Paul Felder thinks Aljamain Sterling vs. TJ Dillashaw will likely play standing.
Bantamweight champion Sterling (21-3 MMA, 13-3 UFC) meets Dillashaw (17-4 MMA, 13-4 UFC) in the co-main event of UFC 280 on Oct. 22 in Abu Dhabi. With Sterling’s stifling wrestling style and Dillashaw’s collegiate wrestling experience, Felder doesn’t expect either to control the ground fight.
Sterling’s style is less orthodox. The champ was able to take Petr Yan’s back multiple times in their UFC 273 title fight, as well as quickly squeeze a rear-end choke on Cory Sandhagen to get him out in their fight in June 2020. But Felder thinks it’s okay comes down to how well Sterling is able to handle striking exchanges.
“You have two very good wrestlers,” Felder told ESPN. “Aljamain definitely has the ability to knock you down, sack you, carry you, get on that neck from behind and even if he doesn’t hit you, he just hangs around those rounds and wins rounds. But TJ’s striking is a bit on a different level than Aljamain’s. Aljamain showed a lot of improvement in striking, really good there, but I think that one in particular will really take place on who is going to dictate theirs.
“I don’t see either guy dominating wrestling exchanges. I think it could be back and forth, both guys go down. I think Aljamain might be able to recover and maybe get a submission, but I think it’s going to be tough, and I think he’s really going to have to work to be able to win the boxing and kickboxing exchanges in that one.
Sterling, who was a big underdog for his rematch against Yan, seems to have earned the respect of bettors. According to Tipico, Sterling is currently a slight -180 favorite over Dillashaw, who is a +140 underdog.
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