After months and months of build up, UFC 259 is upon us and we will finally see the bantamweight title fight between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling take place.
It’s a rivalry that has been on the horizon for almost a year now, with the Russian being crowned champion following a show-stopping performance over the legendary Jose Aldo at UFC 251 for the vacant title – with both men jumping the queue in terms of the rankings ahead of Sterling.
The fight was made prior to Sterling’s last fight against Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250, in which he climbed his opponents back and submitted him in under 90 seconds. After Sterling’s humbling win, he declared that the shot should be his and he wants next. He got it.
Now almost eight months later, after being rescheduled once already, the fight will finally take place at UFC 259 as part of a triple-header of title fights in the UFC Apex centre.
Sterling is arguably the best grappler in the division. He uses his length well to land kicks and once he gets the fight down to the ground he is capable of getting the finish against nearly anyone the division boasts. Yan on the other hand is arguably the best boxer in the division and showed his skills when he knocked out Jose Aldo in what was largely a kickboxing affair.
That makes it seem like potentially the best of two worlds clashing, but this fight is far more than that. Yan has excellent takedown defence as he showed against Magomed Magomedov in their rematch back in 2017, where he avenged the only loss of his career to date.
Since coming to the UFC he’s rarely been forced to use that defence as much, but he did beat the elite wrestling of Urijah Faber by using his footwork to evade and then kicking him in the head for a knockout win.
Sterling is far from just a grappler too. He stood and went toe-to-toe with Pedro Munhoz for a lopsided decision win at UFC 238 and did really well against Jimmie Rivera prior to that on the feet too, where he actually went 0/7 on takedowns in that one.
If he goes zero for seven takedowns again in this one, he could be in real trouble. Yan is the best puncher in the division and has one of the best gas tanks around. He looked fresh as a daisy when he entered the final round against Jose Aldo and Sterling has been known to fade before.
It’s champion against number one contender but it’s also without a doubt the two best in the division going head-to-head. It’s the first time since UFC 227 that the division has seen that but it’s arguably the fight between the two fighters at their highest peak that we will have ever seen in the company.
TJ Dillashaw’s fights with Cody Garbrandt while highly anticipated were all about Garbrandt’s power. His game has always had holes as shown since he won the title from Dominick Cruz, who’s struggles were evident since returning from his several injury problems while he was champion.
This may be the closest we’ve seen to the perfect bantamweight fight since Cruz vs Faber way back when, and it’s not crazy to suggest that the two in the current picture are arguably better and more complete.
The winner of this fight will almost certainly not see the last of their opponent. As far as I’m concerned these two are quite clear of the rest of the division as it stands and while it’s unlikely that there’ll be an immediate rematch for the loser, they should be able to climb their way back up the ladder.
In the most stacked division in the UFC, in arguably the best generation of fighters we have seen, we are in store for the best bantamweight title fight of all time at UFC 259. Mark my words, they’re going to steal the show.