A strong start from Aljamain Sterling wasn’t enough to remain undefeated on Sunday night, as the rising bantamweight ran into a road block in the form of Bryan Caraway at UFC Fight Night 88.
Sterling snuck behind Caraway and dragged him to the ground in a slick takedown after some solid early exchanges and wrenched a nasty neck crank. Caraway tried to escape a few times, only to get held in that position. Sterling then locked up an absolutely horrific looking full nelson type crank that seemed to be really bothersome. Caraway survived the first round
Sterling landed a big left hand early in the second, then shot in and had to fight off a front choke attempt. Caraway landed a couple of decent strikes to the eye that gave him a small mouse under the left eye. Caraway tried to act as the aggressor in the round, though Sterling continued to do well on the outside. A clinch from Caraway didn’t really do much for him, and Sterling’s offense continued to be effective as he circled around. However, Caraway scored a takedown late, and wound up transitioning to half guard on top on the ground. Sterling avoided a worse position until the final five seconds when Caraway took his back.
The third round wound up being the deciding factor, and it was a tale of two different fights in the frame. Sterling was scoring well from distance for much of the round until Caraway worked for a takedown. Sterling nearly pulled off a reversal on the ground, but a Caraway cage grab allowed him to halt that, and he drove through to complete it from there. He wasn’t able to do a ton offensively, but it was enough to pull off the round and finish off the upset over the recently re-signed prospect.
Two of the judges gave Caraway the final two rounds to take the split decision, as none had the dominant first as a 10-8. It hands Sterling the first loss of his career, while Caraway re-emerges as a bantamweight contender.
[Photo (c) Dennis Wierzbicki via USA Today Sports]
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