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All of Aljamain Sterling’s efforts thus far have pointed to this moment. The question now becomes whether or not he can complete the final—and most difficult—leg of his journey.
The Serra-Longo Fight Team standout will challenge Petr Yan for the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight crown as part of a UFC 259 title tripleheader on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Stock in Sterling has never been higher, as he enters the cage on the heels of five straight victories. The 31-year-old Uniondale, New York, native last appeared at UFC 250 in June, when he needed just 88 seconds to throttle the highly regarded Cory Sandhagen with a rear-naked choke.
As Sterling prepares for a career-defining confrontation with Yan, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. He passed through a crucible.
Sterling was an accomplished amateur wrestler before he made the transition to mixed martial arts. He competed at Morrisville State College, then transferred to the State University of New York College at Cortland—a Division III institution where he became a two-time NCAA All-American. His 87 career victories still rank 18th on the school’s all-time list.
2. Championships are not foreign to him.
Sterling captured regional titles in the Cage Fury Fighting Championships and Ring of Combat promotions, as he bolstered his resume prior to signing with the UFC.
3. Hard data backs up his results.
Sterling ranks second on the UFC’s all-time list at 135 pounds in total strikes landed (1,102), third in submission victories (four), third in striking differential (2.82), fourth in wins (10) and fourth in significant strikes landed (732). The Matt Serra protégé also holds the UFC record for distance strikes landed in a single fight, as he landed 172 of them in a unanimous decision over Pedro Munhoz at UFC 238.
4. He did not take the path of least resistance.
The five men Sterling has defeated—Sandhagen, Munhoz, Jimmie Rivera, Cody Stamann and Brett Johns—during his current winning streak own a combined record of 92-17-1.
5. His travels have not yet required a passport.
All 22 of Sterling’s fights have taken place inside the continental United States. He has fought nine times in New Jersey, four times in Nevada, twice in Pennsylvania, twice in California, once in Colorado, once in Missouri, once in Texas, once in Arizona and once in Illinois.
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