After nearly a year of back-and-forth banter on social media and anywhere else that chronicles the words of Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan since "the knee," there is again a rescheduled date when the two fighters will meet to settle their feud and determine the UFC bantamweight champion.
Sterling, the reigning UFC bantamweight champion who grew up in Roosevelt and Uniondale, will defend his title against Yan, now the interim champion, at UFC 272 on March 5 in Las Vegas, UFC president Dana White told ESPN on Wednesday. The report also said Alexander Volkanovski will defend his featherweight title against Max Holloway that night. (Volkanovski won both previous bouts against Holloway.)
Sterling and Yan first fought at UFC 259 on March 6, 2021, with Sterling being awarded Yan’s title on a disqualification after the standing Yan delivered an illegal knee to the grounded Sterling’s head in the fourth round. It was the first time in the UFC’s near 30-year history that a title changed hands on a disqualification. And it has led to plenty of verbal attacks on Sterling from Yan, other fighters and fans.
The Serra-Longo trained Sterling opened the first bout by pressuring Yan and putting on an aggressive pace. He outworked Yan on volume in the first round, but Yan was able to land a straight right that knocked down Sterling. He popped right back up, though, and continued his relentless attack for the rest of that round and into the second round.
Yan, who was on a 10-fight winning streak, was able to assert himself more in the second and third rounds. The judges had the bout scored 29-28, 29-28, 28-29 in favor of Yan through the first three rounds. He likely was en route to winning the fourth round as well before the illegal knee, which has helped contribute to the nasty narrative between the two fighters in the months since.
This will be the first title defense for Sterling (20-3). He was scheduled to face Yan last October but was not medically cleared to fight after having neck surgery to address an injury that has bothered him for several years. Yan (16-2) instead fought and beat Cory Sandhagen at UFC 267 to win the interim bantamweight title.