Aljamain Sterling easily cemented his spot as the next UFC bantamweight championship contender with a stunning finish of Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250 on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Sterling came into the fight ranked No. 2 in the bantamweight division and riding a four-fight winning streak. Sandhagen entered the bout on a seven-fight winning streak and sitting at No. 4 in the division.
UFC president Dana White confirmed ahead of the fight that he felt it was a No. 1 contender bout with the winner likely to get a shot at the winner of the upcoming fight between Peter Yan and Jose Aldo. The Yan vs. Aldo bout is to determine who will take the belt recently vacated by Henry Cejudo, who retired following his UFC 249 victory over Dominick Cruz.
Sterling started quickly, wanting to leave no doubts about his worthiness as a contender… and he left none.
Storming across the Octagon from the opening bell, Sterling clinched and quickly worked around to Sandhagen’s back. He climbed aboard and drug Sandhagen to the canvas, his legs locked in a triangle around Sandhagen’s mid-section.
Sandhagen fought off the initial rear-naked choke attempt, but Sterling kept working with the body-lock intact. He eventually slipped his arm deep around Sandhagen’s neck.
Sterling sunk the choke in deep. Sandhagen tried to hold on, but eventually tapped out and then passed out 1:28 into the first round.
It was a powerful statement by Sterling, who dedicated the fight to those making a statement about racial inequality and injustice.
“The world is in shambles right now. Especially in America, we got a lot going on in this country. It’s a great country, but there’s a lot of things that need to be changed, especially the injustices happening to minorities all across America,” Sterling said.
“So this one is for everybody back home fighting the good fight, protesting. I support you guys. I’m with you guys all the way. I wish I could be home and be part of it, but I had to handle business.”
Handle business he did. Setting up a challenge for the belt in his next fight, Sterling made it clear that he’d like it to be Yan that he faces next.
“Everyone’s talking about Peter Yan. You better win that fight because I’m coming for your ass.”
— UFC (@ufc) June 7, 2020