Two bantamweight contenders fought on the UFC Denver preliminary card with one advancing closer to a title shot and the other moving further away from the top of the division. Fourth-ranked
Sterling use his reach advantage well and kept the Brazilian on the outside with kicks in the opening frame. Assuncao had difficulty getting on the inside, but delivered his share of leg kicks as well.
Assuncao found his range in the second round. He landed an accidental kick to the groin that the referee did not see. In a show of sportsmanship, Assuncao did not pursue Sterling and allowed him to recover even though the referee did not intervene.
When the fight was restarted, Assuncao was the busier fighter. Sterling attempted to get the fight to the ground, but Assuncao defended the takedown attempt. Assuncao seemingly landed a counter right hand that knocked Sterling down in a moment that could have affected the way the judges saw the round. The replay showed the punch land on Sterling’s shoulder and that the apparent knockdown was a slip.
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In the final frame, both fighters picked up the pace. Sterling began landing more frequently, and started putting together combinations. It was a close fight and the scorecards reflected that. The judges scored the fight for Assuncao by split decision.
“He’s a tough guy, and I had to kind of play with the flow, how he was progressing. No excuses, no excuse whatsoever, but the altitude is real,” said Assuncao following the win. “My goal right now is to get back to the top, winning my fights and I’ll get better in the process.”
Injuries have plagued Assuncao’s career. Prior to his last fight at UFC 200, the Brazilian was sideline for nearly two years. Now that he’s back to competing regularly, he has his eyes set on a title shot.
“I have to maintain a good current fighting streak. My last fight was UFC 200. After that I had little injuries and started back in camp. My daughter was born,” he said. “If I can get more consistency, and I think it starts right now.”
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