ALJAMAIN STERLING ensured Henry Cejudo had a miserable return to the octagon as he retained his bantamweight title at UFC 288.
The 36-year-old challenger, who is one of only four doubleweight champions in UFC history, retired from MMA in 2020 after successfully defending the belt against Dominick Cruz.
But the Olympic wrestling gold medalist came out of retirement last night to try to regain the belt after a three-year absence.
However, Sterling, 33, made sure to stay on top of the mountain, setting up a showdown against rising star Sean O’Malley with a split decision triumph (47-48, 48-47, 48-47) before.
Cejudo’s wrestling skills were on full display and he defended multiple takedown attempts in the main event in New Jersey, defeating the Jamaican himself.
But submission specialist Sterling’s grappling skills were also outstanding, and it was he who delivered the cleaner shots throughout the five rounds.
The defending champion’s performance proved sufficient for a third successful defense in 2022 following his decision win over Petr Yan and TKO win over TJ Dillashaw.
After his hand was raised, Sterling took on rival O’Malley in the cage.
The two faced each other directly before security forces had to intervene and separate the couple.
He is now scheduled to defend his belt against “Suga Sean” later this year.
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Cejudo revealed he was “a little confused” about his future after the setback as he again hinted at a retirement.
He said: “I hate to lose but it’s also been three years.
“Who knows, this might be the last time in the octagon.”
Meanwhile, Belal showed Muhammad Gilbert Burns in the co-main event to set up a welterweight title fight.
American Muhammad beat the Brazilian on all three scoring lists (50-45, 49-46, 49-46).
He is now unbeaten in his last 10 bouts at 170lbs and immediately called out champion Leon Edwards and his closest challenger Colby Covington.
Muhammad told Joe Rogan afterwards, “My first thoughts are… New Jersey, you suck!
“My second thought, Leon and Colby. I come for both of you.”