Petr Yan – 3 Keys to Victory at UFC 280

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Just one of many blockbuster fights on the UFC 280 card features the former bantamweight champion, Petr Yan taking on the up-and-coming, Sean O’Malley. On paper, Yan should dominate O’Malley. He’s had a much higher level of competition, is a proven winner and has barely shown any flaws in his game. Although he lost last time out to the champion, Aljamain Sterling, Yan is looking to return with a vengeance.

Standing in his way will be ‘Suga’, Sean O’Malley. O’Malley burst onto the scene with his brutal knockout on the Contender Series. Knocking out two of his first four UFC opponents, O’Malley picked up his first career loss to Marlon Vera. He rebounded with wins against Thomas Almeida and Raulian Paiva, however, fought to a no-contest last time out against Pedro Munhoz due to an eye poke. His level of competition has been questioned throughout his career, however, there can be no doubt that Yan is a huge step up in competition for the potential mega-star.

Petr Yan’s Keys to Victory at UFC 280

Slam the Low Leg Kick

Everyone knows that Sean O’Malley is susceptible to the low leg kick. He suffered an injury against Andre Soukhamthath and if Soukhamthath had a better fight IQ, he could have finished it. Instead of looking to attack the leg, he initiated a clinch. Last time out, Munhoz attacked the legs of O’Malley, landing 26 strikes to the legs of O’Malley across the round and a half that they fought. In his debut loss, Marlon Vera brutalised the legs of the American and it clearly affected him, leading to a suspected injury to O’Malley during the bout.

O’Malley’s movement is one of his better attributes. He constantly looks to get in and out, sting his opponents and then slide out of range. If Yan can land on the legs of O’Malley, focussing on the calf, he’s going to hinder the movement of the American, leading to his being more readily available to strike. We know Petr Yan’s boxing is one of his best assets, so having a more stationary target in front of him is going to be a dangerous weapon for the Russian. Yan is also effective at throwing leg kicks himself, mixing up multiple attacks to the legs between inside and outside leg kicks as well as stomps to the knee. This was on show against sterling last time out.

Wrestle O’Malley

Petr Yan is a solid, all-around mixed martial artist. Despite being one of the best boxers in the division, Yan still lands 1.48 takedowns per 15 minutes. We’ve seen him constantly exchange in the wrestling realm as well as land multiple trip takedowns in a more Muay Thai style against Sterling the first time they faced off.

O’Malley’s takedown defence is 64%, however, whenever he’s been taken down, opponents have been unable to keep him there and control him. His stats are also slightly skewed as he was taken down three times against Soukhamthath when he had an injured leg. When Soukhamthath took him down in the second round of their bout, O’Malley was able to attack off his back effectively. He threatened multiple submission attempts and was never in any danger off his back.

Yan will ground his opponents often when he has their backs, which we saw against Urijah Faber. When Yan was able to get Faber’s back, he dropped his own weight, utilising a trip takedown by pulling him over his posted leg and in doing so, found himself in a dominant position.

Again, O’Malley has a stunning stand-up game, so grounding him, testing what he’s like fighting off his back and mixing it up throughout would be beneficial for ‘No Mercy’.

Close the distance quickly

If O’Malley is allowed to stand in front of his opponent, pick them off and land his shots, it’s going to be a lot more straightforward for him. If he’s given time, space and distance, he can land his looping shots, front kicks to the body and look to work that right hand in. He’ll be allowed to constantly switch stance and make it more difficult for Yan to overwhelm him.

If Yan can close the distance quickly, it limits O’Malley’s ability to pick his shots, get power on his shots (if he’s constantly moving backwards) and will give Yan a bigger opportunity to land the takedown if he can pressure O’Malley up against the fence. We can take some pointers from Yan’s fight with Cory Sandhagen. Sandhagen is a long, rangey striker. Sandhagen and O’Malley are the same height, however, O’Malley’s reach is two inches longer. Yan did a really good job of fighting in bursts against Sandhagen. He picked his opportunities to close the distance, regularly landed on the body of the Sandman and fought on the front foot in order to shut down a lot of Sandhagen’s advances.

Yan does have to be careful because he can’t be reckless. O’Malley is a crisp counter striker and if Yan slows down when closing the distance, it could end early in the American’s favour. Closing distance is important for Yan, but he has to do it quickly, effectively and with a purpose.

Keep it locked to MMASucka this week for plenty of UFC 280 content from results, to staff picks, previews and plenty of breakdowns.

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Frazer Krohn has been with MMASucka for nearly 5 years. He is the host of the MMASucka podcast, which is released every Monday. He's the author of a series of six books about MMA, which were published in 2023.

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