One round left. Five minutes of fighting that would determine if Uniondale's Aljamain Sterling would return from Las Vegas in victory or defeat after his UFC debut.
There was but one choice for the bantamweight nicknamed "Funkmaster." And yes, he brought the funk.
Sterling dominated Cody Gibson in the third round to win by unanimous decision at UFC 170 Saturday night at Mandalay Bay. All three judges scored the bout 29-28 in favor of Sterling.
Breathing heavily before the bout even started and with tired arms after the first round, Sterling needed a pep talk for the third round. It started with cornermen Ray Longo and Matt Serra, then finished with Sterling.
"I told myself, 'You got five more minutes, right?" Sterling told Newsday. "You got more five minutes? Yeah."
Sterling (9-0, 1-0 UFC) opened the third round with a takedown in the first 30 seconds, then pinned Gibson against the cage. As the two UFC rookies continued to grapple, Sterling put himself in position for a D'Arce choke, but the former Ring of Combat and Cage Fury champion eventually released the submission as Gibson fended it off.
Gibson (11-4, 0-1) couldn't keep Sterling off him the rest of the round. Still in control on the ground, Sterling kept Gibson's left ribcage exposed and connected with a series of body shots.
In the final 90 seconds, Sterling secured a body triangle. A minute later, Sterling attempted a rear naked choke. Twice he got his arm under the chin of Gibson, and twice Gibson fended off the submission attempt. Sterling maintained the advantageous position rather than force the submission and risk making a mistake.
"You have to balance that excitement," Sterling said, "and at the same time you have to fight smart."