Video Credit: CBS Sports

New FSM Essential Recap: UFC 288 – Sterling vs Cejudo


UFC 288 comes to a close after a thrilling night in New Jersey.

UFC 288 – Sterling vs Cejudo took place Saturday in Newark, New Jersey.

Another night of violent entertainment is in the books! UFC 288 wrapped on Saturday night with two decision victories at the top of the card. In the co-main event, Belal Muhammad defeated Gilbert Burns after going the distance to secure the next title shot at welterweight. And at the top of the card, Aljamain “Funk Master” Sterling faced Henry “Triple C” Cejudo through five rounds for the bantamweight title.

Will UFC 288 – Sterling vs Cejudo live up to the billing?

“Funk Master” shut down Cejudo’s return with split decision victory.

UFC 288 – Sterling vs Cejudo was filled with action from the beginning of the fight. 

UFC 288 Aljamain “Funk Master” Sterling and Henry “Triple C” Cejudo
Photo Credit: Louis Grasse/IMAGO Images

UFC 288’s main event at the Prudential Center delivered action, entertainment, and, most of all, clarity. After a five-round war between two of the greatest 135-pound fighters the division has ever seen, two facts were made perfectly clear.

First, the bantamweight division is currently the most exciting division in the UFC. Second, Aljamain “Funk Master” Sterling (23-3-0) needs a challenge soon before he leaves the division as the greatest bantamweight fighter of all time.

Saturday night, Sterling secured the record at bantamweight for most wins (14) and the longest fight win streak (9) and is one fight away from tying TJ Dillashaw for the most title wins in the bantamweight division (4). Sterling has also taken on and defeated some of the most dangerous names in the division, including this past weekend’s main event against one of the greatest fighters in the history of the UFC, regardless of weight class, Henry Cejudo (16-3-0).

The fight began with both Sterling and Cejudo starting fast to set the pace. Sterling quickly claimed the center of the ring and forced Cejudo back against the fence as he began to throw strikes. Most fighters would struggle in the face of pressure this early in the fight, especially after a three-year layoff, but Cejudo seemed unfazed.

Cejudo took the pressure being supplied by Sterling and turned it against the reigning champ as he caught one of Sterling’s body kicks and maneuvered to get his back and score a takedown. Henry took top position and proceeded to land punches as he pinned Sterling to the mat. It didn’t take long, though, for Sterling to pivot and secure top position over Cejudo right before the end of the round.

Throughout the second round, It was evident that both fighters wanted to set the fight at their pace. Sterling and Cejudo pushed to be the aggressor as both fighters took turns walking forward and attempting to land shots.

In the third round, Cejudo began to find success as Sterling leaned heavy on takedown attempts. As Aljamain attempted to bring Cejudo down to the ground, Henry was able to defend against the attempts and forced Aljamain into bad positions. As Sterling continued to attempt takedowns, he opened himself up to be put into bad positions, allowing Cejudo to get shots off and set his pace.

The fourth round saw both fighters work to control the center of the octagon and keep their backs off the cage. As Sterling would gain a good position, Cejudo would counter and find his way to switch positions and force Sterling into a bad spot. Just as it seemed Sterling was in real danger, he too, would find his way out and force Cejudo against the cage. The highlight of the round came towards the end, as Sterling attempted to lean on Cejudo and force another takedown. Cejudo somehow managed to keep himself up while doing the full splits.

UFC 288 – Sterling vs Cejudo saw the two fighters mixing it up. 

In the final round, it seemed both fighters believed Sterling was in the lead on the scorecards as Cejudo became the aggressor in order to catch up, while Sterling seemed focused on avoiding damage and running out the clock.

UFC 288 – Sterling vs Cejudo was a close fight, but Cejudo needed a big finish. 

UFC 288 Aljamain “Funk Master” Sterling and Henry “Triple C” Cejudo
Photo Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Cejudo attempted to throw everything he had at his opponent, but Sterling managed to avoid any significant damage as the final horn blew to end the fight.

Both men stood in the center of the octagon to hear the judges’ scorecards. The first judge scored the contest 48-47 in favor of Cejudo. The second judge scored it 48-47 for Sterling. The third judge scored the fight 48-47 and officially gave the split decision victory to Aljamain Sterling, giving the “Funk Master” his third title defense.

In the aftermath of the fight, Sterling had the opportunity to face his next opponent as the 2nd ranked bantamweight in the UFC was brought into the cage, Sean “Sugarshow” O’Malley. The two fighters slung insults at each other over the microphone and gave everyone watching a reason to be excited about their bout later this year.

Henry Cejudo had an opportunity to talk after O’Malley and Sterling finished throwing insults. Cejudo seemed defeated and stated that he didn’t agree with the decision. The former Olympic champion praised Sterling and said he believed the reigning champ performed well. Cejudo also made it clear that he is uncertain about his future. Despite coming out of retirement, “Triple C” said he came back to be first and that “if you’re not, you’re last.”

Whether or not Cejudo comes back for another fight, “Triple C” has cemented his legacy. Though he lost to a great champion in Aljamain Sterling, he still stands as one of the greatest combat sports athletes of all time.

As for Sterling, he and O’Malley seem destined to meet later this year. As a young fighter who has grown into of the biggest stars in the sport, O’Malley stands as a true challenge for the reigning champion. A win against O’Malley could greatly increase Sterling’s legacy as the 135-pound champion, while a loss could drastically change things and make the most entertaining division in the UFC even more enticing. Either way, the MMA community can’t wait to see how it unfolds.

UFC 288 – Sterling vs Cejudo saw The Funk Master retain his title.

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-Griffin Kemp – Franchise Sports Media

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