Petr Yan made history at UFC 259… but not in a good way. The Russian champion would finish Aljamain Sterling with a knee to the temple, however Sterling was deemed grounded and referee Mark Smith warned Yan of this.
Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy.
Despite the acknowledgement that Sterling was grounded, “No Mercy” played to his nickname and fired an illegal rock-hard knee to his opponent’s head.
After minutes spent to console the seemingly concussed Sterling, to see if he could go on, the fight was called off. Aljamain Sterling was the new UFC Bantamweight Champion of the world.
Thrown With Bad Intentions
The consensus surrounding the fight ending knee was accepted as being intentional. Intended to knock him out. That he did. On a side note, under ONE Championship rules, Yan would remain the Bantamweight kingpin.
The commentators at the time theorized that Yan’s corner gave the command to their fighter to execute the move. ESPN would post the following footage onto social media.
Thanks to a translation by Russian UFC Champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, one of Yan’s cornerman shouted out to strike right before the Tiger Muay Thai weapon unleashed the final blow of the fight.
Was Yan’s Corner Responsible?
When asked if his corner’s cageside comments were to blame for the poor timing of the action, Yan defended them saying they were not the root of the problem.
“To be honest, I didn’t really understand what they were telling me.” Yan said during the UFC 259 post-fight presser. “I was just focused on the hand, and throwing the knee when he will be up.”
While the camera-caught corner may have blurted out the wrong command at the wrong time, Yan made it evident that they were not to blame. The Siberian striker apologized and owned up to the mistake following the finish.
I apologize and wish speedy recovery to @funkmasterMMA I didn’t mean to throw an illegal strike, I just made a big mistake and paid for it.— Petr “No Mercy” Yan (@PetrYanUFC) March 7, 2021