Aljamain Sterling unified the bantamweight titles by defeating Petr Yan in the UFC 273 pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event last weekend in Jacksonville, Fla., putting an end (at least temporarily) to a heated rivalry that lasted more than a year, thanks to a controversial disqualification finish in their first go-round back in early 2021.
In the process, Sterling may have killed the “No Mercy” mystique.
“What happened to the boogeyman? He’s not the boogeyman anymore – Aljo’s the boogeyman now,” Coach Ray Longo told The MMA Hour. “That’s why I even got fired up. This is the guy? This is the guy that everybody thinks is going to kill you? Take a look at him. He doesn’t look too good to me. I think I wanted to give Aljo a boost. You got this man, because you don’t know what builds up in his mind over 13 months. Maybe there’s self-doubt in there, too, that nobody knows about. I just wanted to erase that and amp him up.”
Sterling (21-3) captured the split decision victory but Team Yan — along with promotion president Dana White — insist the judges got it wrong. The general consensus is that Sterling won Rounds 2 and 3, with the fourth and fifth frame landing in favor of Yan. The fight essentially boiled down to who got the most work done in the first five minutes.
“People can say whatever they want, it was close,” Longo continued. “The first round, here’s the bottom line: They had that kid getting killed, period. [They said], ‘He’s not coming out of the first round.’ And then when that doesn’t happen, they’ve got to revert to some...we’re down to the first round, with like six punches thrown? Are you frickin’ kidding me? The guy was supposed to get mauled and killed. He shut everybody up, man, and I’ll tell you what, it’s only going to get worse for Yan as these fights go on, because I think the more comfortable Aljo gets, and the healthier he can stay, he’s just going to get better and better.”
Don’t worry, there’s still time to submit your “Funk Master” apology.