Aljamain Sterling won the bantamweight title last year on arguably the most blatant foul in UFC history. On Saturday, he kept it by beating the man who had so flagrantly fouled him.
Sterling’s grappling carried him to the first three rounds on two of the three judges’ scorecards and led him to a split decision victory Saturday at VyStar Veteran’s Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, in the co-main event of UFC 273.
Two judges had it 48-47 for Sterling, giving him the first three and Yan the last two. Judge Chris Lee had it 48-47 for Yan, giving Yan the first, fourth and fifth. Yahoo Sports had Sterling 48-46, giving Sterling the first three rounds including a 10-8 in the second.
“Oh my God,” Sterling shrieked. “I was very highly doubted. People wrote me off because of my last performance.”
Sterling had a disk replacement after the first fight between the two and had to withdraw from a planned October fight when he wasn’t healthy. Yan won the interim title that night against late replacement Cory Sandhagen.
Sterling struggled in Round 1, but he landed enough kicks and flicking punches to win it. Yan stalked and controlled the center of the Octagon, but he threw next-to-nothing, essentially giving the round away.
Sterling got Yan’s back in both the second and third and controlled Yan for most of the rounds.
Yan grappled a lot in the last two, which he won, but that in and of itself was a win for Sterling. Yan is a dynamic striker and every moment he wasn’t throwing heavy shots was a win for Sterling.
Yan thought he’d won the fight and complained of being robbed.
“I think I won three rounds out of five,” he said.
But the win went to Sterling, though these two may see each other again at some point in the near future. Sterling called out ex-champ TJ Dillashaw, referring to him derisively as “Pillashaw,” as a result of Dillashaw being suspended for performance enhancing drug usage.