Originally scheduled to go down in December, "No Mercy" is finally set to defend his bantamweight belt against Aljamain Sterling on Saturday.
The first of three title fights on Saturday’s UFC 259 main card sees bantamweight champion Petr Yan defending his title for the first time, against No. 1 contender Aljamain Sterling.
Petr Yan UFC 259 Odds
Petr Yan (15-1 MMA record) has been nothing but perfect since his UFC debut in 2018. The 28-year-old Russian is 7-0 in the octagon and his only professional loss was a tight split decision over five years ago. Yan has steadily worked his way up the UFC rankings and picked up wins over notable fighters like Urijah Faber, Jimmie Rivera and Jose Aldo. The fight with Aldo was Yan’s only fight in 2020, but it was the biggest of his career. In a back-and-forth tilt, Yan finished the legendary Aldo by TKO in the fifth round to win the vacant bantamweight belt. This fight against Sterling was actually originally scheduled to go down at UFC 256 in December, but had to be delayed because of visa issues. With over seven months to train, Yan should be at his best in his first title defence as bantamweight champion.
“No Mercy” is a vicious fighter who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. Yan relies heavily on his boxing and tends to methodically wait out his opponents and pick up quick strikes when he sees an opening, before finishing rounds with heavy combinations. Yan averages more significant strikes per minute than his opponent (Yan 5.65, Sterling 4.82), but he also absorbs more strikes (Yan 3.15, Sterling 1.94). How the champ defends himself will make a big difference in Saturday’s outcome. Although he doesn’t rely on it often, Yan is also a decent grappler. He averages 1.73 takedowns per 15 minutes with 53 per cent takedown accuracy. His takedown defence is 87 per cent, but he can wrestle if need be. Yan needs to control the pace of this fight and pick his shots carefully. If there’s an opening for a damaging 1-2 combo, Yan will find it.
Aljamain Sterling UFC 259 Odds
Aljamain Sterling (19-3 MMA record) has definitely looked like the No. 1 contender during his current five-fight win streak. With wins against fighters like Pedro Munhoz, Cody Stamann and Brett Johns, he’s deservedly climbed to the top of the bantamweight division and earned his title shot. Sterling also only fought once in 2020, but it was a win that clinched his title shot. It didn’t take long for “Funk Master” to submit Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250. Sterling finished Sandhagen with a rear-naked choke in the first round, which earned him his first Performance of the Night bonus.
It’s an interesting dynamic in this fight because while his opponent is more comfortable on his feet, Sterling’s skilled wrestling makes him better on the ground. Sterling has a four-inch reach advantage over his opponent and typically likes to cling to other fighters to drag them to the ground if he can’t quickly take their back. Although he is more comfortable on the ground, he can beat you standing up as well. Sterling can use his length and reach advantage to protect himself and keep opponents in his comfort zone, while also inflicting damaging leg and body kicks.
Yan vs. Sterling UFC 259 Prediction
There’s no doubt this will be a close fight. These fighters have both been preparing for this fight for over six months and will likely have a game plan heading into Saturday. Sterling will likely try to get Yan to the ground, so how the champ defends himself will be key. Look for this fight to go the distance, but Yan should defend his belt with a unanimous decision win.