MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the co-main event of UFC 273, a five-round bantamweight title unification bout between champion Aljamain Sterling and interim champion Petr Yan. The event takes place on Saturday, April 9 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
Petr Yan (-500)
Yan (16-2) is the UFC interim bantamweight champion. The 29-year-old Russian has been in the UFC dating back to 2018 and he has gone 8-1 during that stretch with wins over the likes of Cory Sandhagen, Jose Aldo, and Urijah Faber, with his only loss coming to Sterling by DQ. Yan is a very well-rounded fighter who is good everywhere the fight goes, but he excels mainly in the striking department as he has huge knockout power that can change a fight. He also is a great wrestler and has fantastic cardio, not to mention a strong chin. Overall Yan is good everywhere and he has shown no weaknesses, outside of making a mental mistake and blasting Sterling with an illegal knee. Despite ‘losing’ the first fight, the bookies have Yan pegged as a huge favorite for the rematch.
Aljamain Sterling (+400)
Sterling (20-3) is the UFC bantamweight champion. The 32-year-old American won the belt in controversial fashion last year over Yan at UFC 259 via DQ due to an illegal knee. He has not fought since then after undergoing neck surgery, so it will be interesting to see how he performs now that he’s fully healthy again. A UFC fighter dating back to 2014, Sterling has a 12-3 record in the UFC with some notable wins over the likes of Yan, Cory Sandhagen, Pedro Munhoz, and Cody Stamann, and losses to Marlon Moraes, Raphael Assuncao, and Bryan Caraway. A tremendous grappler, Sterling is one of the better wrestlers at 135lbs and his submission game is deadly. He also has very good striking, albeit not at the level that Yan has. After how the first fight went with Yan, it will be interesting to see what adjustments Sterling has made for the rematch. After the line was a Pick ‘em in the first fight, Sterling is now one of the biggest champion underdogs we’ve seen in a while.
This should be an interesting rematch given what happened in the first fight. In my opinion, Yan was dominating the fight and was en route to a stoppage win before committing the illegal knee. I don’t expect him to make the same mistake again, and I expect him to likely put away Sterling this time, if not win the decision. That being said, given the line has gone from -120 in the first fight to -500 in this rematch, it’s hard to say there is truly value on Yan at this price. Still, I expect him to win, and given how much he despises Sterling, I’d say there’s a good chance he finishes him this time. After the controversial end to the first fight, it’s nice to know that we will finally have a legitimate champion after Saturday night once they compete again and see who the better fighter is once and for all.
Prediction: Petr Yan