Sterling was declared the new UFC bantamweight champion after a bizarre sequence in which he took a blatantly illegal knee from the champion Yan in the fourth round of their title fight on Saturday night at UFC APEX in Las Vegas. When Sterling was ruled unable to continue, referee Mark Smith ruled Sterling the winner via disqualification, making him the new UFC bantamweight champion.
Yan had taken control of momentum as the fight went into deep waters and Sterling visibly tired. As the challenger rested on one knee after an exchange, the Russian paused for a moment before unloading a blatantly illegal knee to the head. Sterling immediately hit the canvas, badly hurt, and the fight was called off after the cageside doctor examined him.
Aljamain stayed down on the canvas for several minutes after the knee landed and after the ringside physician came into check on him, the referee decided he could no longer allow the fight to continue. An emotional Funkmaster doubled over in tears on the mat, obviously overcome with emotion following the stoppage due to an illegal strike.
Because the knee was clearly intentional, Sterling has ruled the winner via disqualification and declared the new UFC bantamweight champion. Afterward, Yan said he didn’t realize Sterling was considered a downed opponent when he launched the knee.
While few disagreed with the fight stoppage, many fighters were unhappy with Aljamain Sterling being awarded the UFC bantamweight title. Among those to blast ‘Funkmaster’ for perhaps some extra showmanship following Yan’s illegal knee was Henry Cejudo.
’Triple C’ eventually walked back on Aljamain and the pair squared off in Las Vegas. As seen below via Funkmaster’s Twitter, Cejudo and Sterling squared off while suggesting to Dana White that this could be the fight to make next.
— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) March 8, 2021
Though Aljamain would love to bring back Henry Cejudo out of retirement, that’s not what Dana White is looking forward to booking. Dana White said he wants to book this rematch as soon as possible.
“It sucked,” White said at the post-event press conference. “It was a good fight. That was a fight that everybody was excited about. Everybody knew it was going to be good. That was a bad one.”
White couldn’t provide an immediate timeline for a second fight but said one would be determined at a matchmaking meeting on Tuesday.
“Sterling wants the rematch, too,” he said. “We’ll figure it out.”
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