UFC: Aljamain Sterling to have neck surgery which will sideline him until the end of the year

UFC fans are going to have to wait for the rematch between Aljamain Sterling (20-3) and Petr Yan (15-2). The bantamweight champion told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that he’s set for neck surgery on April 15th.

The surgery is to address a medical issue that Sterling has apparently been dealing with for the past ten years. There had been whispers of a summer rematch between Sterling and Yan, but that is now off the table. Sterling won the title by disqualification last month.

The UFC champion told ESPN, “They told me I will heal in three months, and can start doing cardio to get myself ready. They wouldn’t want to see me take a fight until they see everything has fused in my neck correctly. Five months would be ideal.”

Sterling went on to say that he doesn’t believe that the UFC should make an interim title. He pointed out that Yan went the same amount of time between winning the title and their matchup at UFC 259.

What’s next for the UFC?

Sterling told ESPN that in an ideal world he would defend his title in either late October or early November. So, what does the UFC do and will Petr Yan sit on the sidelines for that amount of time?

I’m really not sure what’s going to happen because this surgery screws up the entire timeline. The UFC wanted Sterling and Yan to rematch in the summer. The plan was to have the winner of TJ Dillashaw – Cory Sandhagen fight for the title in the fall.

However, with Sterling out, all bets are off. If I had to guess, I think the UFC is going to make an interim title. I could be dead wrong, but something tells me that they will.

My guess is that the winner of TJ Dillashaw – Cory Sandhagen will fight Petr Yan in the summer for the interim title. The winner of that matchup would then fight Sterling for the undisputed UFC title in the fall. Might not make sense to Sterling, but that’s the direction I think the promotion goes in.

BREAKING: UFC booking main event between TJ Dillashaw and Cory Sandhagen

The UFC has finalized a couple of massive main events in the bantamweight division this evening. First, we learned that the promotion has booked a main event on May 22nd between Cody Garbrandt and Rob Font. 

Just minutes later after that news broke, we learned of another UFC main event in the bantamweight division. And this one is going to be the title eliminator. Per ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, TJ Dillashaw (16-4) will be returning to take on Cory Sandhagen (14-2).

This fight has been rumored for a couple of weeks, but it has now been agreed to by all sides. Cory Sandhagen isn’t getting a UFC title shot, but he’s getting the next best thing in this shot against TJ Dillashaw. He’s getting to fight the former champion with a title shot on the line.

The Sandman has seen his stock rise a ton over the past few months. After a slipup against Aljamain Sterling back at UFC 250, Sandhagen scored highlight reel knockouts over Marlon Moraes and Frankie Edgar.

Knocking out the former UFC lightweight champion in the manner that he did really showed people how good Sandhagen is. Now, he’s going to get the fight that he wanted in taking on the returning TJ Dillashaw.

Dillashaw’s UFC return

After two and a half years away, TJ Dillashaw is finally returning to the octagon. The former UFC bantamweight champion just came off of a suspension that ended in January which kept him away since January 2019.

Dillashaw never lost his title inside the octagon. The former champion was forced to relinquish the title after he popped for EPO after his failed attempt to become a two-division UFC champion against Henry Cejudo.

Dillashaw said that he took it to assist with his energy levels as he was trying to make 125 pounds. He insists that he’s never taken it before, but there have been a lot of questions regarding Dillashaw’s potential use of EPO prior to the Cejudo fight.

With that, many are wondering just how good TJ Dillashaw is. Well, the former UFC champion gets the opportunity to show the world on May 8th. If he comes out and dominates Cory Sandhagen while passing all drug tests, that will say a lot about how good TJ Dillashaw really is.

State of the bantamweight division after UFC 259

UFC 259 was supposed to provide some clarity in the bantamweight division. While Petr Yan (15-2) was the champion, many questioned how legit he was as the champion seeing as the two wins he had leading to the title came against Urijah Faber and Jose Aldo (29-7).

While both are great former champions, neither are considered to be the cream of the crop at 135 pounds. Aljamain Sterling (20-3) on the other hands was considered by everyone to be the number one contender.

Sterling had been on an incredible run and was expected to be the biggest challenge for Yan. Had Yan defeated Sterling, you couldn’t question the legitimacy of his title reign. Well, for almost four rounds at UFC 259, it looked like we were heading that direction.

Aljamain Sterling was putting up a good fight, but Petr Yan was in control on Saturday night. Sterling was fading badly and it looked like we were getting close to a potential Petr Yan stoppage win. However, that’s when chaos erupted.

