UFC Phoenix Results: Aljamain Sterling Cruises to Decision Over Jimmie Rivera

UFC Atlantic City Aljamain Sterling UFC 238
Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

Aljamain Sterling tossed his name back in the hat in the bantamweight title picture following a decisive win over Jimmie Rivera at UFC Phoenix.

Jimmie Rivera comes into UFC Phoenix ranked fifth in the bantamweight division. He built up an excellent record of 16-1 before joining the UFC on the east coast circuit. His success carried over to the Octagon, winning his first five fights, notably beating Urijah Faber and Thomas Almeida. His run came to an end after a knockout loss to top contender Marlon Moraes. The New Jersey native rebounded with a decision victory over John Dodson in his last appearance.

Aljamain Sterling has come into his own ahead of UFC Phoenix. Primarily a grappler, Sterling has won four of his last five while showcasing more confidence on the feet. The Long Islander has turned away prospects Brett Johns and Cody Stamann in his last two contests. The wins have earned him the seventh spot in the bantamweight rankings.

Aljermain Sterling shot in early, looking for a takedown. Yet with no success, instead the pair wound up against the fence with Rivera imposing his will. Never a good sign, however, when the ref has to admonish the fighter in control to improve position or risk losing it. Sterling broke free anyway; later he’d move in for a takedown again, only for Rivera to show superb takedown defense. Sterling was now the one imposing his will, but this time, the ref did break the pair up.

It was Rivera on top early in the second, only for Sterling to scramble free within seconds. The turning point of the round, however, was a spinning back fist that landed for Sterling. Rivera was wobbled, Sterling turned things up, and backed Rivera up against the fence. Sterling mixed in kicks, but Rivera’s mouth piece popped out, not for the first time in the fight. The ref stopped the action, warning Rivera of a point deduction if the guard came out again.

As the second round wore down, Sterling was pulling ahead, working his jab, landing low kicks, and putting himself in a good place to start the third. Rivera, however, was aggressive early in the third. He struggled to get inside however, with Sterling’s kicks impacting his range. A slip later in the round would give River a chance to get on top, but Stirling deftly escaped and regained his feet. With a minute to go Jimmie Rivera needed a finish, instead the fight would go to the judges, where the result was no surprise.

Aljamain Sterling def. Jimmie Rivera by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)