Bantamweight division staple Aljamain ‘Funkmaster’ Sterling (14-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) returns back in action at UFC Atlantic City as he takes on undefeated, former Cage Warriors and Titan FC Bantamweight champion Brett ‘The Pikey’ Johns (15-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC).
Sterling not so time ago was himself an undefeated prospect in the UFC until he faced long time veterans Bryan Caraway and Raphael Assancao in May 2016 and January 2017 respectively, who give him first two L’s on his resume via razor thin split decisions. Sterling got things back on track as he secured victories against two veterans in Augusto Mendes and former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao.
Sterling in his last outing fought former WSOF (now PFL) bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes in December 2017. As the famous lines by ‘the Notorious’ Conor McGregor goes,”Precision beats Power and timing beats speed”. However, timing was on the negative side of the equation for Sterling. Sterling rushed for a takedown and ended up landing flat on the canvas unconsciously dabbing after running into a vicious knee from Moraes.
Sterling on his loss to Moraes said,
“It’s a game of inches. Everybody knows the same stuff. We all know how to throw flying knees and low kicks, but it’s all about how you set everything up.If you go back to that Marlon Moraes fight, I forgot what it took to get me to that position and I didn’t let the finish materialize. I tried to skip Steps A through Y and get all the way to Z and it’s one of those things. You’ve just got to stay patient and try to put on a show as best you can.”
On taking his criticiss in a positive way Sterling said,
“I was criticized a lot in the beginning of my UFC career – people saying I throw one-off strikes and I don’t throw combinations. I pay attention to these things and I criticize myself for that as well, but the reason that’s the way I fight is the reason why I have been able to finish guys. Guys get overzealous trying to come in, trying to finish and I always end up putting them on their asses. Either I get the TKO or I pass the guard and get submissions and I have to get back to that.”
Sterling on his opponent Brett Johns who pulled a rare calf slicer in his last fight against Joe Soto said,
“Brett Johns is a tough dude, I already know this, but I honestly feel like it’s not his time and he’s not ready yet. I feel like he’s riding a little high on that horse from that calf slicer. I go with the best leg lock specialists in the world constantly, rolling with the John Danaher Death Squad, Matt Serra’s black belt protégé Jason Rau, James Gonzalez. I’m not worried about any of that s***.
“I think stylistically, this kid is a little in over his head in terms of what he brings to the table. I was that young, ambitious kid as well. I remember being undefeated and calling out Bryan Caraway and I took a tough loss and I wonder if he’s ready for that next upper echelon of talent?
“I think I can take the fight wherever I want it to go,” he added. “I already know what he’s thinking – he’s either going to want to test my chin because of the last knockout and if he tries to do that, he’s in for rude awakening, and if he lets me get the takedown first, it’s going to be a long 15 minutes or less, I guarantee that.”