UFC 280: Aljamain Sterling Capitalizes on T.J. Dillashaw Injury for Successful Title Defense

Aljamain Sterling and T.J. Dillashaw, UFC 280
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 21: (L-R) Opponents Aljamain Sterling and TJ Dillashaw face off during the UFC 280 ceremonial weigh-in at Etihad Arena on October 21, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling was set to make his second title defense at UFC 280, and for the first time in a year and a half was fighting someone not named Petr Yan.

Instead, Sterling was paired up with former two-time champ T.J. Dillashaw, looking for redemption after seeing his second title reign ended in disgrace, stripped of the belt after testing positive for banned performance enhancing drug EPO.

Saturday’s contest in Abu Dhabi was, with all that in mind, a proving ground for both fighters — Dillashaw looking to prove he could win a title clean, Sterling to prove he could move past the Yan rivalry successfully.

Early on, Dillashaw, who had not fought in over a year, was planted on his back, and appeared to suffered a shoulder injury. Sterling moved straight into mount, where Dillashaw fought the hands, ultimately in vain. Sterling began dropping some nasty shots from up top, as Dillashaw tried to cover up and turn. With well over three minutes remaining, Dillashaw was trapped, and the best he could do was roll, giving up his back.

From there, Sterling looked to get under the neck. The position was cramped, with the fighters stuck along the fence. Dillashaw tried to push off the fence, and eventually created a scramble, but it was Sterling again taking the back. Dillashaw appeared unable to post up off the injured arm/shoulder, but there was a minor moral victory in the fact that he had survived to the final 90 seconds of the round. Sterling, however, had a body triangle locked up, and was landing punches. They scrambled again, and as quick as Dillashaw was up, Sterling had the mat return. Somehow, with a minute to go, Dillashaw made it back up — with his shoulder clearly dislocated, arm dangling.

Sterling would take the fight back down, but incredibly, Dillashaw survived the round. Some quick work by coach Duane Ludwig massaging the shoulder, meanwhile, popped it back in, which was enough to satisfy the ref that the challenger could continue.

To open the second, Sterling went after the wounded limb with a kick. Dillashaw was clearly favoring the injury, throwing only with his right hand. Just over 30 seconds in, Aljo had the fight down, Dillashaw on his back. Sterling moved to side control, while Dillashaw tried to tie up a leg. Soon, Dillashaw was on his back again, then rolled to his side as Sterling dropped elbows. Dillashaw made it up, but had to contend with a choke, and had to further contend with his shoulder coming out again.

Sterling then took the fight back to the mat, dictating the pace and direction of the fight as he had throughout. Dillashaw’s shoulder appeared to be back in place, but he wound up mounted, taking some nasty ground n’ pound again. Dillashaw was flattened out, barely defending, and the ref had seen enough! A successful title defense for Aljamain Sterling, though he’ll once again hear about the nature of the victory.

With Yan having lost earlier in the night, it will be Sean O’Malley likely next up for Aljo — and nothing should be taken away from the Long Island-based fighter, regardless of Dillashaw’s injury. Ref Marc Goddard, meanwhile, confirmed following the bout that he had been informed of Dillashaw’s ailment ahead of the fight.

Official Result: Aljamain Sterling def. T.J. Dillashaw by TKO, Round 2, 3:44


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