With about 30 seconds left in the fourth round, Aljamain Sterling was grounded with one knee on the floor. Yan looked to his corner for instructions and someone said he was good to throw a knee. Yan launched a knee that hit Sterling flush in the temple.

That knee ultimately prevented Sterling from being able to continue. As a result, Yan was disqualified and Sterling won the title. While Sterling was on his way to losing, he gets a DQ win and walked out of UFC 259 the bantamweight champion.

State of the UFC’s bantamweight division

With all of this controversy, Dana White said that the UFC will immediately book the rematch between Sterling and Yan. While Sterling has the title, there’s virtually no one that views him as the champion with him winning in that fashion.

To me, it’s almost like the title is vacant. I don’t think either man should have the title at the moment, but my opinion doesn’t matter. Sterling will go into the rematch with Yan as the bantamweight champion.

With that rematch in the works, the UFC will now look to book Cory Sandhagen (14-2) against former champion, TJ Dillashaw (16-4). Dillashaw is eligible to fight now that he’s off suspension and Dana White said he would be in a title eliminator in his first fight back.

Considering the spots in the division, it appears that Dillashaw and Sandhagen are on a collision course. The next spot in the rankings belongs to Rob Font (18-4). In my opinion, I would love to see Font fight former UFC champion, Cody Garbrandt (12-3) next.

However, Garbrandt has been chasing a fight with Jose Aldo next. If that happens, Font will need a new fight. Based on the rankings, the only fight that would make sense for Font is Pedro Munhoz (19-5, 1 NC).

Munhoz is in the top ten and he’s coming off of a very impressive win against Jimmie Rivera. Prior to that he lost a debatable decision to Frankie Edgar. Had that decision gone towards Munhoz, he’d be in the top five right now. The promotion will get these guys paired up and it should be an exciting 2021 at 135.

TJ Dillashaw still wants a UFC title shot in return, but will settle for a top five opponent

Former UFC bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw (16-4) is getting anxious to make his octagon return. Dillashaw’s suspension for a positive EPO test ended in January and he’s been preparing to get back into the cage.

The former champion has been very vocal about wanting a UFC title shot when he returns. Dillashaw never lost the bantamweight title inside the cage. He had dropped down to fight Henry Cejudo at flyweight when he was popped for EPO.

After the positive test, Dillashaw released a statement saying he was giving up his UFC title. Shortly after that, Dillashaw was suspended for two years. During his time off, Dillashaw got some much needed surgeries to get his body ready for this next push in his career.

The top bantamweights have been vocal in wanting to fight Dillashaw. However, they’ve also been very vocal about believing he doesn’t deserve a title shot considering the reasoning behind him losing the title.

While Dillashaw has been adamant that he wants a UFC title shot in his return, he is starting to change his tune a little. Perhaps he’s starting to get the feeling that a title shot is not likely for his comeback fight.

UFC title shot or top five

The former UFC bantamweight champion appeared on “Real Quick with Mike Swick” to talk about what he wants next. As mentioned, Dillashaw still wants a title shot, but he’s more open to other possibilities with his return imminent.

“I’m ready to go straight for the belt. If that’s the opportunity that comes at me because I know Yan wants it… I didn’t leave this sport by losing my belt. He knows there’s a lot of speculation if he’s the real champ because he hasn’t beaten the champion to get that belt,” Dillashaw said.

The former UFC champion did say that his return is about proving to the world that he’s the best bantamweight of all time. If that means he has to take on a top five opponent when he returns, Dillashaw is willing to do that as well.

“I want to come back and prove that I’m the best bantamweight of all time. I want to come back and fight the best. If that’s for the belt right away then so be it. If that’s fighting someone else in the top five, awesome,” Dillashaw said. Whoever he fights in his UFC return, you can imagine there will be a lot of eyes on TJ Dillashaw.

UFC: Cody Garbrandt wants Jose Aldo in April before flyweight title shot

One of the best highlight reel knockouts of 2020 came back at UFC 250. That night, Cody Garbrandt (12-3) unleashed a vicious right hook in the final seconds of the first round to completely flatten Raphael Assuncao.

The former UFC bantamweight champion picked up his first win since December of 2016 with that knockout. Prior to that victory, he had been knocked out in three straight fights.

After Garbrandt won, he was moved up to third in the bantamweight rankings. However, he wanted to drop down to 125 pounds and fight at flyweight. He had his eyes set on the newly crowned flyweight champion, Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1-1).

