Sometimes you see UFC fights fall apart due to injury or drug test failures, and the replacement opponent represents an arguable upgrade in fight quality. It’s fair to say that this is a textbook example of such a scenario.
Earlier this month, bantamweight veteran Rani Yahya withdrew from his December 9th matchup vs. top-10 contender Aljamain Sterling, leaving the New Yorker without an opponent just a few weeks out from fight night. Have no fear, for Marlon Moraes is here! MMAjunkie first reported on Friday that Moraes has agreed to fight Sterling on short notice, and while Sterling has announced the matchup on Twitter, the UFC has not yet made it official.
Moraes (19-5-1) is coming off a split decision win over John Dodson at UFC Norfolk just last week. The former WSOF bantamweight champion dropped his Octagon debut by split decision to top-5 contender Raphael Assuncao at UFC 212 in June.
Sterling (14-2) has won his last two fights, offsetting his two split decision defeats to Bryan Caraway and Raphael Assuncao with impressive unanimous decision victories over Augusto Mendes and ex-champ Renan Barao. Incredibly, despite his 6-2 UFC record and top-10 status, Sterling has never been on a UFC main card.
Moraes’ triumph last Saturday meant that he’s now #7 in the UFC’s official rankings, while Sterling dropped down to #8. It’s nevertheless an exciting matchup between two very talented 135-pound fighters.