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Aljamain Sterling hoping to finally receive a true title opportunity with a UFC 238 win

On a three-fight win streak, Sterling has a chance to finally move up in the UFC’s loaded bantamweight division.

On a three-fight win streak, one would think that Aljamain Sterling would be ready for a title shot in the UFC. A complete fighter, the 29-year-old has improved with each fight. With the way things work within the organization, however, opportunities keep on slipping past him. If you are new to the UFC, this is nothing new.

All of that can (and at this point, should) change with a win at UFC 238.

Sterling (17-3) faces off against Pedro Munhoz inside the United Center in Chicago. Both respectively ranked #4 and #5 in the UFC’s bantamweight division according to ESPN, this bout can put an end to who the next true contender is for the Bantamweight Title. Sterling automatically put his name in the mix after a dominant performance against Jimmie Rivera at UFC on ESPN 1. He believed he was ready for shot after Marlon Moraes, who is on a four-fight win streak heading into UFC 238. Moraes is set to face Henry Cejudo for the vacant Bantamweight Title at the same event.

“Rivera was the guy that was pegged as being the next guy to challenge for the title and he stumbled against Marlon, the same thing that happened to me,” Sterling stated after the Rivera fight. “He was the next guy and had won 20 fights in a row, so how am I not the next guy after Marlon Moraes?”

Over time, things changed that have delayed his championship dreams, if only for a little while. Henry Cejudo, the current UFC Flyweight Champion, easily defeated Bantamweight Champion T.J. Dillashaw for the former’s belt. A rematch for the Bantamweight Title was set until Dillashaw “relinquished” the title. In reality, Dillashaw was suspended following a failed drug test for EPO. That opened the door for all of the other bantamweights knocking on the door for glory.

The only true contenders besides Moraes are Sterling and Munhoz (18-3, 1NC), who are both featured on the preliminary card. Currently, Rivera is on the main card facing upstart Petr Yan. With the UFC, anything is possible, which upsets the outspoken Sterling. Speaking to MMA fighting, “Funk Master” attempted to make sense of the current situation at bantamweight.

“I thought I made the most sense. Pedro just lost to [John] Dodson within the last year and maybe a month,” Sterling stated. “He also lost to [Jimmie] Rivera a couple of years ago by split decision. Rivera beat Dodson and I beat Rivera. That’s the way I kind of did the math in my head but the UFC is going to do what the UFC’s going to do. All I can do is keep winning and hopefully all of that takes care of itself.”

Using math that matches with the movies, Sterling’s points are extremely valid. Unfortunately, they don’t hold weight to the current system the UFC has. He must convince UFC brass that he is deserving of a title shot, and a main card spot. Something may have to change if an impressive performance does not warrant a shot at the title.

“If Pedro or I, the winner of this doesn’t get the next title shot then pigs can fly,” Sterling continued. “I’m convinced that the ranking system should just go away. Like get the f—k out of here with that s—t. If you’re going to do that to us then there should be no ranking system. Just get rid of it. Stop lying to the fighters, stop lying to the fans and just do whatever the hell you’re going to do and stop pretending.

The Long Island native has come a long way since his collegiate careers in SUNY Cortland. Once in a literal funk, Sterling has come back to become a hot commodity in MMA today. UFC 238 features a highly-competitive card that can help shape many divisions in the UFC. One division that will be significantly impacted is the bantamweight division.

A change is in the air, with various possible outcomes. Sterling is hoping he is at the forefront of all of it. Will he step up to the plate and knock it out of the park? Here’s hoping Dana White keeps a close eye on this clash between two worthy contenders.

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Baseball Editor, Misc. Sports Editor. Covers all things combat sports (MMA, Pro Wrestling and Boxing). When he's not writing, Daniel hosts a podcast, The Main Event.
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