The UFC booked their title fight for November. However, due to injuries and a battle with COVID, Garbrandt had to pull out of the fight. Garbrandt has been healing on the sidelines while awaiting his flyweight title opportunity.

The former bantamweight champion was all set to take on the winner of the UFC 256 headliner between Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno (18-5-2). However, the two men fought to a draw and the UFC is going to give Moreno an immediate rematch.

Garbrandt is ready for another fight, however, if he wants to wait for a flyweight title shot, he won’t fight until late in the summer. Instead, Garbrandt has his eyes on a big fight at bantamweight while he waits.

Will the UFC book Garbrandt – Aldo?

Cody Garbrandt told ESPN this week that the fight that he wants is Jose Aldo (29-7). He pointed out the fact that at this stage he only wants to fight big names if he’s not getting a title shot. His desire to remain active is why he’s wanting to fight again at bantamweight.

Aldo is coming off of a win in December over Chito Vera. The win snapped a three-fight losing streak for Aldo. Aldo has looked rejuvenated since dropping down to bantamweight in late 2019.

Currently, both men are ranked in the top six of the division. Aldo has been calling out TJ Dillashaw (16-4), however, there’s no traction on that fight at the moment. Garbrandt also told ESPN that he wants to fight a “clean” TJ Dillashaw.

No Love made it very clear that he still intends on dropping to 125 pounds when he’s presented with the title shot. The desire to fight Aldo just stems from remaining active and getting to fight a big name. Personally, I love the matchup if the UFC can get it done.

UFC: Rob Font wants a March headliner against TJ Dillashaw

One of the UFC bantamweight contenders with the most hype right now is Rob Font (18-4). Font starched Marlon Moraes (23-8-1) with a devastating performance in his last fight. It was a fight where Font had to show a number of his skills.

Going into the December matchup at UFC Vegas 17, we knew that Rob Font had really good boxing. However, there were questions around how he would handle someone with strong kicks and how his grappling would hold up.

Well, he was taken down early, but he got back up. He did take some kicks from Moraes, but the damage he did with his own punches was far more severe. Just under four minutes into the first round, Font put Moraes out.

It was the third straight victory in the UFC for Font. After the win, Font rose to fifth in the bantamweight rankings. A spot well deserved after the performance that he put on last month.

Font has made it very clear in what he wants next. He wants a shot at the former UFC bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw (16-4). Dillashaw’s two-year suspension ends this week, and he needs an opponent.

Will the UFC make it?

Font told MMA Junkie that he would love to headline a card with March against Dillashaw. He also said that he believes the former champion is mentally broken now that he has to compete after being a proven cheater.

Dillashaw is currently weighing his options for his next matchup in the UFC. He’s made it clear that he wants a title shot right out of the gate, however, it isn’t clear on if the promotion is a fan of that option.

Jose Aldo (29-7) also said that he would like to be the one to welcome Dillashaw back to the octagon. At this point, there is no telling on what direction the promotion is leaning. However, the Font fight does make sense.

Rob Font has a ton of momentum after his last fight. It was a great performance and he could be looking at a title shot if he has one more big win. Well, it wouldn’t get much bigger than a win over the former UFC champion.

Cody Garbrandt (12-3) and his management have been asking the UFC for a fight with Aldo. Garbrandt is currently waiting for a flyweight title shot, however, with the title tied up until mid-2021, he’s looking for a big fight.

The promotion could book Garbrandt and Aldo which would open the door for Dillashaw to face Font. It’s a fight that makes a ton of sense for the division and whoever wins would earn themselves a title shot with that performance.

Cory Sandhagen says TJ Dillashaw needs a win before getting UFC title shot

One of the more exciting divisions in the UFC is the bantamweight division. Just last week, we saw it get announced that Petr Yan (15-1) and Aljamain Sterling (19-3) are finally going to fight for the title in March at UFC 259. 

Next month, there is also a big time bantamweight matchup scheduled for February 6th. Cory Sandhagen (13-2) will be taking on Frankie Edgar (24-8-1) in the co-main event of that UFC Fight Night.

Both Sandhagen and Edgar are currently ranked inside the top four of the bantamweight division. Considering that Cody Garbrandt (12-3) is ranked third despite moving down to flyweight, both men are actually ranked in the top three.

However, it’s not a guarantee that the winner of their matchup will get a UFC title shot. While it makes all the sense in the world and whoever wins would definitely be deserving, there’s one fighter that could throw a wrench into things.

That fighter is the former UFC bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw (16-4). Dillashaw is getting ready to return after serving a two-year suspension following a positive drug test for EPO.

