Bantamweight Boogaloo – Petr Yan vs Aljamain Sterling and Who’s Next?

UFC 259
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JULY 12: Petr Yan of Russia prepares to fight Jose Aldo in their UFC bantamweight championship fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

We start with Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259 and then: Cory Sandhagen, Cody Garbrandt, TJ Dillashaw, Jose Aldo, Henry Cejudo, and Dominick Cruz. The bantamweight division is a top 10 filled with hungry knockout artists and veteran former champions. Who will be champion in one year’s time? Who will be the champion after UFC 259? The top-ranked UFC Bantamweight fighters create a chaotic and hostile picture for the title.

UFC 259 Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling

Current champion Russian born Petr Yan (15-1), recently defeated Jose Aldo (29-7) and will try to defend his championship against the experienced NCAA wrestler Aljamain Sterling (19-3).

Number 1 ranked Aljamain Sterling [Aljo] is a classically trained wrestler and competed in Div III NCAA collegiate wrestling. Aljo sports a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and trains under the Serra-Longo Fight Team. He has won 42% of his fight via submission. Sterling has looked nearly flawless in his last five victories. He has truly earned his title shot.

The Champion, Petr Yan is currently on a ten fight win streak and, it’s worth noting, five of those were by KO. Training out of Tiger Muay Thai, Yan utilizes a mix of boxing and Muay Thai.

Petr Yan currently holds the record for striking differential compared to all-time bantamweights with 3.07 and Sterling is in 3rd in this category at 2.82. The two will clash at UFC 259 on March 6th.

The Knockout Artists

Number 2 ranked Cory Sandhagen (14-2) recently earned himself a fantastic highlight worthy knockout over the former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar (24-9); a flying knee in the first 30 seconds of their fight. Sandhagen undoubtedly will be seeking a title shot next, either against Yan or a rematch to avenge his loss to Sterling. He’s already called out the winner of the UFC 259 bantamweight title fight saying, “The winner of those two gets knocked out by me in July.”

Former teammates, former champions, and former adversaries Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw. Neither have a fight scheduled currently. Garbrandt (12-3) and MMA legend Jose Aldo have agreed to a bout, nothing is yet signed or official. Garbrandt vs. Aldo, both former champions and both knockout artists, make in five rounds affair because that’s a great matchup.

TJ Dillashaw (16-4), record holder for most strikes landed in bantamweight history, was knocked out in his last fight against Henry Cejudo then was suspended due to a USADA drug test failure, and was stripped of his title, although he is now back and free to fight. Being a former champion does not gain Dillashaw any favour here. Instead Dillashaw should fight top ranked fighter, Cory Sandhagen. This could be a great headliner and with a victory moves either man to a title shot or top three ranking position.

The Former Champions

At age 35 the former champion Dominick Cruz (22-3) is looking to make a comeback. Cruz was a three time WEC bantamweight champion plus a four time UFC bantamweight champion. Cruz is currently schedule to fight on the headlining portion of the UFC 259 undercard against Casey Kenney (16-2-1). Kenney is on a three-fight win streak in the division but is unranked in the top 15. This is vital matchup for Cruz. A loss here would likely lead to a discussion on retirement planning options. For Cruz to be in the conversation he absolutely must win.

This is all well and good assuming Henry Cejudo does not return. Olympic gold medalist and former double champion, Henry Cejudo left his title for retirement and holds victories over champions such as TJ Dillashaw, Dominick Cruz, and Demetrious Johnson. If Cejudo decides to return to the UFC he can choose to fight in either the Flyweight or Bantamweight division. In either division, if he chooses to return, he should be given an instant title shot. This is because he still has the best record and best victories of any fighter in these divisions, active or retired.

The UFC Bantamweight division is currently cooking up to be one of the UFC’s most exciting divisions. Forecasting who will be champion in one year’s time in this hostile division is a challenging endeavour. Whoever wins at UFC 259 Petr Yan or Aljamain Sterling will not have easy defences going forward; either fighting a dangerous knockout striker or a veteran former champion. Keep your eyes on the best division in the UFC.

 

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