Sterling captured the 135-pound title in one of the unlikeliest outcomes in a title fight. During their first meeting at UFC 259, Yan landed an illegal knee to a downed Sterling, causing him to lose his title via disqualification despite thoroughly dominating the fight until that point.
This time around, though, Sterling earned a legitimate win to unify the interim and undisputed bantamweight titles. However, he can’t seem to escape controversy.
‘Funk Master’ earned a close split decision victory after five rounds of back-and-forth action. Judges Sal D’Amato and Eliseo Rodriguez both scored the bout 48-47 in favor of Sterling. Meanwhile, dissenting judge Christopher Lee gave the nod to Yan, 48-47.
Round one was off to a slow start as both men took a conservative approach during the feel-out moment. Yan looked to push the pace while Sterling remained calm as he looked to backpedal and land some kicks.
Sterling would build a massive lead on the scorecards in the next two rounds. He scored a momentum-shifting takedown in the second and quickly took Yan’s back. The defending champ locked in a body triangle to secure his dominant position until the end of the round.
It was the same story in the third round. Sterling scored a double-leg and took Yan’s back once again. ‘Funk Master’ spent the rest of the round trying to complete a rear naked choke on the Russian.
The tides turned in the championship rounds for Yan, who is known to be a great finisher. Sterling spent every ounce of his energy trying to take ‘No Mercy’ back down, but the interim champ stuffed takedown attempt after takedown attempt. By the end of the fight, Sterling was 2/22 in his attempts.
Petr Yan demands trilogy bout against Aljamain Sterling
Petr Yan was visibly disappointed after he suffered yet another loss to Aljamain Sterling. During his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, the Russian protested that he had won at least three of the five rounds.
“I think I won this fight and I got robbed,” Yan said through a translator. ” I think I won three rounds out of five.”
Watch Petr Yan protest Aljamain Sterling’s win:
Yan concluded the interview by demanding a third fight. He adamantly snatched the microphone from Rogan to say, “I want rematch.”
The Russian isn’t alone, though. Many MMA fans seem to agree that he arguably won rounds one, four, and five and should’ve walked away with the undisputed belt around his waist.