This weekend’s co-main event will feature one of the most anticipated bantamweight matchups ever with Petr Yan set to face Cory Sandhagen. Yan was first scheduled to challenge for his recently lost title at UFC 167 with Aljamain Sterling. However, in a turn of events, Sterling would remove himself from the bout due to ongoing injuries, and fan-favorite striking star Cory Sandhagen would step in on short notice to fight for interim gold instead.
One of the scariest fighters in the bantamweight division, Petr Yan first won the belt against legend Jose Aldo at UFC 251, after prior champion Henry Cejudo vacated in retirement. Many believed Yan had what it takes to dominate for a long time, but in one of the strangest moments of the year, his first defense would end in controversy when Aljamain Sterling captured gold via disqualification. In a fight where Yan was dominating the latter half of the fight and looked to be coasting to victory, he would throw a confusing illegal knee to his downed opponent. Although clearly a foul, many have speculated as to whether or not Sterling played up the damage, creating a dramatic rivalry, and a questioned championship. Regardless, Yan has been on the hunt ever since to get his gold belt back around his waist.
Although not for the undisputed belt, a fight with Cory Sandhagen for the interim strap may very well be just as or an even more exciting match-up. After back-to-back highlight reel KO’s including a spinning wheel kick and a flying knee, everyone was clamoring to see Sandhagen finally fight for a title. However, in an action-packed classic against former champion TJ Dillashaw, Cory would just barely miss out, in the fight that fans voted the closest fight in UFC history via Verdict MMA. His performance, so impressive that it took no steam away from his momentum and he will now look to compete for the belt against Yan in the co-main event this Saturday.
The UFC 267 fight card is a special non-pay-per-view numbered event and that means
Sandhagen vs. Yan Betting Odds
The former champ will enter the fight as a -235 favorite over the budding prospect.
- Sandhagen: +195
- Yan: -235
Sandhagen vs. Yan Breakdown
Cory Sandhagen and Petr Yan are very different fighters but they do bear some similarities. Most notably, they both switch stances well, probably the best two in the division if not the UFC, however, they do so in different ways. Sandhagen is an elusive fighter, so typically what you will see is him circle, move back, and then cut angles and land intercepting shots. In doing so he will shoot forward in one stance and cut the angle by switching. For Petr Yan, moving back is not usually part of his strategy, rather he switches stances in order to make sure as he wades forward he’s almost always punching off the rear hand, emphasizing the amount of power he can put into his combos.
They are also both excellent at seamlessly transitioning between striking and grappling, although again in contrasting styles. For Sandhagen, his strength is by far more pronounced when kickboxing, however, what makes him dangerous is when he is taken down or caught in a scramble, the reflex to find a submission threat is instant. Yan will transition from striking into the clinch and immediately look to trip and off-balance his opponents with his judo.
The differences in their styles are more pronounced, Sandhagen is lighter on his feet and likes to fight moving backward. He is great at using his immense reach for bantamweight and picking his shots on aggressively oncoming opponents. Yan, a bit more flat-footed, prefers to wade forward himself and dictate his opponent’s reactions with his tight sharp boxing. While Sandhagen doesn’t typically shoot for takedowns, his grappling prowess is more of a reactive one while Yan will try to impose his will.
Therefore in general Sandhagen will look for space and Yan will either need to be all the way out or preferably all the way in as he is better in the pocket, in the clinch, and on the floor and Sandhagen better at range.
Petr Yan is a boxer who rounded out his game with extensive time at Tiger Muay Thai, but he still utilizes some heavily boxing-influenced approaches. One of these is his very low ducking style, he will both slip low and shell low, which is extremely effective against punches but potentially leaves an opening for the knee. This will be a weapon Cory is ready to use, as it is a favorite of his, especially jumping. Juxtaposing, Yan will likely want to utilize hooks and round kicks as Sandhagen circles and cuts lateral angles.
Cory Sandhagen has a good fundamental striking game, but his KO hunting approach and his entire grappling repertoire is high risk-high reward. He looks for spinning kicks and flying knees often, which when landed flush can finish anyone, but when missed leave him open to getting taken down. Likewise, although he is always readily looking for a submission on the defensive, he will risk position and land in a spot where he may take ground and pound or clock out the round in a non-dominant position. With both of these aspects of his game, the unpredictable nature of his style helps, especially early, and against Yan who is typically known for his patience Sandhagen should look to take advantage quickly.
For Yan, the long game may better suit him, he is known for breaking down his opponents into the later rounds, and with someone who is dependant on movement like Sandhagen, Yan’s leg kicks, and body shots will be a good investment. He will have to mind his P’s and Q’s so as not to get caught before they can pay off though.
Sandhagen vs. Yan Prediction
Ultimately, I think that over 25 minutes the opportunities for Sandhagen to find his shot down the pipe are there. However, with Yan’s chin never failing and I think a more well-rounded, sharp, and tight game he should win out more exchanges and come on late as well.
Prediction: Petr Yan via decision or late finish
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.