UFC 288 results: Aljamain Sterling tops Henry Cejudo by split decision, exchanges words with Sean O’Malley
UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling eked by Henry Cejudo in a close bout Saturday to set up a grudge match with rival Sean O'Malley.
In the UFC 288 main event, Sterling (23-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) successfully defended his title against former champion Cejudo (16-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) with a split decision victory (47-48, 48-47, 48-47). The bantamweight title bout took place at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
After the fight, O’Malley (16-1 MMA, 8-1) entered the cage and exchanged words with Sterling. Things turned borderline physical when Sterling’s teammate and cornerman, Merab Dvalishvili, sneakily stole O’Malley’s coat that he tossed off during his faceoff with Sterling.
Sean O’Malley and Aljamain Sterling exchanged words in the octagon at #UFC288 pic.twitter.com/DfJPjR0JnE
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) May 7, 2023
When things calmed down, a dejected Cejudo indicated on the microphone the bout may have been the last of his career. The bout Saturday was Cejudo’s return from a previous retirement three years ago.
Cejudo's future is uncertain after his loss at #UFC288 pic.twitter.com/EfFbjVoWuU
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) May 7, 2023
But before all of the post-fight drama transpired, a five-round title fight took place. Sterling came out aggressive in Round 1, and Cejudo took him down. Sterling returned to the feet and took Cejudo down after a few wild exchanges. Sterling worked for his signature back position and landed a pair of big strikes as the round ended.
With the crowd behind him in Round 2, Sterling utilized his striking. Cejudo returned as the two went tit-for-tat in a frenetic yet technical battle.
Round 3 continued the striking battle until Sterling grabbed hold of Cejudo against the fence. Once separated, Cejudo largely denied Sterling’s wrestling attack and scored a late takedown of his own.
Into the championship rounds they went. Sterling’s leg kicks piled up on Cejudo, who appeared to slow. Both men were visibly tired late in the frame. Both tried to tie up the other and get a takedown, but neither succeeded until Cejudo head-locked Sterling to the canvas with one minute left. Sterling reversed and scored a late takedown.
Cejudo’s corner of Eddie Cha, Santino Defranco, and Eric Albarracin told their fighter before the final round that it was either tied or he was down 3-1. The urgency was there as Cejudo landed a nice combination and scored a late takedown, but it was not enough.
UFC 288: Twitter reacts to Aljamain Sterling's decision win over Henry Cejudo, faceoff with Sean O'Malley
With the victory, Sterling successfully defended his bantamweight title for the third straight time. Since a knockout loss to Marlon Moraes in December 2017, Sterling has won nine straight fights. Championship victories include Cejudo, T.J. Dillashaw, and twice Petr Yan.
Cejudo, 36, came up short in his first fight in three years and had his six-fight winning streak snapped. The only other fighters who defeated Cejudo were Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez.
Complete UFC 288 results:
Aljamain Sterling def. Henry Cejudo via unanimous decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47)
Belal Muhammad def. Gilbert Burns via unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-46)
Yan Xiaonan def. Jessica Andrade via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 2:20
Movsar Evloev def. Diego Lopes via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Charles Jourdain def. Kron Gracie via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Matt Frevola def. Drew Dober TKO (punches) – Round 1, 4:08
Kennedy Nzechukwu def. Devin Clark via technical submission (guillotine choke) – Round 2, 2:28
Khaos Williams def. Rolando Bedoya via split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28)
Virna Jandiroba def. Marina Rodriguez via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Parker Porter def. Braxton Smith via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 2:10
Ikram Aliskerov def. Phil Hawes via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 2:10
Claudio Ribeiro def. Joseph Holmes via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 3:21
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 288.