Aljamain Sterling knows exactly what to expect when he faces Jimmie Rivera on Sunday night in Phoenix.
The battle between top 10 bantamweights headlines the preliminary card on the first ever UFC Fight Night event airing on ESPN in a pivotal moment for both fighters.
Sterling and Rivera have each knocked on the door of title contention in the past but they’ve each stumbled in crucial fights over the last few years.
Now with a two-fight win streak and victories in four of his past five fights, Sterling feels like he’s closer than ever to his ultimate goal to challenge for the UFC title and he’s not going to allow Rivera to be the obstacle standing in his way.
Sterling has followed Rivera’s career for years after they walked a similar path coming up in east coast promotions before the UFC.
Rivera has put together a very impressive 22-2 record including a 20 fight win streak that only ended last year. Perhaps the biggest criticism of Rivera during that run was his tendency to go to decision with five of his six UFC wins going to the judges’ scorecards.
“Jimmie’s the type of guy he’s well disciplined, well trained, well schooled. Everything he does is pretty much patterns,” Sterling explained when speaking to MMAWeekly. “He throws the same combinations over and over. He doesn’t change his stance. He stays in that same high and tight boxing traditional style. He doesn’t do anything overly spectacular. He doesn’t go for the finish all the time.
“I know he had a string where he knocked out like three guys in a row but in my opinion, they were tomato cans. They were guys he was supposed to look good against and he was supposed to put them away. They were at the tail end of their careers and they had been knocked out several times. I didn’t give those any kind of respect. Yeah, you put them away but I could have done that and people think I can’t punch for s—t. That’s the way I look at it.”
Sterling may not like the way that Rivera fights but obviously the Tiger Schulman trained bantamweight has managed to build a pretty impressive resume no matter what his upcoming opponent thinks of his style.
That’s why Sterling has done everything possible in preparation to prevent Rivera from settling into those same old rhythm that has allowed him to rattle off so many decision victories.
“It’s just my honest opinion and my honest assessment of Rivera. I respect his skill set but at the end of the day I know what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to point fight,” Sterling said. “There’s no way in hell I’m going to let this guy get comfortable point fighting me.
“I’m going to make it a nasty, dirty fight. Any way I’ve got to go out there and take him out.”
As much as Sterling believes the ability to mix things up better than his opponent will be a huge part of his success on Sunday night, he’s not exactly hiding his strategy going into the fight.
Sterling intends on dragging Rivera onto the mat and then inflicting as much damage as possible so he leaves the Octagon with a win on his resume and blood stains on his gloves.
“If the fight goes to the ground, what’s he going to do? Lay on me? He’s going to hug me? If the fight ends up on the ground, that’s my world,” Sterling said. “Even if I’m on the bottom, I’m going to try to slice him up with elbows. I’m going to smack the s—t out of him.
“I’m going to look for blood. This is going to be a nasty fight.”