When two hungry, young fighters are in the prime of their career, you knew that their paths are destined to cross. For Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling, that was the case Saturday — and there was no love lost heading into their bantamweight championship fight at UFC 259.
The back and forth on social media was entertaining, but all the talking would stop come fight night. Instead, the two best bantamweights in the UFC were set to throw down, as Sterling had cemented his status as the number one contender thanks to a stellar performance over Cory Sandhagen.
What played out on Saturday, however, was not what anyone expected.
As the fight went deeper into the rounds, Yan looked to run away with the fight and cement exactly why he was the bantamweight champion. Aljamain Sterling, who started strong, appeared too slow in his output and was losing steam heading into round number four. Takedown attempts from Sterling did not seem to have the same energy behind them. Just when Yan was in full control of the fight, he hit Sterling with an illegal knee, ending the fight by disqualification.
The aftermath was a mess. Sterling was distraught, not wanting to win the title in such an inglorious fashion. To the point of throwing down the belt as he left the cage. It came to light that Yan had been warned by the ref that Sterling was down prior to launching the knee. But worse, it appears his corner had told him to throw the strike, a miscommunication that cost him the belt.
PROS GIVE THEIR TAKE
Here is the Pro Take on the first of three title fights for UFC 259, between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling.
— Alan Jouban (@AlanJouban) March 7, 2021
I’m not even mad at Aljo he got kneed so hard. Like omg. #UFC259
— Tatiana Suarez (@tatianaufc) March 7, 2021
Damn bro.. #UFC259
— Adrian Yanez (@yanezmma) March 7, 2021
No FIGHTER wants to win/lose like that🏆 #UFC259
— Charles Rosa (@CharlesRosaMMA) March 7, 2021
— Ciryl Gane (@ciryl_gane) March 7, 2021
Is this the 1st time in UFC history a belt has been won this way? #UFC259
— Stephen Thompson (@WonderboyMMA) March 7, 2021
That was very illegal, it doesn’t get much worse than that. Yan was already flirting with danger by throwing those axe kicks when Aljo was down. The doctors made the right call, you can’t let the fighter make the decision to continue after taking a shot like that. #UFC259
— Michael Chiesa (@MikeMav22) March 7, 2021
— Herbert Burns (@HerbertBurnsMMA) March 7, 2021
— Makhmud Muradov (@MakhmudMuradov) March 7, 2021
They have to run this back!!#UFC259
— Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) March 7, 2021
That knee definitely was hard #UFC259
— JIMI MANUWA (@POSTERBOYJM) March 7, 2021
— Cub Swanson (@CubSwanson) March 7, 2021
Who the fuck would throw an illegal knee!!!!
— michael (@bisping) March 7, 2021
This call should never be on the fighter. Plain and simple. With a shot like that it’s over. Doc does his job walks in and it’s over.
— Justin Gaethje 🇺🇸 (@Justin_Gaethje) March 7, 2021
Aljamain came in great shape, he fought forward every second of that fight, not his fault he got illegally kneed. Congratulations Champion, you did it
— BONY (@JonnyBones) March 7, 2021