When Aljamain Sterling became bantamweight champion at UFC 259, his belt came with a giant asterisk. Aljo was losing steam in his fight vs Petr Yan, but he walked away the champ after the Russian clocked Sterling with an illegal knee.
And so the saga began. I faded Sterling (as did plenty of other bettors) in the rematch vs Yan at UFC 273. Sure enough, Sterling defeated Yan by decision, cashing as a +340 favorite. Unconvinced, I faded Sterling again vs TJ Dillashaw (-170) and Henry Cejudo (EVEN). Again, my bankroll dwindled.
Let my losses tell a tragic tale. I stand before you all today to shine a spotlight on Sterling, who's quickly and quietly emerged as the UFC's most profitable male champion.
With a spicy matchup vs Sean O'Malley looming at UFC 292 on August 19, let's examine exactly how Sterling became so dominant and why slick sports bettors can capitalize on his machine-like consistency.
Profitability of Active Male UFC Champions (Last Five Fights)
|Division||Champion||Record (L5)||Unit Profit|
|Light Heavyweight||n/a (Vacant Belt)||n/a||n/a|
Sterling's seen far too many plus-money betting lines for a 15-win UFC contender and active champion. According to our odds calculator, if you wagered $100 on each of Sterling's last five fights, you'd be up $685.40 (6.854 units).
Why Is Sterling So Profitable?
The drama of the fight game sucks in rabid fans, but it can also cause sports bettors to lose focus of the cold, hard numbers. In this case, the betting public lost sight of Sterling's talent. Allow me to explain.
Consecutive Upsets (+4.45 Units) vs Petr Yan
The back-to-back wins over Yan do a lot of heavy lifting in terms of Sterling's odds-on profitability. The public didn’t think much of Sterling’s DQ title win at UFC 259, as the New York native closed at +340 for the rematch vs Yan. He ultimately won that match via a very closely contested split decision.
Control time and consistency over flashy KOs
You won’t see wild compilations of Sterling’s dominance the way you might see a video reel of Khamzat Chimaev destroying opponents or O’Malley tossing tornado-like headkicks. And since “Funkmaster” doesn’t keep fight fans on the edge of their seats, he doesn’t get the betting action he deserves.
Sterling won the bantamweight belt and subsequently defended it three times by stretching fights out. He leads all active bantamweights in total strikes landed (1,646), control time (1:08:36) and decision wins (eight). Aljo’s not a killer with iron fists; he’s a cardio monster who wins his way, dominating opponents for five full rounds and confidently awaiting the judges’ decision.
How To Profit Off Sterling at UFC 292
So, what’s the move vs O’Malley in Boston on August 19?
“Suga” Sean is one of the sport’s more creative knockout artists, but it’s hard to rally energy for a high-flying KO when you’re constantly picking yourself off the canvas. I believe in O’Malley’s ability to defend a few takedowns and even rise to his feet, but Sterling is calculated and relentless with his grappling attack.
As a bettor, I love a bet on Sterling to win by decision; that’s the pick I went with in my full Sterling vs O’Malley preview here. The UFC prop odds will materialize closer to the event, but I’m also a big fan of a dart throw bet on Sterling to win by split decision.
If you’re still not sold on Sterling, then at least consider wagering the fight to go the distance at +165. If Aljo fights his best fight, then this bout will drag deep into the championship rounds and ultimately to a judges’ decision.