang Weili.

Which is a possibility Xiaonan fully embraces.

“I think both of us can represent females from China at the highest level,” she said. “Dana, let’s make it happen.”

Loser: Going Old School4 of 8

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Kron Gracie beats nearly every UFC competitor in a jiu-jitsu setting.

But there’s a sizable gap between him and those same foes when it comes to MMA.

Opponent Charles Jourdain was clearly prepared for a more diverse competition in Saturday’s main-card opener, effectively using hand speed and movement on the feet and playing it safe on the ground in winning a unanimous decision whose activity level was not appreciated by the fans.

All three judges gave Jourdain all three rounds for a 30-27 margin.

“We’re looking at an old-school style in a new school game,” analyst Din Thomas said on the ESPN broadcast. “There’s such a lack of skill when it comes to closing distance and landing.”

Indeed, the Canada-based Jourdain had fought nine times since Gracie’s most recent appearance four years ago and seemed better suited to the modern task at hand, while Gracie’s only strategy seemed to be initiating clinches and vainly chasing submission chances from a defensive guard position on the ground.

He’d gone five in his early MMA career, including his UFC debut in 2019, but has lost two straight.

He was able to get the fight to the floor in each of three rounds but never isolated a limb for a true finishing possibility and was battered with blows to the head and body when the fighters were upright.

“I’m stepping up my game and showing what I’m capable of,” Jourdain said. “I was in the guard of a Gracie. It was very dangerous. He’s a very good boxer but he just didn’t adapt tonight.”

Winner: Calling a Shot5 of 8

Matt Frevola took full advantage of his opportunity.

The Long Island-based lightweight scored the biggest win of a nearly decade-long career with a first-round erasure of Drew Dober, then seized the mic for an even better callout.

“Paddy Pimblett,” he yelled to the delight of a largely partisan crowd about 55 miles east of his Huntington, New York home. “You absolutely suck.

“Stop being a b–ch and let’s fight.”

The sudden stop of Dober came after Frevola countered a body shot with a clean right hook to the jaw that laid the UFC’s only Nebraska-born fighter flat on on his back.

Frevola quickly pounced with a flurry of nearly two dozen ground shots—some of which landed, some of which didn’t—and drew the stop from referee Herb Dean amid Dober’s complaints.

The 34-year-old, in fact, quickly sprang to his feet to protest the decision but swayed badly and leaked from a gash above his left eye as he did so, generating little support.

“That’s instinct. Years of training,” Frevola said of the right hand that delivered his third straight KO and fifth win in nine fights since an appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2017. “It’s just my time. I’m in the prime of my life. I’m on a run. I’m going for that title now. I’m here. On my best day I can beat anybody in the world. I truly believe that.”

Loser: Staying on Schedule6 of 8

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It’s a frequent reality in the combat sports realm.

Nearly all cards across nearly all promotions experience some level of late-stage alteration thanks to the torturous weight cut many fighters put themselves though prior to a match, not to mention injury issues that participants tend to grapple with as well.

And UFC 288 was no different.

A would-be bout between flyweights Rafael Estevam and Zhalgas Zhumagulov was canceled from the card because of what the UFC labeled “weight management issues” after Estevam did not show up for the pre-fight weigh-in session on Friday.

Estevam is 11-0 as a pro and was on the verge of his UFC debut after a second-round finish victory on Dana White’s Contender Series in September.

Elsewhere, an undisclosed injury to bantamweight Daniel Santos was the reason for the nixing of a bout between he and Johnny Muñoz. The 28-year-old Brazilian split his first two bouts with the promotion, losing a decision at UFC 273 last April before rebounding with a second-round finish on a Fight Night show in October.

Last but not least, a chronic back problem forced featherweight Bryce Mitchell from his main-card slot against Movsar Evloev. He was replaced by Contender Series alum and UFC newbie Diego Lopes, who arrived with a 21-5 record featuring 19 finishes across multiple promotions and chased several submissions but ultimately lost a unanimous decision.

Evloev improved to 17-0 as a pro and 7-0 in the UFC.

Loser: American-Made Undercard7 of 8

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It’s a signature element of any UFC live show.

Whenever a fighter arrives to the cage carrying a flag bearing anything other than 13 stripes and 50 stars, there’s an excellent chance he or she will soon hear a “USA” chant.

And given that only two of the 10 main-card fighters—Cejudo and Muhammad—were billed by the UFC as representing the United States, it’s no surprise that the North Jersey crowd was persistent and vocal in its support for the “locals.”

It was a different story on the prelim portions, however, where eight of 14 fighters were representing the red, white and blue, including USA vs. USA bouts involving heavyweights Braxton Smith and Parker Porter and lightweights Drew Dober and Matt Frevola.

It didn’t go so well early on for the Americans, with Texan Joseph Holmes losing by second-round TKO to Brazilian middleweight Claudio Ribeiro and New Jersey middleweight Phil Hawes going out via KO to Russian tough guy Ikram Aliskerov at 2:10 of the first round.

Detroit-based welterweight Khaos Williams finally got the host country on the scoreboard with a competitive but fair split decision over Peruvian UFC newcomer Rolando Bedoya, who entered having won 11 straight fights across multiple promotions since 2015.

But it went back the other way in the final international prelim when Nigerian Kennedy Nzechukwu finished South Dakota-based opponent Devin Clark with a standing guillotine choke at 2:28 of the second round, scoring his third straight win and sixth in nine UFC fights.

“I always get that (choke) in the training room,” Nzechukwu said. “It’s awesome knowing all the hard work paid off.”

Full Card Results8 of 8

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Main Card

Aljamain Sterling def. Henry Cejudo by split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47)

Belal Muhammad def. Gilbert Burns by unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-46)

Yan Xiaonan def. Jessica Andrade by TKO (punch),2:20, Round 1

Movsar Evloev def. Diego Lopes by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

Charles Jourdain def. Kron Gracie by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Preliminary Card

Matt Frevola def. Drew Dober by TKO (strikes),4:08, Round 1

Kennedy Nzechukwu def. Devin Clark by submission (standing guillotine),2:28, Round 2

Khaos Williams def. Rolando Bedoya by split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28)

Virna Jandiroba def. Marina Rodriguez by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

Early Preliminary Card

Parker Porter def. Braxton Smith by TKO (strikes),2:10, Round 1

Ikram Aliskerov def. Phil Hawes by KO (punch),2:10, Round 1

Claudio Ribeiro def. by Joseph Holmes by TKO (strikes),3:21, Round 2

Source : Bleacher Report

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