The bantamweight division has been quite the rollercoaster ride since Petr Yan lost his title to Aljamain Sterling due to an illegal knee to a grounded opponent. After that, the next major bantamweight fight was a five-round brawl between top contenders Cory Sandhagen and T.J Dillashaw made the competitive landscape even tighter.
Late last month, a rematch between Yan and Sterling was scheduled to co-main UFC 267, set to take place at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. Rumblings regarding Sterling’s neck issues had started even before this fight was booked and many now question why it was even booked if Sterling was not medically fit.
First reported by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, it was confirmed that Sterling would be pulling out of the title fight and the likely replacement would be Sandhagen. The UFC then confirmed this with a poster of the two fighters, announcing that they will be fighting for an interim belt while Sterling recovers.
Cory Sandhagen vs. Petr Yan: The Peoples Title Fight?
Cory “The Sandman” Sandhagen (14-3, 5-3 UFC) is. an absolute fan favorite with his highlight real finishes inside the octagon and laid-back personality outside of it. While Sandhagen is 2-2 in his last four fights, the context to that record is very important. The first of those four fights was a loss to now champion Aljamain Sterling where Sterling won early in the first round by Rear Naked Choke. Sandhagen would avenge this loss with a pair of highlight wins with a second-round finish over Marlon Moraes and one of the best knockouts ever with a flying knee win over Frankie Edgar.
Sandhagens’ most recent fight was a five-round war against former champion TJ Dillashaw, which many people argued Sandhagen won, even though he lost via split decision. After that fight, many were worried Sandhagen might get lost in one of, if not the deepest division in the sport. With Dillashaw and Rob Font unable to fight, Sandhagen has been presented a fantastic opportunity to reassert himself atop this division.
If The Sandman secures the win at UFC 267, he will be fulfilling the destiny that many MMA fans have set for him, being a champion. With that being said, he lIkely is being presented with the hardest road possible to the belt and that being through Petr Yan.
Petr “No Mercy” Yan (15-2, 7-1 UFC) has established himself as the boogie man of the hundred and thirty-five-pound division. His most recent title bout ended with him illegally kneeing Aljamain Sterling and consequently disqualifying himself from the contest. It is important to note, Yan was on the way to a dominant win if the fight continued as it was going, with Yan dominating in all aspects of the fight.
Prior to the unfortunate disqualification, Yan had won seven straight in the UFC with highlight wins over UFC legends Urijah Faber and Jose Aldo. To many fans, Yan is viewed as the “real” champion and the title will only be definite when someone beats him. Yan has yet to find himself an opponent that has caused him any trouble, with the aforementioned Sterling being his hardest test up to that point.
Regardless of the winner of the interim belt, they will go on to unify the belt against Sterling. If that is Yan, he will be viewed as the overwhelming favorite with having beat Sandhagen. This fight looks to be the resumption of Yan’s dominance as a champion and will likely be his hardest test on the feet up until now. This is set up to be an instant classic of a fight with two of my favorite UFC fighters set to go at it.
Scheduled Fights for UFC 267
UFC 267 is still undergoing rapid changes, so expect the order of fights to change, and bouts to be added or taken off the card. With that being said, here is UFC 267 so far:
- Light Heavyweight Bout: Jan Błachowicz vs. Glover Teixeira
- Bantamnweight Bout: Cory Sandhagen vs Petr Yan
- Lightweight Bout: Dan Hooker vs. Islam Makhachev
- Light Heavyweight Bout: Magomed Ankalaev vs. Volkan Oezdemir
- Heavyweight Bout: Alexander Volkov vs. Marcin Tybura
- Welterweight Bout: Li Jingliang vs. Khamzat Chimaev
Featured Image Credits to Embed from Getty Images