Aljamain Sterling defended his bantamweight title with a hard-fought, split decision victory over former 135-pound titleholder Henry Cejudo in the UFC 288 pay-per-view (PPV) main event last Sat. night (May 6, 2023) at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, a bout so evenly matched, the mixed martial arts (MMA) community is still arguing over the scorecards (see them here). That said, most fans seem to agree that Cejudo captured the fifth and final frame.
“I just watched the fight back,” the defending champ wrote on Twitter. “I feel I won the first four rounds. Hindsight is 20-20. There’s moments I didn’t fire because I respected the counters too much. Either way, I beat a stud and I can proudly say 3peat. Healing up and on to the next!”
The only person who didn’t score Round 5 for Cejudo was judge Derek Cleary, which allowed Sterling to escape “The Garden State” with his title intact. That was probably the right result, just the wrong way to get to it, because the rest of the main event scores were equally wonky.
One Twitter fan told “Funk Master” he was “disappointed” by the continual “holding back.”
“I felt similar emotions live and after,” Sterling replied. “It’s a game of inches. Glad I got the nod but I still feel I could’ve looked better doing it.”
These things seem to have a way of following Sterling from fight-to-fight.
“I rewatched the fight at 4am in my hotel room after UFC 288,” Cejudo wrote on social media. “Thought I did enough to get my hand raised, but Aljo is a tough competitor. I know I could beat Aljo if we meet again one day. But I ain’t done yet!”
A rematch will have to wait until both competitors take care of business in the division Top 5. Sterling is expected to make his next bantamweight title defense against Sean O’Malley in September, while Cejudo is targeting a Merab Dvalishvili fight at UFC 292 in Boston.
For much more on UFC 288 including highlights, reactions, recaps, and more click here.
This story originally appeared on MMA Mania