Aljamain Sterling retained his bantamweight championship at UFC 280 in a completely unexpected fashion.
One main narrative clearly dominated the fight. Within the first grappling exchange, TJ Dillashaw’s shoulder dislocated, compromising him for the remainder of the fight. While he somehow survived to the second round, Sterling easily took him down and finished him with ground and pound.
Of course, Dillashaw loses out the most from this result. This fight was likely his last ever title shot. He missed out on two of his prime years due to his suspension. He then had another long layoff to recover from his knee injury. And now, he has lost a title fight and suffered another severe shoulder injury. At his age, his title aspirations are all but finished.
In a way, Sterling suffers from this result as well. His title reign continues to contain asterisks. He initially captured the belt via disqualification. Then, in the rematch, he won a split decision that many thought he lost. Now, his second title defense came against an essentially one-armed fighter. Fans can only hope that Sterling’s next fight will bring the best out of both contestants.
Retirement seems like the optimal path for Dillashaw at this point. He has stated that he only intends to compete for championships, and the belt now seems out of his grasp. While his career has been rife with controversy, his legacy is undeniable. Both him and Dominick Cruz have strong claims for being the greatest bantamweight in history. Even with his injury, he never looked for a way out, a testament to his toughness.
Sterling on the other hand has plenty of exciting opportunities ahead. He called for a fight with former champion Henry Cejudo. Alternatively, Sterling has another exciting prospect in Sean O’Malley that he can face. The division has plenty of contenders to keep Sterling busy as he looks to cement his own legacy going forward.