UFC champ Aljamain Sterling slams Sandhagen’s lack of ‘growth’ in the Octagon, addresses potential rematch

Sterling

Aljamain Sterling, like many of us, was left disappointed by the UFC Nashville main event between Cory Sandhagen and Rob Font.

Fans inside the Bridgestone Arena were treated to some memorable moments and highlight-reel-worthy finishes, but neither one occurred during the evening’s bantamweight headliner. Throughout the 25-minute affair, ‘The Sandman’ put his ground game on display and stymied the offense of Rob Font every step of the way. It was an undeniably dominant performance, but far from what fans and UFC President Dana White were hoping to see. Especially with a potential title opportunity hanging in the balance.

Looking back on the uneventful five-rounder, reigning bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling expected to see Font show more urgency in his opportunity to leapfrog into the division’s top-five rankings.

“That main event, I gotta call it what it is,” Sterling said on his YouTube channel. “That was as duck as it gets. I really thought there was going to be a complete opposite turn of events. I figured Rob Font was really gonna come out looking to insert himself. I know he was pressuring forward.

“I’m trying to be respectful and at the same time reasonable in my analysis with this. I just think Font has a lot of holes when it comes to grappling. You can’t just go for a kimura hoping to get off your back with just that. You need a little more than that in your backpack. Your tools, so to speak. I was honestly pretty disappointed with his lack of ability to be able to get back to his feet. I think he might have gotten up once maybe twice out of the five or six takedowns that he’s giving up. That’s tough, man.”

Aljamain Sterling is Not Concerned About Potential Rematch with Cory Sandhagen

‘Funkmaster’ was also critical of Sandhagen’s performance, claiming that ‘The Sandman’ did little to earn himself a title opportunity, let alone suggest that a rematch between the two would go any different than it did the first time around.

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“Font, he wanted it. Sandhagen, he wanted it,” Sterling said. “The difference is nobody showed that they wanted the next title shot with a definitive win. Respectfully, when I fought Sandhagen that was my No. 1 contender fight and I definitively shown that I was the next guy in line. Finished him in less than two minutes.

In June 2020, Aljamain Sterling only needed 88 seconds to submit Cory Sandhagen via a rear-naked choke. The performance earned ‘Funkmaster’ his bantamweight title opportunity against Petr Yan at UFC 259 nearly a year later.

“Now people are saying the rematch is gonna be different,” Sterling continued. “Guys, there’s not much different that I can say will happen in the rematch other than it might go a little bit longer. I haven’t seen the growth from the top position and let me be fair, I know he hurt his tricep, possibly tore it. He had positions where he could have capitalized and done a lot of cool things with the dominant positions that he had and he just kind of chose to stay on top and just coast his way to the finish [line]” (h/t MMAFighting).

Sterling made it clear that he doesn’t see anything wrong with Sandhagen’s more measured approach against Rob Font but reiterated that it’s not the type of showing that earns you a title fight in one of MMA’s most stacked divisions.

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“I’m not saying that’s wrong,” Sterling said of Sandhagen’s safer approach. “I’m just saying if you want to insert yourself into the next title shot to fight for the vacant title after I’m done mopping up O’Malley, you leave so much room for doubt where you got Merab who’s already a shoo-in. Who’s his next competitor?”