Uniondale's Aljamain Sterling has been calling for a UFC bantamweight title shot for quite some time. It finally arrives on Dec. 12, when the Serra/Longo-trained Sterling faces champion Petr Yan at UFC 256 in Las Vegas.
Here is a chronological fight-by-fight look at how the No. 1 ranked Sterling rose through the bantamweight division in the UFC over the past six years to reach this moment.
UFC 170 vs. Cody Gibson
After beginning his career with eight straight wins and Ring of Combat and CFFC bantamweight titles, Sterling made his UFC debut on Feb. 22, 2014. With a dominant and decisive final round, Sterling won a unanimous decision over Cody Gibson.
UFC Fight Night 45 vs. Hugo Viana
A thorough and dominant performance by Sterling over Viana gave him his lone TKO stoppage victory in the promotion as he used his ground skills to set up his finishing strikes in the third round at UFC Atlantic City on July 16, 2014.
UFC on Fox 15 vs. Takeya Mizugaki
Sterling remained undefeated by submitting Takeya Mizugaki via arm triangle at the Prudential Center in Newark on April 18, 2015. The stoppage came at 2:11 of the third round with Sterling locking in the choke from bottom position.
UFC Fight Night 80 vs. Johnny Eduardo
Sterling showcased a more varied offensive attack in his fourth UFC bout, but ultimately, his ground game did what he needed it to do. Sterling submitted Johnny Eduardo late in the second round by guillotine choke in Las Vegas on Dec. 10, 2015.
UFC Fight Night 88 vs. Bryan Caraway
Sterling nearly submitted Bryan Caraway in the first round but would end up losing a split decision in Las Vegas on May 29, 2016, for his first career defeat.
UFC on Fox 23 vs. Raphael Assuncao
Sterling landed a greater number of significant strikes in this bout in Denver on Jan. 28, 2017, but it was Assuncao who earned the split decision victory.
UFC on Fox 24 vs. Augusto Mendes
Perhaps the first time we saw Sterling really showcase his striking ability, he won a unanimous decision over Augusto Mendes in Kansas City on April 15, 2017, to end a two-fight losing streak, which to this day remains the longest in his nine-year pro career.
UFC 214 vs. Renan Barao
There's a concept in MMA, and elsewhere, that name recognition carries more weight than rank and recent resume. Renan Barao once was the UFC bantamweight champion with a 33-fight non-losing streak (32 wins, 1 no contest) and a spot high up on the mythical pound-for-pound list. Sterling dominated Barao, winning by unanimous decision at a 140-pound catchweight bout in California on July 29, 2017.
UFC Fight Night 123 vs. Marlon Moraes
The fight that changed Sterling's career. He was knocked out cold by a Marlon Moraes knee. When such a knockout looped on TV and social media, Dec. 9, 2017, in Fresno, California, became a defining moment for the man from Uniondale.
UFC Fight Night 128 vs. Brett Johns
In his first fight since being knocked out for the first time in his career, Sterling rebounded and outgrappled Brett Johns for the unanimous decision on April 21, 2018, in Atlantic City.
UFC 228 vs. Cody Stamann
"The ‘Human Anaconda’ is back," exclaimed Sterling after he submitted Cody Stamann in the second round at UFC 228 in Dallas on Sept. 8, 2018. Sterling used a kneebar submission move, also called a Suloev Stretch, to earn his first submission win since 2015.
UFC on ESPN 1 vs. Jimmie Rivera
Something of a local grudge match here, with Rivera being from New Jersey and the two bantamweights rising up the regional circuit around the same time. Sterling settled the matter with a unanimous decision win on Feb. 17, 2019, in Phoenix for his third straight win.
UFC 238 vs. Pedro Munhoz
"The Human Anaconda" can punch, too. Sterling continually tagged Munhoz with jabs and hooks, amid the array of kicks, lead elbows and spinning back fists to win by unanimous decision on June 8, 2019, in Chicago.
UFC 250 vs. Cory Sandhagen
Looked at as a bantamweight title eliminator, with the winner getting a shot at new champion Petr Yan, Sterling wasted no time on June 6, 2020, in Las Vegas. He took Sandhagen’s back early, secured a body triangle and looked for the rear-naked choke. Within 88 seconds, the fight was over and Sterling had his title shot.