After a successful featherweight debut at UFC 300, what’s next for Aljamain Sterling?

MMA: UFC 300 - Kattar vs Sterling
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

On the prelims at UFC 300, we saw a former champion make his debut in a new weight class. Former long-time bantamweight champ Aljamain Sterling (24-4) moved up to 145 for the first time as he took on top ten contender Calvin Kattar (23-8) who was returning after a serious knee injury.

For years, Sterling had talked about how tough the weight cut was for him to get down to bantamweight. He had teased moving up to 145 while he was a champion at 135, but after he lost the belt to Sean O’Malley, he felt it was the right time to move up to featherweight.

He jumped right into a top ten matchup on the biggest card of all time. Sterling admitted that he was more nervous for this matchup than any previous matchup. He also admitted that a loss would’ve likely driven him to retire with limited options moving forward.

However, Sterling didn’t have to think about that decision. From the opening round, Sterling did a great job using his unorthodox striking combined with his wrestling to completely neutralize Kattar. Kattar never got comfortable in any interaction and it was a runaway win for Sterling at UFC 300. Not the most exciting, but extremely effective.

What’s next after UFC 300?

With his win on Saturday night, Sterling hopped into the UFC’s featherweight rankings this week debuting at number eight. At the post-fight press conference, he expressed his interest in potentially fighting Brian Ortega for his second matchup at featherweight. A wise callout considering Ortega is ranked third and is a former two-time title challenger.

Ortega is coming off a win against Yair Rodriguez and I could see this matchup coming together. There is another option that is appealing to me and that’s a matchup with Movsar Evloev. Evloev is coming off a big win against Arnold Allen and this would be such an intriguing matchup from a stylistic standpoint. Evloev and Sterling rely heavily on their wrestling which would make this a fascinating matchup for the UFC to put together.

There is a possibility that Evloev and Ortega ends up being the next matchup at 145. Josh Emmett would be another interesting matchup for Sterling and one that makes sense with Emmett coming off that insane knockout over Bryce Mitchell.

I cannot see Alexander Volkanovski’s next fight not being for the title, but if the UFC wants to make the superfight between Max Holloway and Ilia Topuria after Saturday night, I could see a world where the two champions get put together with a title shot on the line. Lots of options for The Funkmaster at 145.

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