It looks like Derek Brunson isn’t the only fighter out there trying to figure out just what fight the judges are watching. It may be coming up on a month since Aljamain Sterling faced off against Raphael Assuncao at UFC on FOX 23, but the top-ten UFC bantamweight is still a little puzzled as to how he lost his bout against the Brazilian.
Sterling ended up on the wrong side of a split decision, dropping rounds one and two on two judges score cards before winning the third unanimously. FightMetric shows that Sterling landed more significant strikes than Assuncao in every round, in a fight that was largely contested on the feet at kickboxing range. Still, the judges (and most media members) gave Assuncao the nod.
In a recent interview with MMAJunkie, Sterling suggested why he thinks that is:
“I almost want to ask the judges, ‘If you don’t count leg kicks, if you don’t count body kicks, why not?” Sterling said. “So if you don’t think they’re effective in the scoring criteria, they’re not effective striking, effective grappling, so how about I kick you in the body, I kick you in the leg, and you tell me how that feels?
“And you tell me, if that opponent that I just fought doesn’t feel the same thing. That screws so many guys over. And it’s not just me. It happens time and time again.”
Especially for a fighter like Sterling, who channels so much of his striking offense through his kicking game, a long standing bias against scoring kicks as effective strikes may be a real problem for him against the elite. It’s left him unsure of what he can do to get decisions in the future, and unsure of what his next step is in the UFC.
“I’m in a weird spot,” Sterling said. “Two split-decision losses, it kind of puts a limitation on who I can call out and be realistic with myself. Honestly, I think I should be right there to fight (ex-champ Dominick) Cruz, but the last fight didn’t go my way, for whatever, unfortunate reasons, I can’t call that guy out.
“I’m just in a weird spot, and I don’t know who else is out there for me to fight. But honestly whoever they give me – I know I hate when people say that – but honestly whoever they give me, I just have to take the fight. I want to fight more this year. As long as I’m not getting injured, consistency is the key.”
No word yet on when Sterling might be expected back in the cage, or against who. The UFC has been making a real run at putting events in New York, however, so Sterling may have a few chances this year to fight close to home.