Petr Yan appeared to be cruising to victory in last year’s title tussle with Aljamain Sterling before an illegal shot ended both the fight and his title reign, but the Russian superstar shouldn’t be expecting an easy night when he steps into the cage with the American for a second time this weekend at UFC 273 in Florida.
In March of last year, Yan’s fight against Sterling – the Russian’s first title defense – appeared to be going the same way as the rest of his bouts on the way to claiming UFC gold.
The Siberian star, an export of the ACB (now known as ACA) promotion in his homeland, had scythed through his opposition in the UFC, defeating household names like Urijah Faber and Jose Aldo on his journey to his first major world title, and appeared to be well on the way to adding another victim to his list as he entered the fourth round against a visibly tired Sterling.
The judges’ scorecards delivered after the fight would show that Yan was cruising to victory. But then came the shot that ended the fight – a clearly illegal knee delivered flush to Sterling’s forehead.
Yan would later claim that Sterling made the most of the situation and that he deserved as Academy Award for his histrionics in the cage after the shot – but others would simply argue that the laws were applied properly.
Yan was disqualified and his title taken away from him, leaving a bad taste in the mouth which came with it.