The bantamweight championship fight between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259 started off well, but ended in unfortunate fashion after the champion was disqualified for intentionally throwing an illegal knee.
Sterling pressured Yan early on in the fight with punches and kicks that kept his opponent backing up against the cage. Yan later found success with some heavy shots — including a hard right that briefly dropped Sterling — and countered often. After setting such a high pace in the opening rounds, Sterling appeared to grow more tired, which worked in the favor of Yan.
In the fourth round, Yan had Sterling pressed down on the canvas and appeared to be letting him get back up when he threw an illegal knee to the head of Sterling. A second after the knee landed, Sterling dropped to the canvas and the referee called the cage-side doctor in to examine him. The doctor determined that he was unable to continue and the fight was stopped.
Yan was disqualified and Sterling was crowned the new champion at 135 pounds, but was visibly upset at the way it happened. Both Yan and Sterling took to social media moments after the fight to offer brief statements about what occurred.
Yan offered an apology to Sterling for throwing the illegal knee. During the broadcast, the commentary booth overheard that Yan was directed to throw the knee by his corner, but he denied this and said it was an honest mistake.
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
“I apologize and wish speedy recovery to @funkmasterMMA, wrote Yan. “I didn’t mean to throw an illegal strike, I just made a big mistake and paid for it.”
Sterling offered his take on the end sequence of the fight and vowed to meet Yan again in a rematch.
Not the way I ever want to win a fight. It was close, competitive and filled with action. I felt the knee was intentional, especially after the ref announced I was a downed opponent, so I didn’t expect to be hit.— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) March 7, 2021
Yan is a bad dude! WE WILL DO IT AGAIN!#UFC259
“Not the way I ever want to win a fight. It was close, competitive and filled with action. I felt the knee was intentional, especially after the ref announced I was a downed opponent, so I didn’t expect to be hit. Yan is a bad dude! WE WILL DO IT AGAIN!”
Sterling now sees his win streak extended to six while Yan suffers his first UFC loss since arriving to the promotion in 2018. Dana White also stated on the post-fight press conference that he’s looking to rebook the contest as soon as possible.