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Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling trade barbs as interim title fight becomes possibility

Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling trade barbs as interim title fight becomes possibility

Aljamain Sterling celebrates his victory against Cody Stamann in their Bantamweight bout during UFC 228

A #1 contender fight between bantamweight stars Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling seems imminent, after “No Mercy” and “The Funkmaster” called for one another on Twitter following reports that newly-crowned bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo will be out until 2020.

Yesterday, Ariel Helwani of ESPN reported that the UFC’s newest double-champion Cejudo was undergoing surgery for a shoulder injury he picked up after defeating Marlon Moraes at UFC 238. The injury will likely leave Cejudo sidelined for the rest of the year and with two contenders waiting at the top of the 135-pound division, an interim title seems possible. A bout between Yan and Sterling now appears highly likely, especially after the men traded barbs yesterday on twitter.

Yan tweeted that “With Cejudo out with injury, this fight makes even more sense.” Indeed, Yan has previously called for the Sterling fight, after it was widely thought that Cejudo would defend his flyweight title next and suggested that he would want an interim title on the line against Sterling.

Sterling reacted to the idea of this fight in typically bullish fashion, tweeting first that “Yan doesn’t call the shots” and then that “Pedro Munhoz > Petr Yan. Nuff said. Where do I sign.”

Yan, who has seemingly called out most of the UFC’s bantamweight division, responded with “No Mercy > Funk Master.” Given that the fight hasn’t even been booked yet, it seems clear that if the UFC schedule the bout, the build-up will be compelling, to say the least.

Yan and Sterling both recently fought at UFC 238 and were both victorious via unanimous decision against Jimmie Rivera and Pedro Munhoz respectively. Yan’s performance was the kind that the Russian has become known for and while not wholly dominant, he dropped the durable Rivera twice, continuing his outstanding start in the UFC.

Sterling, on the other hand, showcased somewhat of a striking clinic, the kind that he had never shown prior to the bout. The Serra-Longo product outstruck Munhoz 175 to 108 and used his length impressively to keep Munhoz from closing the distance.

After the fight, Sterling told Joe Rogan that he was tired of being slept on and that he believed he was now the true #1 contender. Since his devastating loss to Marlon Moraes in 2017, Sterling is 4-0 with three decision wins and the much-celebrated Suloev Stretch submission victory over Cody Stamann at UFC 228. ‘The Funkmaster’ is beginning to combine his strong wrestling base with a style of striking that will make him incredibly difficult to defeat.

Should this fight happen, it has the potential to continue the rise of the UFC’s bantamweight division which has become one of the promotions must-see divisions as of late, both inside and outside the Octagon. If Sterling can defeat Yan, he will absolutely be next-in-line for a title shot, having fallen short several times previously. On the other hand, if Yan is victorious, he will continue his meteoric rise since joining the UFC in mid-2018.

With Henry Cejudo’s star rising rapidly, prospects such as Cory Sandhagen, Ricky Simon, and Nathaniel Wood marching up the division and young talents like Manny Bermudez, Song Yadong, and ‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley all undefeated in the UFC, the bantamweight division is poised to enter somewhat of a golden age. With disgraced champion TJ Dillashaw set to return next year, Yan vs. Sterling could be a huge moment in the rise of the 135-pounders.

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