Aljamain Sterling is still the UFC bantamweight champion – and this time, he won fair and square.
In the UFC 273 co-headliner, Sterling (21-3 MMA, 13-3 UFC) defeated former champion and multitime rival Petr Yan (16-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47) to retain his title. The bout took place at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla.
The first round was a technical feeling-out process, in which Yan appeared one step ahead. The challenger didn’t waste movement, remained calm, and threw mostly meaningful strikes. Sterling was a bit unorthodox in approach, as usual. While he landed a shot here and there, he didn’t land the volume or quality Yan did – even if the margin was slim.
In the second round, Sterling switched up the game plan early and it paid off. A single leg attempt worked as he dragged Yan to the canvas and quickly got the back. He locked in the body triangle, but Yan did a nice job of hand-fighting. While he remained safe from submission threats, Yan absorbed a tremendous amount of ground-and-pound when Sterling rolled into mount. He rained down punches on Yan, who covered up but survived. He avoided submissions until the round ended.
Round 3 began and after an initial stuffed takedown, Sterling took Yan down again – and moved right to the back. Once again, Sterling threatened the rear-naked choke. For the entirety of the round, Sterling suffocated Yan in the backpack position. There was no real threat, nor was there as much damage inflicted as there was in Round 2 – but there was once again no question who won the frame.
The championship rounds began and Yan found success early with a flurry that appeared to bother Sterling. After more success on the feet, Yan landed on top in Sterling’s guard. There, he landed some shots before he clinched up and finished the round in controlling position.
Quite possibly anyone’s fight ahead of Round 4, Sterling clinched Yan early against the fence after a pump-up speech from coach Ray Longo in the corner. Sterling tried and tried again but couldn’t get Yan down. Both men were visibly tired. Sterling nearly got it, but Yan defended and secured dominant ground position of his own. The fight ended with Yan leaning against Sterling on the fence.
Looks like Aljo enjoyed that round 😲
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Proving the critics wrong, Sterling beat Yan as a heavy underdog to retain his UFC bantamweight championship. With the victory, he extended his winning streak to seven, which also includes names such as Cory Sandhagen, Pedro Munhoz and Cody Stamann.
For Yan, the defeat is the first of his career to come without mass controversy. With his UFC 259 disqualification aside, Yan’s only other loss came under the ACB banner in 2016 – a controversial split decision defeat to now-Bellator bantamweight contender Magomed Magomedov.
The first meeting between Sterling and Yan took place at UFC 259 in March 2021. After a successful first round for Sterling, the tempo shifted in Yan’s favor. That, up until Yan landed an illegal knee on Sterling and was disqualified as a result. Sterling won the title in unusual fashion and was ridiculed and criticized by some viewers for months thereafter.
Up-to-the-minute UFC 273 results include:
- Aljamain Sterling def. Petr Yan via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
- Khamzat Chimaev def. Gilbert Burns via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Mackenzie Dern def. Tecia Torres via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Mark Madsen def. Vinc Pichel via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Ian Garry def. Darian Weeks via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
- Anthony Hernandez def. Josh Fremd via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Raquel Pennington def. Aspen Ladd via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Mike Malott def. Mickey Gall via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 3:41
- Aleksei Oleinik def. Jared Vanderaa via submission (neck crank) – Round 1, 3:39
- Piera Rodriguez def. Kay Hansen via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Julio Arce def. Daniel Santos via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)