Aljamain Sterling: The Rebound Test
This time last year Aljamain Sterling was fresh off of his fourth straight UFC win and seemed to have the world at his feet. One of the best Bantamweight prospects in the sport. Sterling was now a free agent but would quickly re-sign with the UFC who were understandably keen to maintain his services.
Undefeated, engaging and dynamic, ‘The Funk Master’ looked set to be a star in what then seemed a somewhat thin division. However, in May 2016 Sterling’s immediately bright future would be altered in the very first fight of his new contract when he was outpointed by Bryan Caraway. It was a fight he had asked for and one that looked favourable but suddenly, surprisingly Sterling was no longer undefeated.
Now over six months later Sterling returns, looking to rebound in a big way. His opponent will be proven contender Raphael Assuncao in a clash of top fighters that will surely test the talent’s contender status. However, whilst it’s easy to get swept up in the always wavering fighter momentum. What really awaits Sterling is simply a pivotal and common rebound test.
This story isn’t a new one, in fact, it’s a quite familiar one. The young prospect has hit his first true professional roadblock. Losing his ‘0’ on a big stage and now needing a rebound. In fairness to Sterling, most don’t make it to the UFC with their ‘0’ intact but that impressive factor comes with its negatives.
Sterling Suffers His First Loss
Sterling was talented enough to make it this far before suffering his first loss. But that talent never allowed him this vital experience earlier. Instead Sterling was in front of the world, looking and more importantly feeling unbeatable. ‘The Funk Master’ stood out due to a certain confident swagger. And it came through in his quite brash trash talk prior to the Caraway clash.
I think it is and always was clear that Sterling’s intentions were innocent and he was simply trying to capture the public’s attention and interest. And to some extent, I think it certainly worked. However, with that attention and interest came scrutiny and that made Sterling’s defeat all the more hurtful to his expanding image.
This Saturday’s fight with Assuncao represents a chance to erase that damage though and reposition Sterling as a division standout. Assuncao has been fighting at a high level for quite some time. And was riding a seven-fight win streak before losing to TJ Dillashaw at UFC 200 this past July. That loss came after an almost two-year layoff too in fairness to Assuncao and to add to the intrigue.
The Brazilian’s last win came against Sterling’s only conqueror Caraway. It’s a really tough test for Sterling but one that in a strange way may be the perfect fit for rejuvenating the American’s still young career. The hype surrounding ‘The Funk Master’ was there for a valid reason. And there’s no better way to remind the world of that then a victory this Saturday night.
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