UFC 259 Preview: Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling
This Saturday, MMA fans around the world are set to witness three UFC title bouts in one night. UFC 259 is loaded with stars from the prelims to the main event. One of the most exciting matchups on this card is Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling, which will decide whether or not the UFC’s bantamweight title changes hands. This fight will be the third one of the main card and is a breath of fresh air. In an era where rankings seem to be jumped over like a prop in the NBA dunk contest, it’s worth noting that this will be a fight between the champion and the number one contender.
The bout that will decide the fate of the UFC’s 135 lb title is a classic striker vs. grappler matchup. Yan’s base lies in the striking arts and he achieved the rank of master of sport in boxing during his time in the sport. He’s currently on a ten-fight winning streak and is coming off a TKO victory over featherweight legend Jose Aldo. On the other side of this bout, Aljamain Sterling is a former NCAA Division III All-American wrestler with some solid BJJ. Sterling comes into this one on a five-fight win-streak over a murderer’s row of opponents. Sterling holds a black belt in BJJ under Matt Serra and has eight submission victories as a professional. A consistent criticism of Aljamain Sterling is that he doesn’t finish opponents with strikes. Yan, on the other hand, is known for his destructive power and accurate striking.
Petr Yan at a Glance
Fight fans will get to enjoy some high-level striking with Petr Yan, who currently holds the UFC’s bantamweight title. Yan is a destructive striker and has power from both stances and all limbs. He frequently switches stances and is a master of using shifting to deliver devastating strikes. He has used this tactic to great effect against high-level opponents. Yan dropped Jimmie Riviera using the Fitzsimmons shift and Urijah Faber using a modified Dempsey shift. In the clinch, Yan likes to turn his opponents so he can tee off on the break with big punches and kicks. He knocked out Urijah Faber via head kick using this tactic. As far as grappling goes, Petr Yan has tremendous takedown defense and can even be seen attempting and finishing takedowns on high-level wrestlers. The Russian is also known to have brutal ground and pound. Both from inside the guard and when his opponent turtles.
Aljamain Sterling at a Glance
Aljamain Sterling is on a five-fight win streak and just strangled Cory Sandhagen unconscious in his last bout. Sterling has an explosive shot, and like most good MMA wrestlers, will shoot reactively against his opponent’s strikes. Sterling gets most of his takedowns off of a single-leg series in which he will either run the pipe, trip his opponent, or transition to the seatbelt. Depending on the starting position, sterling likes to either pass and eventually mount his opponents or put his hooks in and go straight for the back once on the ground. The “Funk Master” has a good rear-naked strangle once on his opponent’s back, and that is probably his best chance of winning this one. On the feet, Sterling likes to throw a lot of kicks and isn’t particularly known for his power.
Predictions and Closing Thoughts: Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling
I’m incredibly excited about this fight. I have Petr Yan in this one, but it’s a tough call. I give this one to Yan because I think the stylistic match-up favors him. Sterling’s reliance on kicks may hurt him in this fight because Yan is the better kicker and is very adept at countering off the catch. Simply put, Yan is just a much more dangerous striker than his opponent in this one and I think his wrestling will be enough to keep it standing. It is entirely possible that Sterling can secure a takedown on Yan, given his extensive wrestling background and impressive strength. If Sterling can secure a takedown in this bout, he can probably get the submission. It would seem that Aljo has a deeper knowledge of BJJ than Yan, as he has utilized it much more during his career and is a black belt. This is tough to call, but I predict that Petr Yan will finish the fight via strikes.