UFC 259 Preview & Predictions Yan vs Sterling
By Cathal Geeney
The first belt on the line on Saturday night at UFC 259 sees Petr Yan look to make his first successful title defence against long-time contender, Aljamain Sterling.
Since Henry Cejudo relinquished the belt, there has been a period of uncertainty in the division with Cejudo’s name rumbling on in the background. This feels like the beginning of a new era at bantamweight.
There are a number of emerging stars and this may be a passing of the guard from the Dillashaw/Cruz era to a new exciting period for the 135-pound division.
Sterling comes from a wrestling background but has added a lot to his stand-up game. The Serra-Longo fighter is a fast starter and is dependent on his kicks to maintain a distance. He switches stances regularly, attacking from both an orthodox and a southpaw stance. The threat of a takedown is ever present, and this keeps his opponent guessing. In his last four fights, he has won two by decision, relying almost solely on his striking, and two by submission. This highlights the diversity of Funk Master.
However, there is one area where Aljo doesn’t necessarily excel and Yan does, and this is knock out power. Petr Yan is one of the most exciting fighters in the roster at the moment and he has three knockouts in his last five fights. This is more than Sterling has managed in his entire MMA career.
The Russian fights out of an orthodox stance, occasionally switching, and relies primarily on his boxing. He holds a tight guard with his power hand always protecting his chin. Yan likes to dictate the pace, constantly walking his opponent down and ready to let his hands go with powerful combinations.
Generally, Yan can afford to take a reckless approach to his attack as he has a solid takedown defence and is also very comfortable and dangerous in the clinch, ready to unleash vicious elbows or utilise his dirty boxing if required. So, it will be interesting to see if he changes this approach against Sterling, due to his wrestling credentials.
This is one of the most difficult picks in a while. Both fighters have looked incredible of late and continue to improve. Sterling’s corner will be looking to test that takedown defence of Yan early, while Yan will trust in his striking power to get a victory.
Ultimately, I am going to take Yan for this one. Coming off an impressive title fight by defeating the legendary Jose Aldo and showing that he can continue to press the pace into the championship rounds gives me confidence that he can overcome any potential adversity and have his hand raised.