Aljamain Sterling wanted a piece of Bryan Caraway for a long time, pestering his fellow bantamweight on Twitter for months before finally getting the fight.
Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.
Sterling learned a lesson about Caraway several others in the division already know: He's one of the toughest fighters at 135 pounds.
Caraway rallied from a poor first round and took rounds two and three to earn a split decision over Sterling on the featured Fight Pass bout at UFC Fight Night 88 in Las Vegas on Sunday. The judges' scores at the Mandalay Bay Events Center were a pair of 29-28s for Caraway and an odd 29-28 for Sterling.
Fighting on the first fight of his new UFC contract, Sterling looked like a world-beater in the opening round, getting Caraway's back early and dominating the round from the back position, including a rarely seen old-school full nelson. The round was one-sided enough to ponder a 10-8 for Sterling, but all three judges scored it 10-9.
In the second, though, Caraway turned the bout into the sort of ugly encounter in which he thrives. He worked over a tiring Sterling (12-1) in the clinch, scored takedowns, won positional battles, and worked him over some more on the ground while also looking for submissions.
And while he never came close to finishing Sterling, Caraway clearly did enough over the final 10 minutes to claim both the second and third rounds. With the victory, Caraway (21-7) has now won two straight and five out of his past six.
"This is a warning to the bantamweight division, I'm coming for that belt. I'm the underdog in all my fights and I keep winning. So eventually, all you haters, you keep downing me, eventually you're going to have to deal with me."