Jacksonville, FL – One of the most unexpected rivalries in recent memory began with an illegal strike and ended tonight with a title unification bout at UFC 273 on Saturday night. Bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling defended his title against interim champion Petr Yan.
This all began with an illegal knee landed by Yan to a downed Sterling at UFC 259. Whether or not Sterling had the ability to continue fighting became the topic of discussion all over social media.
Should Sterling have fought through and finished the bout? Was he wrong for accepting the title? How did Yan, as a champion, not know the rules? All of that became irrelevant when the rematch was booked for Florida.
As Bruce Buffer introduced the champions Yan would not or could not break his gaze as he stared right into Sterling’s eyes. It was a focus very characteristic for him, but also very much telling a story of focus.
Sterling met the gaze and kept it as well as he bounced around until he greeted the crowd who largely booed him as Buffer said his name.
The first round kicked off with a very patient Sterling which was not at all how the first fight began. Yan was predictably patient while waiting for his chance to attack. Aljo employed a kick heavy attack in order to deal with the pressure from Yan.
Second round brought more of the same until Aljo was able to get Yan down and take the back taking most of the round on Yan’s back. Yan clearly had not worked on getting someone off his back that had employed the body lock that Sterling used.
Third round was eerily similar to the second with Yan getting taken down and wearing Sterling like a backpack for most of the round.
Rounds 4 and 5 were all Yan as he was able to defend the takedowns and in fact work on the back of Sterling a bit himself. When the fight ended the two gave each other respect as the fight went to the judges.
In the end Sterling defeated Yan via split decision. Whether or not fans believe that Sterling is the legitimate bantamweight champion is irrelevant as the result came with no controversy outside of Yan supporters, and Yan himself, who claimed robbery.
With the mic in hand and a few choice words the undisputed UFC bantamweight champion took the time to call out former champion TJ Dillashaw for his next bout.
Official Result: Aljamain Sterling def. Petr Yan via Split Decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)