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Intelligent, unique MMA analysis
Along with Pedro Munhoz, Aljamain Sterling is the best prospect to make his UFC debut this Saturday. He has an undefeated record with wins against quality opponents in Joel Roberts, Sidemar Honorio, and Sean Santella. He has displayed serious skill in all areas of MMA, with a kick-heavy striking offense, good takedowns, and a very good offensive submission game. Sterling’s submissions are his biggest strength; he’s excellent at taking a dominant position on his opponent and finishing from that point.
That’s not to say I don’t have concerns about Sterling. In the fight footage I saw Sterling had to fight his way out of multiple submission holds. His escapes were effective but I don’t like that he got caught in the first place. His striking is also flawed as he throws more kicks than I’d like to see. Against Roberts, Sterling was knocked down by a punch after throwing a series of kicks in Roberts’ direction.
With that said, Sterling is still early on in his MMA career and he’s shown serious talent. That should make him a favorite to beat Cody Gibson, a fighter who is a scrapper more than anything. Gibson throws strikes at a very high pace but is prone to leaving his chin exposed and getting hit regularly by his opponent. Gibson also gets into a lot of mad scrambles on the ground, which often lead to a submission opportunity for Gibson… or a submission opportunity for Gibson’s opponent.
For the most part, Gibson is able to escape submissions, but two of his three career losses are by submission, likely a result of Gibson’s aggressive style. That doesn’t bode well for a fight against Sterling, a fighter who has a more fundamentally sound and polished ground game overall.
Both fighters here bring skills to the table but Sterling simply has superior overall talent. He should be able to land quite a few strikes standing due to Gibson’s compromised defense, and I believe Sterling will have the advantage on the ground as well. That all adds up to…
Pick: Aljamain Sterling by decision
DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER
I like putting small bets on fighters who enter with records as strong as Sterling’s, but only if the price is right. At the moment Sterling is the favorite at -260 with Gibson the underdog at +180. That’s too expensive for me so I’m going to pass.