Petr Yan: As Undisputed as it Gets
So we’re finally getting around to speaking about the UFC 267 co-main event, that scintillating showdown between Petr Yan and Corey Sandhagen.
And let me just say straight off the bat that this was my type of fight.
I knew coming in that we were looking at two of the finest technicians in the sport - and with that being the case, there was very little chance of it being a dud - but man, did these two engage in the exact type of showdown I was hoping for.
I was literally watching this fight, sitting down, bobbing and weaving my head to get a better view on the TV - they just stood in front of each other, moving all the while, hand fighting, exchanging at a high volume.
And it was well and truly glorious.
Because just like this was my type of fight, Petr Yan once again did a good job at proving why he is my type of fighter.
That slow-cooker approach, how he constantly ups his tempo - increases his variety of attacks as he downloads data on his opponent.
And when you’re in there with someone as creative and dynamic as Cory Sandhagen - it really does take a level of genius to make these reads count so consistently.
And anyone who watches this channel will know that Sandhagen has been a favourite of mine for years as well - and coming in to this bout, given that I scored the Dillashaw fight in his favour - albeit narrowly - and the fact that Yan was clearly still the undisputed champ in most peoples’ eyes - this was as close to a legitimate 135lb championship bout as we’re ever going to get.
I did think that Cory had a good chance to score the win initially - but as round 2 came to its close, it dawned on me that we were watching a Petr Yan fight - that he was becoming more and more comfortable in there - content in the knowledge that Sandhagen’s box of tricks was becoming less and less of an issue.
This fight was the story of Yan’s immense grasp on fundamentals winning it out, of course, but this guy’s fight IQ was truly a joy to watch take hold.
Cause that’s how Yan does his best work - he slowly warms into the matchup and takes control in a way that has that feel of an old school champion - a Jose Aldo, a Georges St-Pierre - how he eventually masters the bout’s rhythm enough to present his adversaries with an unclimbable mountain, a gulf in skill and composure that comes into play once the fight gets into its middle rounds.
And what I saw from Yan over the course of this interim title fight leads me to believe that he is more than capable of ruling the best division in the UFC for quite a long time.
Bantamweight is a shark tank - filled with a mix of remarkably fresh veterans, top-tier prospects, and a wide range of styles that can only be matched by featherweight.
135lbs has really blossomed in recent times - and though it’s in a truly odd position due to the numerous names that would call themselves champ, I do believe that Petr Yan will be the man to emerge from the mess of contenders with the belt around his waist.
Seriously, I don’t think there’s ever been a situation in the UFC where four different fighters can, even at a stretch, call themselves the champ.
Obviously Aljamain Sterling is technically the man with the belt around his waist. But most would argue that Yan is the guy who owns it.
TJ Dillashaw never actually lost his title - although that in itself is a messy story.
And finally, Henry Cejudo also retired with a defense of the bantamweight championship belt - and even at this point in time, I would not be surprised to see him inject his name back into the mix if he doesn’t pull off a move to 145lbs - I really don’t think we’ve seen the last of him.
But what I learned for sure from the UFC 267 co-main event - is that, at least in my own predictions - I would be backing Yan to beat all three of the other names I just mentioned - with Cejudo likely serving as the most difficult challenge of the lot.
But for now, Yan has doubled down on his status as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the game - and the most terrifying thing of all, is that he’s only 28 years old.
His mind is sharp, he’s got incredible endurance, excellent stamina, some of the slickest and most dangerous boxing in the game - a kicking arsenal that is no joke - and he’s fast, powerful, with a superb knowledge of distance, footwork, defensive savvy.
I don’t know what it’s going to take to break this guy to be honest - perhaps when the likes of Merab Dvalishvilli ascend we’ll get a new look at the top of the division - but for now - looking at his contemporaries - Petr Yan is another level of great in a division that has many fighters with greatness in their potential.
I loved everything about that win - the ferocity he allowed himself to show in spots, the constant forward pressure, the lack of respect for Sandhagen’s odd movement and constant feints.
Yan, as he always does, fought his own fight in there - gradually dragging Cory along for the ride.
And yea, it’s going to take one hell of an effort from the rest of the roster to bring a matchup that hits higher levels that than in terms of the chess match we were gifted with.
This was Volkanovski vs. Holloway levels of good - and while I can certainly envisage a future in which Sandhagen learns, improves, and finds his way back into contention, for now, the story of this fight is that there is only one true undisputed king of the bantamweight division - and his name is Alja.. Petr Yan.
Sorry, I had to sneak another dig in there.
Sterling gets a lot of stick from the fans - and it’s understandable - but I don’t suscribe to the belief that that makes him any less of an elite talent.
MMA fans love burying a fighters’ ability based on something that has nothing to do with fighting skill - and I think that, looking ahead, it’s important to note that Aljo will still pose quite a challenge to Yan - and if Petr can get the job done, it will be another stellar win on his resumé.
The constant slagging of Sterling is all good fun, but he’s a top-3 guy in arguably the best division in the sport.
And I’m certainly interested to see what adjustments he makes coming into his inevitable rematch with this Russian sensation.
But what did you make of this high-level showcase at 135lbs?
And who do you think poses the greatest threat to Petr Yan within the bantamweight ranks at this point in time?
Do let us know your opinions in the comments section below, we always love to hear from you guys.