UFC 214 brought a star-studded cast to the Honda Center in Anaheim, California Saturday night. On the televised preliminary card, former bantamweight champ Renan Barao met standout featherweight Aljamain Sterling at a 140lb catchweight. It was a key fight, one that didn’t go well for Barao.
Sterling held the center of the octagon early, while Barao kept moving and was light on his feet. Barao and Sterling were both free with the kicks, with “The Baron” showing a little more flash. Sterling would look for a leg lock after slipping about ninety seconds in, and while he would cling to the hold, Barao was never in much danger. The sequence would allow Barao to wind up in top control and looking to pass guard. Sterling stayed active off his back however, defending well. As the seconds ticked down, however, Barao looked more comfortable and was able to score more from the top.
In the second, the pair again exchanged kicks with Barao later catching Sterling with a right hand. Sterling answered with an inside leg kick. Barao was then able to attempt an anaconda choke following a kick that dropped Sterling, but the choke wasn’t in and Sterling easily broke free. Sterling then slowed the pace, pushing Barao up against the cage. That allowed him to take the back of Barao. Initially looking for a leg lock, Sterling was able to land some big shots as Barao covered up. The former bantamweight champ was almost able to break free after eating some serious punishment, but Sterling stayed on him. Barao did manage to transition and get Sterling off his back; he’d briefly threaten with an arm bar but was nowhere near finishing. Sterling would land some hard knees to the thigh, and the round would come to a close.
In the third, Sterling connected with a front kick early that wobbled Barao. He looked to be in trouble, but recovered as Sterling pressed him against the cage. Barao had noticeably slowed once the exchanges began again; he seemed slower, his movement off. Sterling was able to connect then again grind him up against the fence, eating precious seconds off the clock. Later in the round Barao would try to turn the tables with a shot of his own, but by the time he did score the late takedown there were just ten seconds left in the round. It would go the distance, with Barao behind on the scorecards.
Aljamain Sterling def. Renan Barao by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 30-26)