Late in the fourth round of Petr ‘No Mercy’ Yan’s first bantamweight title defense vs. Aljamain Sterling this past Saturday night at UFC 259 in Las Vegas, Yan threw a vicious illegal knee to the head of Sterling, who was a downed opponent at the time, resulting in Yan being disqualified after the doctor ruled that Sterling couldn’t continue.
There was no controversy whatsoever. Sterling was my biggest wager of the night and right when it happened, I knew I had just caught an enormous break that would — at worst — get me out of a loss (if the fight was ruled a no-contest) or — most likely — provide me with a gift victory.
And that’s what was so shocking about Yan’s crucial mistake. After two action-packed rounds that probably could’ve gone either way, Yan had won Round 3 and was on his way to winning Round 4 to take control of the fight. The 28-year-old Russian was 31 seconds away from going into the fifth and final round leading 3-1 (or 39-37) on the judges’ scorecards.
After the belt was wrapped around Sterling’s waist as he was declared the winner and new champion, he took the belt off and left it in the Octagon. Nobody wanted to see the fight end that way, and Sterling certainly didn’t want to win the strap in that manner.
As you can see in the clip below, Sterling clearly had one knee on the canvas, meaning his opponent can’t kick or knee him in the head. Also, it’s more than evident that this knee didn’t graze Sterling’s head; it was a ruthless knee.
After being given some time to recover, the referee called the UFC doctor into the Octagon. After a brief conversation with Sterling, the doctor told the referee, “I think we’re going to be done.”
After the fight was mostly a pick ’em in the days leading up to the show, late action on Yan increased his odds into the -130 to -135 range. Sterling cashed tickets as a +110 to +115 underdog at many shops. Both fighters took to social media afterwards.
At his post-fight presser, UFC President Dana White said the promotion would book a rematch as soon as possible.
On Sunday morning, BetOnline opened Yan as a -250 favorite vs. Sterling, who is a +210 underdog at the offshore book.
In the UFC 259 headliner, Jan Blachowicz successfully defended his light-heavyweight belt for the first time by defeating middleweight champ Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-45, 49-45).
At MMADecisions, 18 media members scored the bout 48-47 in favor of Blachowicz, who was given the nod by a 49-46 score by one media member. Seven media members actually scored the fight 48-47 for Adesanya, who took his first loss in 21 professional fights.
The first three rounds were extremely close, but Blachowicz clearly won the fourth and fifth rounds after scoring takedowns midway through each stanza. Blachowicz never allowed Adesanya to get back up to his feet after both takedowns, dealing out ground-and-pound punishment from the top, especially in the fifth when he was able to move to mount in the final moments of the scrap.
White called the judges’ scores “insane,” although he felt it was 48-47 for the 38-year-old Polish champion. White complained that judges are giving out 10-8 rounds without merit.
Veteran 205-pounder Glover Teixeira had weighed in as the alternate in case Blachowicz or Adesanya had to pull out of the headliner. Blachowicz and White indicated that the 41-year-old Brazilian would get the next crack at the light-heavyweight strap.
On Sunday morning, BetOnline opened Blachowicz as a -190 favorite. However, the odds fell down to -130 before moving back up to -153 by Monday morning. Teixeira, who has won five consecutive fights to put himself in position for a second shot at the belt (he lost a UD to Jon Jones at UFC 172 in 2014), is a +133 underdog.
In the UFC 259 co-main event, Amanda ‘The Lioness’ Nunes remained champ-champ by retaining her women’s featherweight title with a first-round submission win over Megan Anderson.
**B.E.’s Octagon Nuggets**
–Check out the UFC 260 trailer:
–Francis ‘The Predator’ Ngannou is installed as a -140 ‘chalk’ vs. heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic (+120) in the UFC 260 main event. Miocic dominated Ngannou by UD at UFC 220. Since then, Miocic has faced Daniel Cormier three times, going 2-1 with back-to-back wins since ‘DC’ knocked him out in Round 1 at UFC 226.
–There’s a second title fight on the UFC 260 card. Alex Volkanovski will be defending his featherweight title for the second time against Brian Ortega, who is off a dominant UD victory over The Korean Zombie. Most spots have Volkanovski listed as a favorite in the -180 to -195 range. I like ‘T-City’ Ortega as a +162 underdog.
–In the UFC 259 Prelims headliner, former bantamweight king Dominick Cruz captured a split-decision win (29-28, 28-29, 30-27) over Casey Kenney. At MMADecisions, nine media members scored it 30-27 for Cruz, 14 media member had it 29-28 for Cruz and merely one had it 29-28 for Kenney.
—According to this article at MMAFighting and Cormier, Yan was apparently instructed “yes, kick” (in Russian) just before connecting with the illegal knee. Nevertheless, it’s on the fighter to know the rules.