The first title fight of UFC 259 just witnessed a wonky ending after the defending bantamweight champion, Petr Yan, blasted Aljamain Sterling with an illegal knee in the fourth round, resulting in a disqualification and a new champion. Yan was ahead on two of the scorecards, with the other judge seeing it for Sterling, before the infraction abruptly ended the match.
Sterling went right at the champ with a variety of volume. He was throwing punches, kicks, knees until Yan was able to trip him to the mat. Aljo was allowed to stand back up, and then he hit a takedown of his own. Yan scrambled up right away, and the champ dropped Sterling with a mean cross! Aljo stood up and was dropped with a leg kick. Petr was not interested in going to the ground, and when he hit a lifting body lock takedown, Sterling was able to reverse it.
Sterling looked for the takedown again in the second round, but the champ was doing a great job of defending and making the challenger fruitlessly work. Aljo was holding Petr against the fence, while Yan chipped away with small punches and one mean knee to the face. Back in open space, Sterling swarmed Yan with volume, with some of the blows getting through. Yan returned fire and earned a short-lived takedown before the bell.
Sterling started the third act with more volume, but Yan was blocking everything. The champ remained composed and returned sharp and accurate counters. He was hitting trips and addressing everything Aljo was throwing his way. Sterling tried again to get the takedown, but his gas tank was dwindling and his attempts were getting more and more labored.
Yan tripped the challenger to the floor to start the third round. He then landed a well-timed knee to the head as Aljo stood up. Petr kept blocking his opponents strikes while staying accurate in his own right. Sterling seemed to be wilting, but he was still trying. Then, Yan landed an illegal knee to a downed Sterling, causing a halt to the bout. The doctor came in and Sterling was deemed unfit to continue.