Yan v Sterling odds
The first of Saturday night’s three title bouts is certainly the most evenly matched.
Bantamweight champion Petr Yan has been unstoppable since he joined the UFC back in 2018, winning all seven of his fights including four by knockout.
The Russian has beaten two all-time greats in Urijah Faber and Jose Aldo, claiming the title by stopping the latter in the fifth round in his last fight back in July.
Yan’s combination of speed, power and seemingly endless stamina makes him arguably the division’s best striker, although his wrestling and ground game are yet to be truly tested.
Standing in the champion’s way is Aljamain Sterling, who is getting his first title shot in his 14th UFC fight.
The American has a 11-3 record in the promotion and has a hugely dangerous ground game, with eight career submission victories to date.
Sterling was memorably knocked out with a huge knee by Marlon Moraes in December 2017 but has bounced back to become an elite contender, winning five consecutive fights including a submission victory over No. 2 contender Corey Sandhagen in June.
This is truly a 50-50 fight. Yan is currently to win and retain the title.
Sterling is to become the new champion.
Yan v Sterling prediction
Yan clearly has a striking advantage in this match-up. None of his opponents so far have held up against his relentless pressure, and he has the power to end a fight in a flash, as he did with a head kick against Faber in December 2019.
Sterling has a great kicking game and uses his lanky frame to pick his opponents apart on the feet, and he’ll attempt to use his four-inch reach advantage to keep Yan at bay on Saturday night.
The champion is so explosive, however, that it’s easy to see him countering one of Sterling’s kicks with a big shot on the chin.
The challenger’s best bet, then, is to use his wrestling to grind Yan down, sap his energy and maybe even search for a finish on the ground.
That will be no easy task, though. Although Yan is yet to face a wrestler as good as Sterling, his 88 per cent takedown defence suggests he has the tools to at least avoid being constantly dragged down to the mat.
And should the fight go to the ground, the savage way in which Yan finished Aldo in July proves that he’s got the ground-and-pound skills to do damage if he manages to land on top of Sterling.
All the evidence points towards a striking battle, and it’s probably a battle that Sterling cannot win. He doesn’t have the power to cause Yan too many problems – with just two KO wins in 22 fights to date – and it’s hard to fend off an opponent who’s so fast and powerful for five rounds.
It will be a close fight, but Yan’s pressure should eventually tell and a hard-fought decision win for the champion looks the best bet.
Yan to win on points
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