Aljamain-Sterling-620x330One of the prelims at UFC on FOX 15 is a three-round bantamweight bout between Aljamain Sterling and Takeya Mizugaki. According to the current betting lines available at 5Dimes Sportsbook, Sterling is a -290 favorite (bet $290 to win $100) while Mizugaki is a +245 underdog (bet $100 to win $245). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened up Sterling at -210 and Mizugaki at +160, and money has come in on the favorite Sterling thus far. I agree with the action coming in on Sterling as I like him to pick up the biggest win of his career over Mizugaki this weekend. Here’s why. Sterling (10-0) is an undefeated bantamweight prospect who has the potential to be a champion at 135lbs. The 25-year-old American has looked tremendous in the UFC so far, going 2-0 with a decision win over Cody Gibson and a knockout win over Hugo Viana. A wrestler by trade, Sterling is still fairly new to the sport of MMA, having only begun fighting as a pro in 2011, but he’s a quick learner and gets better every single fight. His wrestling is among the best in the 135lb division, his striking is evolving at a rapid pace, and his ground game is devastating. Of his 10 wins, six have come by way of finish, and as he keeps improving I expect him to finish even more opponents. In short, he is quickly turning into a complete mixed martial artist and it’s only a matter of time before he contends for the title, as far as I’m concerned. He is taking a big step up in competition here against Mizugaki, and the UFC is giving him this fight because they want to see what he’s made out of. If he’s as good as I think he is, then he should roll in a matchup that stylistically favors him, and we’ll see this weekend if he truly is as good as I — and the bettors — believe he can be. Mizugaki (20-8-2) is one of the top-10 bantamweight fighters in the world. The 31-year-old native of Japan is 7-3 in the UFC with wins over the likes of Francisco Rivera, Erik Perez and Bryan Caraway with losses to Dominick Cruz, Brian Bowles, and Chris Cariaso in a fight that was considered a bad judges’ decision. Mizugaki is a very well-rounded fighter. He has extremely accurate boxing with underrated power on the feet, he has good wrestling, and his ground game is pretty decent as well. He typically goes to decision in his fights (14 career decision wins), but he knows how to get his hand raised on the judges’ scorecards for the most part and for the most part, if he goes to decision he wins his fights. Mizugaki was riding a five-fight win streak going into his last matchup against Cruz, but he was completely blown out in the fight, getting knocked out in a minute and perhaps he has hit a period of decline after being a perennial bantamweight contender for years. It’s unfair to write him off completely considering how good Cruz is, but still, getting finished in the manner he did was outright shocking, and coming off of a devastating loss like that, it’s hard to back him against a young up-and-comer with the skills of Sterling, and that’s why you see him as the dog here despite his vast experience against elite MMA fighters. No doubt Mizugaki is by far the best opponent Sterling has faced to date, but I still think the youngster wins this fight. I feel like Mizugaki is on a decline and getting knocked out in a minute by Cruz, who is not known for his knockout power, is absolutely a sign of the veteran fading. On the other hand, Sterling just continues to impress and get better and better each fight — and with a win over Mizugaki, I think he’ll jump immediately into title contention. Some may feel the line on Sterling is too high here, but I disagree. I think it’s a fair price to pay for a very likely winner, and I will be playing Sterling in some capacity this weekend. I think he can use his striking and wrestling to style on Mizugaki for three rounds or less and either earn a decision or stop Mizugaki with strikes. Even at 3-to-1, I have a hard time seeing Sterling losing this fight and believe he is a good parlay piece this weekend.