Relentless Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight champion, Petr Yan, was eager to prove that his berserker-style striking was better than Aljamain Sterling’s super-slick grappling as the two squared off at UFC 259 tonight (Sat., March 6, 2021) inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, to settle their score once and for all.
Sterling more than deserved the 135-pound title opportunity thanks to his impressive submission win over Cory Sandhagen in June 2020, not to mention the five-fight win streak. Yan, though, has brick fists and pushes a furious pace. However, after more than four rounds of action, Yan was disqualified for an “intentional foul” even though he was clearly winning the fight (watch it).
Sterling shot out of his corner like a rocket, landing a nice kick to the body and pumping a furious jab. Yan maintained his composure and defended well, but Sterling was able to sneak in a nice flying knee. Yan started to backtrack, with Sterling landing a major low kick as he retreated. Yan fired back, caught a kick, then tripped Sterling in the center of the cage. He let him back up, though, and Sterling made him pay moments later with another flying knee. Midway through the round Sterling was able to secure a nice takedown, but Yan got back to his feet quickly but not before eating a hard hammer fist on the way up. Yan drilled him with a hard shot on the restart that dropped Sterling, who got back to his feet and tried to land a spinning elbow. Yan then dropped him with a low kick, but Sterling was once again back on his feet. The two got tangled up on the ground, but Yan quickly escaped to avoid danger. Yan with another takedown late, but Sterling reversed and the two got back to their feet right as a fast-paced first round came to a close.
Sterling once again came out the aggressor for the second stanza and quickly ended up on his back. Yan stood over him, trying to land axe kicks and low kicks until the referee stood up Sterling. He tried to secure a lazy takedown on the restart, but Yan wasn’t having any of it. Sterling continued along the fence with a single leg, while Yan boxed his ears and eventually spun out to the center of the cage. Moments later they were back in the same position — Sterling really wanted that takedown. He lifted one leg off the canvass, but Yan remained standing, slipping in a sneaky knee to the face. Sterling with a spinning elbow on the break, then a standing elbow before once again attempting the takedown. But it as Yan who got the fight to the ground just as the round came to a close.
Third round and it was close, but it appeared Yan had the early edge. Sterling pumped the jab and continued to push a very hard pace early in the round. Yan, meanwhile, patiently countered, landing a hard straight right hand along the fence. Yan landed a nice body kick, with Sterling countering with a nice combination. Yan put together a nice combination, then tripped Sterling to the mat with ease. Once back on the feet, Yan landed a crisp overhand right, while Sterling continued to hunt for a takedown along the fence. Yan continued to defend well as Sterling appeared to be fatiguing, giving up the attempt and flopping to the floor as he spun away. Low kicks from Sterling down the stretch, with Yan once again dumping him to the floor as the round came to a close.
Heading into the championship rounds, it appeared that Yan was the fresher fighter and more than likely up on the scorecards. He tripped Sterling early to start the fourth, then kneed him right in the chest as he was getting back to his feet. Sterling unloaded a nice combination to the body, with Yan responding with a hard left hand. Sterling ducked in for a slow takedown and Yan nailed him with a hard kick. Sterling was trying with some spinning attacks, but they were all slow and telegraphed. Yan with a nice straight left hand, then a jumping knee as Sterling looked like he was beginning to fade. Big knee from Yan, then a monster combination upstairs, but Sterling kept moping forward. Sterling landed a high kick, but then fell to his knee. The referee told Yan that Sterling was down, but he unleashed a hellish knee right to his forehead. The action was immediately stopped, with Sterling sprawled out on his back in the middle of the cage. He tried to get back to his feet but fell over trying to get up. The doctor was then called in to evaluate Sterling, but it didn’t appear like he would be able to continue. He was given two more minutes to dust off the cobwebs, with the ring announcers imploring that the fight should be stopped. And, because Yan was warned prior to the knee, he was disqualified by the referee.
Sterling was emotional — there was no way he wanted to “win” like that. He even refused to take the belt out of the cage, tossing it to the floor in disgust. Yan, meanwhile. stood in his corner, hands-on-hips, in disbelief. He was coasting to a what seemed like a win before the knee. And there’s zero doubt that there will be an immediate rematch.
Sorry, Mr. Sandhagen.
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