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UFC 250: Aljamain Sterling stands tall on big night for bantamweights – Sport360 News

There were no fewer than three division-shaping bantamweight bouts at UFC 250, and while a former champ announced his return, it was Aljamain Sterling who truly stamped his authority.

With Henry Cejudo calling time early on his career, the 135lbs division is suddenly a melting pot with plenty of pedigree jostling for the gold.

Jose Aldo and Petr Jan will battle is out for the vacant strap, but the winner will have a pretty lengthy line forming.

The head of that line is Sterling, who produced a scintillating stoppage of Cory Sandhagen in Las Vegas.

Sandhagen, previously unbeaten in his five UFC outings, was carrying some solid momentum but didn’t last 90 seconds as the Funk Master was too fast standing up, and too good on the ground securing a sensational rear naked choke stoppage.

Now at 19-3, Sterling is the best we have ever seen him, boasting a five-fight win streak of his own, and is without question the next in line once a 135lbs king is crowned.

Back in the reckoning is Cody Garbrandt after he unleashed a buzzer-beating Exocet that slept Raphael Assuncao at the end of the second round in their clash.

On the back of three-straight losses, including dropping the bantamweight title, we were promised Cody 2.0, and No Love certainly delivered.

Speed has always been a key weapon in his arsenal, but it seemed Garbrandt had taken things up a notch further, looking slick and smooth on his feet against a naturally cagey and defensive opponent who is a difficult puzzle to solve.

Assuncao has not spent years in the top echelons of the division for no reason and it took something special to stop him in the form of a blistering right hook to the chin.

Garbrandt will be fully aware this does not put him right back in the title picture, but expect a move back into the top five, and another big performance will certainly improve his credentials for another shot at gold.

Finally, we have Sean O’Malley. The undefeated enigma continued his return with a second picture-book knockout in the space of three months.

Now standing 12-0, it is hard to believe we have only seem ‘Sugar’ four times in the Octagon since he burst on the scene in Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2017 – with two of those fights in the last twelve weeks.

Injuries and bans aside, he now has the chance to go on a tear, and his cold-blooded KO of gate-keeper Eddie Wineland last night is the perfect stepping stone. He will likely enter the bantamweight top-15 on the back of this win, with a similarly placed opponent perfect to continue his upward trajectory.

With Sterling, Garbrandt, and O’Malley making big plays this weekend, and other standouts including Aldo, Jan, Marlon Moraes, Pedro Munhoz, Jimmy Riveira, and Dominick Cruz to name a few, the bantamweight division is fast establishing itself at the most competitive in the organisation.

Henry who?

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