The Prelim Breakout Star is a once per event article that helps fans get to know those who will be entertaining them from the undercard. The intention of the article is not to bring attention to the most talented guy on the preliminary card, but rather one that the common fan may have overlooked or underestimated.
Last week, Prelim Picker made a comparison between our pick of the week, Joe Proctor, and his mentor, Joe Lauzon. This week we also look to make comparisons, only this week it is much more of a high bred one. Our pick this week is certainly part of the new breed of fighters with very diverse skill sets, which is by and large why he is so fun to watch.
Nickname – Funk Master
Affiliation – Serra-Longo Fight Team
From – Cortland, NY
Height – 5’7”
Weight – 135 lbs (Bantamweight)
Record – 8-0 (0-0 UFC)
What makes him impressive
The comparison for the 24 year-old Funk Master begins, like Proctor, with a teammate. Take a look at his countless wrestling highlights, which include huge slams and power doubles, and it’s impossible to not be reminded of his training partner and UFC champion Chris Weidman. Both Serra-Longo trained, each man has an impressive collegiate wrestling background and have found a way to transfer those skills to the cage.
The second comparison comes to another UFC champion. While at SUNY Cortland, Sterling met Jon Jones, who was also wrestling there. Although they both eventually transferred from the school, they maintained some contact as Sterling watching Jones’s then budding MMA career. Whether watching his amateur career or his professional fights, it’s clear that Jones’s style has influenced him. His striking is innovative and often times surprising. Mixing this with the wrestling base makes him a very dangerous opponent for anybody in his division.
Why he’s been overlooked
In a sense he hasn’t. Although he’s never fought a UFC fight before, he’s been featured in numerous publications including Fighter’s Only’s list of budding prospects. The aforementioned flashy style certainly gains him views on YouTube. Look for him to have an even larger following after this weekend.
What makes this a good matchup
Cody Gibson does a great job keeping the distance using leg kicks, which should be very helpful in fighting Sterling. However, he’s been taken down pretty easily in some of his past fights. When pressured, WEC veteran Chad George took him down and mounted him with little difficulty. Although Gibson eventually won the fight, Sterling will make him pay much more for his lack of wrestling defense.
Daniel Vreeland is a writer (PrelimPicker) and teacher with an avid love for martial arts. He has practiced jiu jitsu and submission grappling under and next to many top names including Royce Gracie, Rousimar Palhares, Murilo Bustamante and Marco Alvan. He has placed in multiple NAGA grappling tournaments and currently trains under black belt Dave Roy in Amherst, MA.