Coming off a rarely seen submission win over Takeya Mizugaki (20-9-2) at UFC on FOX in Newark, New Jersey, Aljamain “The Funk Master” Sterling (11-0-0) cracked the top-ten in the bantamweight division. Sterling is only the third opponent in Mizugaki’s career who has finished him; the other two being Urijah “The California Kid” Faber (32-7-0) and Dominic Cruz (20-1-0), both good company to find your name alongside. Some people may assume that Sterling calling out the tenth-ranked bantamweight in the UFC, Bryan “Kid Lightning” Caraway (19-8-0), is taking two steps forward and one step back, but Sterling would argue that a matchup with Caraway would truly allow him to test his hands’ ability to withstand the beating Caraway’s chin would place upon them.
While appearing as a guest on Stand and Bang Radio, Sterling shared his analysis as to why a fight with Caraway makes sense,
“I want to fight either Johnny Eduardo or Bryan Caraway. I think the Bryan Caraway fight would be a much more fun fight, especially from a wrestling and BJJ standpoint because you have two high level grapplers going at it; high pace; both really good at back control; and always looking to finish the fight with a submission.”
Witnessing Sterling’s technical abilities on the ground, one would imagine that he’d prefer a road more easily traveled by engaging in a grappling battle with Caraway, though Sterling views this potential pairing as a means to put his hands to the test. Sterling provided an overview of how he envisions the fight with Caraway playing out,
“I think we would cancel each other out and have a nice stand-up fight where I can have a chance to display some more of my striking elements, as opposed to taking guys down and chocking them out every single time.”
It isn’t that Sterling has grown tiresome of listening to his opponents gurgle for breath before tapping out; instead, he understands himself as a fighter, strengths and weaknesses, so it’s understandable that he wants to further push any weakness out of his skill-set by implementing the facets of his game that he has been working hard to expand: striking.
Not only does Sterling want to test his hands as a technician, he also wants to continue to improve upon their resistance to punishment. During his interview, Sterling admitted that once he made the move to the professional level, he has had to overcome a very odd issue when it comes to utilizing his punches,
“It’s really freaky; I don’t understand it. Since going pro, anytime I’ve thrown a number of punches, my hands hurt right after the fight. It’s not like I’m cracking guys. Even touching someone up a little bit with those little gloves, it just hurts my hands. I don’t know what it is.”
To improve his ability to punch pain-free, Sterling has been practicing his punching techniques by wrapping his hands as he would for a fight night. It’s difficult to determine if the training will prevent Sterling from dunking his hands in buckets of ice after the fight, but he sure would like the right opponent to properly assess where he is in cracking the code of this mysterious pain.
An opponent who hears their name called out by a fighter who describes their own hands as “fragile”, may begin to smell blood in the water. Sterling is more than willing to swim in the deep end, and he is in search of contests that further his evolution, both experientially and physically; the next delivery on Sterling’s route up the bantamweight ladder is a special stop where he can hand over a care package to an opponent’s jawline, without his fists saying “breakable”.
Check out this episode of Stand and Bang Radio and others at http://collateraldamagemma.com/podcasts/stand-and-bang-podcast/
By: Dave Madden collateraldamagemma.com