Dillashaw’s suspension forced him to relinquish the UFC bantamweight championship. He never lost the title inside the octagon, but his actions outside the cage gave the belt away. Dillashaw has been vocal about his desire to fight for the title.

UFC shot right away? Sandhagen says no way

TJ Dillashaw told ESPN in early December that he believes he should get a title shot immediately. His logic is that he never lost the title inside the cage and Yan really didn’t earn the title. For that reason, the championship is up for grabs.

Jose Aldo (29-7) recently called out Dillashaw for a fight after his last win. Honestly that matchup would make a ton of sense for both men. However, reports are that there is no traction at the moment to get that fight done.

Sandhagen has been hearing whispers about Dillashaw’s desire for a UFC title shot. He made it clear that he’s not in favor saying, “I heard him say he’s playing the ‘financially secure’ card. We’ve been putting in work while you’ve been gone. So that would kind of be a bummer if they just gave it to him.”

At this point, it doesn’t appear that the UFC is going to give Dillashaw his desired title shot. Yes, Dillashaw never lost the title inside the cage, however, he hasn’t fought in two years due to a suspension for taking a banned substance.

Dominick Cruz (22-3) never lost his title either but was forced to face Takeya Mizugaki instead of getting a title shot after his first layoff. And that was due to injury. Sandhagen is right in that the winner of him and Frankie Edgar should get the next shot at the title.

The UFC should really try to book Dillashaw against a guy like Aldo. Let him reestablish himself in the division and try to repair his name. Do not give him a title shot just because he held the belt when he was suspended. It’s not fair to the guys who have been competing.

UFC: If Henry Cejudo returns in 2021, who will he fight?

UFC, Henry Cejudo

At UFC 249 in May of last year, Henry Cejudo (16-2) successfully defended his bantamweight title when he stopped Dominick Cruz (22-3). The fight capped off an incredible three-year run for Cejudo.

Cejudo lost a split decision to Joseph Benavidez (28-7) in December of 2016. However, after that loss, Cejudo would not lose again in the UFC. He climbed to the top of the flyweight division where he was the first flyweight to defeat Demetrious Johnson (30-3-1).

From there, he defeated TJ Dillashaw (16-4) before moving up to bantamweight. At bantamweight he stopped Marlon Moraes (23-8-1) to capture the title before of course stopping Cruz at UFC 249.

After the fight was over, Cejudo said that he was walking away on top. At just 33 years old, Cejudo seemed comfortable with his decision to retire. However, he’s been constantly active on social media over the last few months.

Cejudo doesn’t talk like someone who’s fought his last fight in the UFC. He’s hinted at returning to the octagon at some point and perhaps 2021 is the year. So if Cejudo does return, who should he fight?

Who would the UFC pair him with?

The fight that Cejudo really wants is a fight with the UFC’s featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski (22-1). Fighting Volkanovski would give Cejudo the chance to do something truly remarkable.

Cejudo is already an Olympic Gold Medalist and a two-division UFC champion. However, if he were to fight and defeat Volkanovski, he would become the first fighter in the promotion’s history to have held a title in three divisions.

However, given the landscape of featherweight, I think this is unlikely. Volkanovski has a big challenge in front of him in Brian Ortega (15-1, 1 NC). After Ortega, there is a plethora of top contenders waiting.

I can’t imagine the UFC giving Cejudo that fight because I don’t think he would commit to defending that title. I believe if he moved up for that fight it would be a one and done type of situation.

Now, if Volkanovski clears out the division over the next year or two, then I could see the UFC doing it. However, that division is too fluid right now to have a one and done type of title fight.

The same situation could be said about bantamweight. Petr Yan (15-1) and Aljamain Sterling (19-3) are getting ready to fight for that title. Bantamweight is one of the more stacked divisions in the UFC. I can’t see them letting Cejudo hold up the division.

Return to flyweight or a catchweight?

Of course that leaves flyweight and Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1-1). To me, this is the most likely fight as things currently stand. Figueiredo is set to have a rematch with Brandon Moreno (18-5-2) followed by a fight with Cody Garbrandt (12-3) should he beat Moreno.

If Figueiredo wins both of those fights, I could see the UFC pairing him up against Cejudo in a one-off fight. It would be a massive fight for Figueiredo who the UFC is putting a lot of stock into. They’ve already had some fun back and forth which could fuel the potential fight.

