After Petr Yan lost his bantamweight crown with an illegal knee strike last March, he aimed to settle the score with Aljamain Sterling Saturday night at UFC 273 from VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. Sterling (21-3) was having none of it, earning the undisputed belt the right way with a split-decision victory over Yan (16-3).
Sterling and Yan opened the fight with a feeling out process, exchanging the occasional strike and moving around the cage. Yan kept the pressure, walking Sterling around the cage and loading up on strikes. Sterling closed out the round with a big right hand before the buzzer.
Sterling was right back to work in round two with a slew of leg kicks while Yan kept the pressure on. Sterling continued to work his strikes, took Yan’s leg, and found his way into full mount and eventually took the interim champ’s back. Sterling rolled Yan and took control with ground-and-pound, with Yan somehow surviving the final three minutes of the round on his back.
Yan walked down Sterling again in the third, attacking with heavy kicks. Sterling went right back to the leg, taking Yan down and jumping his back yet again. Sterling simply held body control for the final three minutes, unable to make much movement toward a finish.
In the fourth, Yan came out with a big combination of strikes, sending Sterling retreating. Yan and Sterling exchanged strikes into a scramble, where Sterling went too high on Yan’s back and the challenger moved into full guard. Yan was able to hold position through the round.
The fifth and final round started with Sterling ending up on his back, but quickly returning to his feet. Sterling went for the takedown again, but was stuffed with Yan’s back against the cage. Yan got free, moving back to the center of the cage. Yan escaped scramble after scramble, with Sterling unable to get the takedown.
Sterling hadn’t competed since winning the belt over Yan, having had major neck surgery in 2021. Yan went on to earn a decision victory over Cory Sandhagen to claim the interim bantamweight belt in October before his chance to win his belt back, and made clear after the fight that he wants a third fight against Sterling.