There was a lot of smack talk going down between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling leading up to their bantamweight title fight at UFC 259, much of it taking place on social media. Once the two were face to face at the weigh-ins, the talk continued with UFC president Dana White keeping one arm deep in between the two to avoid a physical altercation.
During the fight, with Petr Yan largely in control as the fight moved into the fourth round, the Russian was starting to really tee off with his strikes, which had Sterling in obvious trouble. Disaster struck when Sterling was down on the ground and Yan unloaded a massive knee strike that snapped his opponent’s head back and sent him crashing to the canvas.
Just before Yan threw the knee, referee Mark Smith warned him that Sterling was a downed fighter with at least one knee on the canvas, which meant the strike was considered a deliberate foul.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) March 7, 2021
Sterling stayed down on the canvas for several minutes after the knee landed and after the ringside physician came into check on him, the referee decided he could no longer allow the fight to continue. An emotional Sterling doubled over in tears on the mat, obviously overcome with emotion following the stoppage due to an illegal strike.
Dana White talks about Yan vs Sterling
It was a super controversial moment and call as it was the first time in the UFC we’ve ever seen a title change hands via DQ. Following the event, White spoke to reporters about the fight.
“Yeah, it sucked,” White said about the way the fight ended. “It was a good fight. I mean, that was a fight that everybody was excited about tonight and everyone knew it was going to be good, and yeah, that’s a bad one.”
The UFC president confirmed what seems like a foregone conclusion at this point, and that’s running Yan and Sterling back sometime later this year. White said that Sterling was cleared by local health officials and the promotion hopes to book the rematch soon.
“Yeah, as soon as possible. Aljo went to the hospital and he’s cleared. Nothing wrong with him,” White said.
Both Sterling and Yan had their moments in the fight, but it did appear Yan had the edge heading into the later rounds and was on his way to claiming the decision before the illegal knee occurred. Based on the rules, Yan lost the fight and lost his belt. But it is hard for many fans to digest seeing a title changing hands based on how a fight like that went.
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