As you can see, there are a number of options across three divisions. If Cejudo commits to coming back and competing more than once, any of the divisions are a possibility. However, if it’s just a one-time deal it will likely be against the flyweight champion of the world.

State of the UFC’s bantamweight division entering 2021

One of the divisions that has really flipped in 2020 is the UFC‘s bantamweight division. I’m not sure anyone saw the division going the way that it did when the year started. Granted, I don’t think anything about 2020 went as planned.

When the year started, Henry Cejudo (16-2) was the reigning UFC bantamweight king. He was angling for a fight with former featherweight champion, Jose Aldo (29-7), after Aldo lost by split decision to Marlon Moraes.

Cejudo and the UFC brass felt that Aldo won the fight. The two men were scheduled to fight in May. However, after the pandemic hit, Aldo was not able to travel for UFC 249 to take on Cejudo.

That’s when former UFC bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz (22-3), stepped to the plate. Cruz had been out since 2016, but in that fight he lost his world title. The two men met at UFC 249.

That night, Cejudo finished Cruz in the second round then retired after the fight. The promotion decided to give Aldo a title shot after he was promised one and paired him against top contender, Petr Yan (16-1) for the vacant title.

At UFC 251 on Fight Island, Yan and Aldo met for the bantamweight championship. Aldo had some good moments early, however, Yan took over late. Ultimately, Yan finished Aldo in the fifth round to become bantamweight champion.

UFC’s Bantamweight Division in 2021

We already know the first title fight, we just don’t know when. Yan was supposed to defend his title against Aljamain Sterling (19-3) at UFC 256. However, Yan had to pull out for undisclosed reasons. That fight is supposed to be setup early in 2021.

An interesting wrinkle in the division is the return of former champion, TJ Dillashaw (16-4). Dillashaw never lost his UFC title in the ring, but his suspension forced him to be stripped of the 135 pound title.

Dillashaw’s two-year suspension is up in January and he’s looking to get right back in the mix. Jose Aldo is one of the men that wants a shot at Dillashaw. Aldo is coming off of a big win against Chito Vera at UFC Vegas 17. 

The two former UFC champions could make for a very compelling matchup. Another key matchup early in the year is the matchup between Cory Sandhagen (13-2) and former lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar (24-8-1).

That matchup on February 6th might be a title eliminator. Rob Font (18-4) might be the one contender to watch in 2021. Font just knocked out Marlon Moraes at UFC Vegas 17. His hands looked incredibly crisp and he’s busted into the top five at bantamweight.

The UFC‘s bantamweight division is absolutely stacked. I didn’t even mention the matchup between Pedro Munhoz and Jimmie Rivera that’s booked on January 20th. So many incredible matchups in that division.

Petr Yan looks like a world-beater. However, his division is full of guys who are waiting to take away that crown. So many interesting storylines and potential matchups surround the UFC’s bantamweight division entering 2021.

UFC Match Maker: TJ Dillashaw – Jose Aldo

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 17, Jose Aldo (29-7) was able to get back in the win column. The former featherweight champion took on Chito Vera (16-7-1) in the co-main event of the evening at UFC Vegas 17.

In the first round of the fight, Aldo looked sensational on the feet. Busting up the legs and the body of Chito Vera. A dominant display of grappling in the third round sealed the fight for Jose Aldo.

After the fight was over, the former UFC featherweight champion called out one man. There is only one fight that seems to interest Aldo at the moment, and that is a matchup with the former UFC bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw (16-4).

Dillashaw never lost his title inside the octagon. Back in early 2019, Dillashaw dropped down to flyweight to try and capture a second UFC title. Dillashaw lost the fight, however, he also tested positive for EPO and was forced to relinquish his bantamweight title.

He also received a two-year suspension for the positive test. That suspension is up in January and Dillashaw is interested in returning in March. He responded to the UFC callouts this week stating that fighters are calling him out because, “They know that’s my belt.”

UFC: Dillashaw – Aldo

Personally, I think this is the perfect matchup for the UFC to make. Aldo just fought Petr Yan for the title back in July and he’s coming off of a very impressive win over Chito Vera. Aldo is right in the mix at 135 pounds.

Dillashaw needs a really solid opponent for his UFC return. He needs a big name that can reestablish himself near the top of the division if he’s able to pickup the victory. Aldo certainly fits the mold of that kind of opponent.

With the title tied up for at least the first quarter of 2021, I believe the UFC should move to make Aldo – Dillashaw. If Dillashaw wins, he will be the next in line for the title. However, if Aldo wins, he could get another opportunity at UFC gold.