The social media marketing tagline for Aljamain Sterling’s fight with Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250 was “Race to the Throne,” a nod to the heavy title implications of their bout.
Sterling took those words to heart, needing just 88 seconds to submit Sandhagen in their bantamweight bout Saturday night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
“This was the biggest fight of my life,” the Uniondale-raised Sterling said. “I left no stones unturned. I was ready to leave here on crutches.”
There will be no need for that as Sandhagen only threw two strikes and landed one. The No. 2 ranked Sterling (19-3, 11-3 UFC) came out fast, applying pressure and quickly closing the distance with the taller Sandhagen. Sterling was able to take Sandhagen’s back early and secure a body triangle as he tried for a rear-naked choke.
Sandhagen (12-2, 4-1), the fourth-ranked UFC bantamweight, was able to escape the choke, but Sterling kept that body triangle tight around Sandhagen’s waist and remained in control on his back. Sterling flattened out his opponent and locked in another rear-naked choke and squeezed until Sandhagen tapped out.
“These guys think it’s all fluff,” Sterling said. “There are black belts, and then there are black belts. I’m a Serra BJJ black belt.
“Once I take you down, it’s going to be a long night.”
Most food needs more time to heat up in a microwave than Sterling needed to submit Sandhagen.
After submitting Sandhagen, Sterling started yelling, “Where you at, Dana?,” making sure UFC president Dana White was aware of what had just happened. Sterling, winner of five straight, has long been calling for a title shot. That seems a lock after this impressive win.
White said recently that he’s working toward Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo for the bantamweight title left vacant when champion Henry Cejudo retired last month after beating Dominick Cruz.
“I’m tired of this hype,” Sterling said. “Everybody talking how big Petr Yan is. You better win your fight, I’m coming for you.”