The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight division gets more intriguing with every new fight announcement.
Earlier this week (Tues., Jan. 17, 2023), the promotion announced a big-time main event for the March 11, 2023, UFC Vegas 71. Former champion, Petr Yan, looks to rebound off a two-fight losing streak against surging Georgian contender, Merab Dvalishvili.
A win for Dvalishvili would extend his current streak to nine wins after last retiring the legendary Jose Aldo via unanimous decision at UFC 278 in Aug. 2022. The best friendship between the reigning Bantamweight champion, Aljamain Sterling, and Dvalishvili will be too much to put behind them for a potential fight. If “The Machine” pulls off the victory, however, it makes the tandem relatively undeniable atop the weight class, believes “Funk Master.”
“Can Petr Yan go 0-4? Is this your king?” Sterling joked on his YouTube channel. “Don’t get me wrong, Yan is good. I know I’m sitting here and joking in hindsight. Just imagine. He had a layup of a win where I came in as a skeleton shell of myself and one knee caused the entire algorithm to get thrown off. Because this guy didn’t know the rules. Come on, man.
“We got two of the best guys in the world,” he concluded. “When Merab beats Petr Yan, we will both be hands down clearly No. 1 and No. 2 in the world. That doesn’t happen.”
Sterling is no stranger to Yan, having competed against “No Mercy” twice with the first occasion being his historic crowning moment. Dvalishvili and Sterling act as each other’s main training partners for all camps, therefore, providing Dvalishvili with plenty of pre-emptive planning for his next match up.
“I think what he always does [gets Dvalishvili the win],” Sterling said. “Keep the pressure, make sure he’s focused and dialed in for five rounds. On top of that, Yan does some tricky things that he’s gonna have to look out for and Yan does have good hips. I think he sprawls so hard sometimes that it actually backfires on him. Some of those striking combinations that I was landing was because he was biting so hard on the level changes then he would get out of position where I could land these combinations.
“Yan is game, tough opponent,” he added. “But it’s gonna be a tough one for him to deal with.”