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5 reasons Petr Yan deserves an interim title shot as Aljamain Sterling undergoes neck surgery

UFC 259: Yan v Sterling
UFC 259: Yan v Sterling

Petr Yan will have to wait a little longer for his championship rematch against UFC bantamweight titleholder Aljamain Sterling. It comes after it was revealed that the newly-crowned champ is scheduled to undergo neck surgery that will keep him out of action for several months.

Sterling recently shot down rumors that the surgery will sideline him for nine months. However, neck injuries can end a fighter's career. Athletes who deal with them must take as much time as they need to ensure a full recovery.

If such a lengthy layoff is inevitable, the logical move for the UFC matchmakers is to crown an interim champion in Sterling's absence. And if there's going to be an interim title fight for the UFC bantamweight belt, there's no one more deserving of an opportunity than Petr Yan.

On that note, let's take a look at five reasons why Petr Yan should get an interim title shot while Aljamain Sterling recovers from neck surgery.


#1 Petr Yan didn't really lose to Aljamain Sterling

UFC 259 Blachowicz v Adesanya: Weigh-Ins
UFC 259 Blachowicz v Adesanya: Weigh-Ins

At UFC 259, we witnessed what could possibly be the most controversial ending to a title fight when Petr Yan lost his UFC bantamweight title due to disqualification. Referee Mark Smith called for the fight to end when Yan landed an illegal knee to Sterling's head while he was downed.

Per the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts that the UFC has been implementing, "kneeing and/or kicking the head of a grounded opponent" is not permitted. Therefore, Petr Yan had to be stripped of his title and Aljamain Sterling was subsequently crowned the new champon.

To make matters worse for Yan, he was on his way to defending his belt as he was leading on two of the judges' scorecards in the fourth round. Yan didn't lose his title by getting bested by his challenger; he lost it due to a momentary lapse of judgment..


#2 UFC fans deserve a fighting champion

UFC 259 Press Conference
UFC 259 Press Conference

Aljamain Sterling is adamant that the reports about him being out for as long as nine months are false. In an interview with MMAFighting.com, Aljamain Sterling also claimed that there's someone within the UFC organization who's been spreading false information about his recovery timeline.

“It’s not going to be nine months. I don’t know why people keep saying that, who keeps spreading these lies. But it’s like the UFC has a mole that just tells stuff that they don’t know is actually true. I’m not doing the fusion. I’m not going to be out for nine months. I’m probably going to be fighting around August, September, October. We’ll see how well my body takes and how good of a shape I can get in. Obviously the more time the better but I can ease my way into it."

But no matter how much Sterling insists that he'll be back in time for an eventual rematch with Petr Yan, it can't be denied that he could miss action for longer than he anticipates.

Despite that, active bantamweight contenders like Cory Sandhagen, Cody Garbrandt, and especially Petr Yan should still get title opportunities. That way, the bantamweight division will still have an active titleholder, especially given live crowds are being allowed into the arenas again.


#3 Petr Yan is due a rematch anyway

Petr Yan v Urijah Faber
Petr Yan v Urijah Faber

Neck surgery or not, Petr Yan is owed an opportunity to reclaim the title that he didn't decisively lose. The only way to end the controversy surrounding Yan and Aljamain Sterling is to have a rematch to determine a conclusive winner.

With recent developments, however, a rematch between the two is up in the air. So what's the next best thing the Russian could receive if he can't get his hands on Sterling soon? The chance to hold interim bantamweight gold, which would set up a unification title match against Aljamain Sterling at a future date.


#4 Petr Yan vs anyone in the bantamweight division would be fun

UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen v Edgar
UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen v Edgar

Even with champion Aljamain Sterling's absence for the foreseeable future, the 135-pound weightclass is still an exciting division.

Cory Sandhagen has recently enjoyed a hot streak with back-to-back KO wins against Marlon Moraes and Frankie Edgar. Cody Garbrandt, meanwhile, has seemingly returned to his classic form as he's fresh off a huge KO win over Raphael Assuncao.

On top of that, crafty veterans Dominick Cruz and Jose Aldo are still in good enough shape to win even as they approach the twilight of their careers. And of course, Petr Yan is itching to get back into the octagon as soon as possible.

There's no shortage of talent in the bantamweight division. Booking an exciting interim title fight should not be a challenge for Sean Shelby and the rest of the UFC matchmakers.


#5 Petr Yan is still the best fighter at 135

Before Petr Yan got disqualified, he had proven that he's the best fighter in the bantamweight division. The Russian accomplished an astonishing feat when he strung together seven straight victories in the UFC. On top of that, he's won 10 out of his last 11 professional MMA fights.

Despite being unceremoniously dethroned, no fighter in the Octagon has ever given Yan any serious trouble. Until somebody hands 'No Mercy' a decisive defeat, there's no reason to believe that he's no longer the best bantamweight in the UFC.

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Edited by Harvey Leonard
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