At UFC 238, the Bantamweight division finally received some clarity.
With a champion crowned, new titleholder Henry Cejudo left the event with two fresh contenders established, both scoring wins at that very event. Those two names were Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling, with the former outpointing Jimmie Rivera as 'Funk Master' defeated Pedro Munhoz. Sterling is the higher ranked option and the more established one too, but Cejudo seemed more interested in other options after stopping Marlon Moraes, instead mentioning Cody Garbrandt, Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber.
Nonetheless, four straight victories make Sterling a far more logical choice, winning six of his last seven and performing better than ever at UFC 238. Sterling appeared on The MMA Hour this week, considering the Cejudo matchup in an interview with Luke Thomas. Unsurprisingly, he's rather confident. “I think I posses all the talent in the world to compete with Henry," he said. "Henry is a tough dude, man. I think he is the pound-for-pound greatest combat athlete today.
"No one has done what he’s been able to accomplish. But, I will say this, when I beat him ‘Henry Cedoodo,’ what does that make me? The pound-for-pound king. So that’s what I’m looking to get for my next title. So go out there, beat up Henry and I think I’ll be able to take that title . . . I’m too long, I’m too rangy, I can box, I can kick, I can wrestle, I can do jiu-jitsu. So where does he win? I like my chances in that one.”
While Sterling's skill-set is certainly formidable, Cejudo's resume is undeniable, recently thriving and reaching career-best form in his biggest fights. However, Sterling views himself differently to Cejudo's latest victims. “I bring the funk,” he explained. “It’s a different style. Even when I teach my MMA classes in the gym, it’s hard to teach what I do. It’s more of state of flow, a state of feel.
"It’s not a robotic thing like one, two, three, kick, one, two, three, switch, jab, cross. It’s completely unorthodox. Everything is about rhythm, tempo and pace. It’s a different style, man. When you factor the wrestling, the scrambles, the jiu-jitsu, I think I’m a tough matchup in this division for anyone.
It remains to be seen if Sterling will indeed be Cejudo's first Bantamweight Title challenger but if so, his contender credentials are certainly hard to dispute.