Over the weekend, a new interim bantamweight champ was crowned when Petr Yan defeated Cory Sandhagen. However champ Aljamain Sterling says he saw no improvements from his rival.
UFC 267 was originally expected to feature Sterling rematching Yan to decide who the better man was, after their first fight ended in a DQ. However when Aljo was not cleared by doctors to compete after his neck surgery, Yan faced and then beat Sandhagen, in an exciting decision win that saw him get the interim title.
Speaking on The MMA Hour, “Funkmaster” said that he thoroughly enjoyed the fight between Yan and Sandhagen, and thought it was a fun bout to watch. He said it was nice to see who was officially what he called the second best fighter at bantamweight.
“Very brilliant fight, very, very brilliant fight from both guys… What stood out to me was, the main things that Petr Yan does very well is he keeps a slow and steady pace, and he slowly but surely gets stronger as the guys start to deplete a little bit. I felt like Cory, maybe that five and a half week preparation for that fight maybe played a bit of a factor in that fight. Obviously not trying to take anything from Yan, but it is still a short notice fight, and you had him have a performance the way he did against TJ Dillashaw, and then he kind of slowed down relatively early in this one… I felt like him slowing down, and him stop going to the body and stop going to the legs, gave the opening for Yan to get stronger a little bit,” Sterling said.
“He tried to mix it up with the grappling, and he’s not a wrestler, but I don’t know if that did him any favors. I think he might have committed a little too hard, where he got stuffed in the sprawled out position, where it allowed him to take some shots that he didn’t need to take. But what Yan did well, was stay composed, kept the constant pressure, kept him coming back forward, and even though Cory made him miss a ton, he doesn’t care. His output is always the same. He’s going to keep coming forward and look to get you out of there if you can…
“Good performance, but still I think there were some questions that were answered for me, and I’m so excited to get back out there. It was good to know who the true number two contender is, because they’re going to lose to number one and that’s all that matters baby,” Sterling added.
Yan Showed No Improvements
While Aljamain Sterling enjoyed watching Yan vs Sandhagen, he did not particularly find anything impressive in the way that Petr looked. In fact, he says that there were no real improvements between what Yan did here, versus in their fight.
“To say he got better, I think that’s kind of hard to say. What are we measuring that against, the fight against me? … You could say that with the fight against Aldo maybe, but it’s kind of the same thing happening (Aldo) started to fade a little bit, but the difference is Cory was able to go five rounds. I went 88 seconds with Cory,” he said.
Now it is pretty concrete that Sterling will be fighting Yan next, to unify the titles. Aljo says that he is hoping for this fight to be set for the beginning of the year, which falls in line with what Petr was hoping for too.
“I told (Sean) Shelby, right after that fight was done I texted him and said ‘January or February? You let me know, this is when I’ll be ready to go.’ I’m feeling a lot better these days, especially with the work we’ve been putting in, really focusing on the neurological side of everything, to get my muscle atrophy to stop. I’m good man, I’m excited for the future.”
Aljamain Sterling Has A Message For Petr Yan
At this point, there is no other way to describe the fight between Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan, besides saying that it is seething with bad blood. However, Aljo says that these hard feelings are not mutual.
When asked to deliver a final message to Yan, he made it clear that he thinks the Russian is a dirty fighter. That said, he also explained that he does not hate Yan, and is looking forward to them settling the score next year.
“The only message I really have to say… I don’t hate the guy. I think he’s a good competitor. I still think he’s a dirty fighter though, just check his track record with all his other fights. I really do look forward to the chess match,” Sterling said.
“I think this is going to be a really close battle, and I know that once I get him down I’m not going to make the same mistake I did, where I came in not eating food, and coming in taking him down and then trying to throw hammer fists instead of control the position, doing what I do. I kind of got ahead of myself, I know what I’m going to do in this next one, and I think the blueprint is there.”
What did you make of the fight between Petr Yan and Cory Sandhagen? How do you see the rematch between Yan and Aljamain Sterling playing out?