Morning Report: Aljamain Sterling hopeful for ‘good stylistic fight’ vs. Max Holloway in UFC featherweight debut
Aljamain Sterling is on to bigger and better things. Well, that’s the plan anyway, as the former UFC bantamweight champion has a move up all but confirmed.
“The Funkmaster” teased his inevitable return to the 145-pound featherweight division ahead of his last time out opposite Sean O’Malley at UFC 292 in August. Unfortunately for Sterling, his roadmap of winning and vacating to allow his teammate and top contender Merab Dvalishvili a title opportunity hit a snag at the hands of “Sugar.” Suffering a second-round TKO defeat to lose his title, Sterling was left without an instant rematch as he desired, leading him now to featherweight regardless.
An eventual upcoming bout at featherweight will be only the second in Sterling’s career. He debuted at the weight in his fourth pro fight where he picked up a first-round TKO over Evan Chmielski before returning to his home of 135 pounds. For a good portion of Sterling’s UFC run, the top dog at featherweight has been Hawaii’s finest, Max Holloway. With “Blessed” no longer the champion since Alexander Volkanovski rose to prominence in December 2019, Sterling likes the idea of facing off with the divisional great as his UFC debut at the weight,
“I’m trying to see what’s the name out of the hat that we’re gonna go with,” Sterling told The Schmo. “I have the name that I want. It’s just whether or not he wants it, which I’m sure he — it is what it is for Max. He’s gonna pick and do whatever he wants. We’ll see what the UFC wants to do. If they want to go this direction, and I think the fans would like to see it. They think Max is gonna set a record on me so I’m just saying bring it.”
Holloway has essentially been a champion without a crown after Volkanovski became the new sheriff in town. Since 2013, the Hawaiian has only lost three times at featherweight with all coming against Australia’s “Great,” making him 18-3 in his previous 21 outings.
Despite the 31-year-old Holloway’s continuous success, Sterling, 34, likes the matchup and believes his wrestling is more than enough to keep the defensively sound legend in place.
“I think it’s a good stylistic fight,” Sterling said. “I don’t think he’s fought someone with the wrestling pedigree. I mean, he’s fought a guy [Brian Ortega] with good grappling, BJJ, but he couldn’t get the takedown and get the control that he needed to utilize that grappling. I could utilize the grappling and I could utilize the wrestling. Just gotta be smart, a little bit more patient, not like the last fight, of course.
“I think after having this long of a break, I just feel more refreshed, more refined, and I feel like the time off has given me more clarity and will get me back to the old me and not making rushed mistakes. I don’t know. That [last] fight, it is what it is. It happened. We’re just ready for the next step.”
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I don’t know how I didn’t really think about it, but as long as Volkanovski remains champion, Sterling is the perfect type of opponent for Holloway at this juncture. Obviously, a pretty tough welcoming party, but it’s former champion vs. former champion. It most certainly is what it is.
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Is Max Holloway the best option for Aljamain Sterling’s debut at featherweight in the UFC?
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