In one of the biggest blackouts in UFC championship fight history, Petr Yan has been disqualified from his bantamweight title fight against Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259 after throwing an illegal knee.
Yan dug his right knee straight into Sterling’s face, but the challenger was knocked down at the time.
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Sterling tried to regain his composure and his feet for more than three minutes, but referee Marc Smith had no choice but to disqualify Yan and anoint Sterling as the new 135-pound champion.
Yan was in full control of the fight at the time of the foul and was apparently on his way to successfully defending the belt for the first time.
UFC President Dana White wrapped the belt around Sterling’s waist, but the excited Aljo removed it and left it in the Octagon.
“Everything I worked for up to this point, to make the fight like this,” he said through tears.
“I thought I was close, I thought I had lost two rounds. That’s not the way I wanted to win. This is not how I envisioned this. I took off my belt. I was messed up and it would have been an ego creation.” I keep fighting.
“I wanted to continue. It was fast-paced, lots of action. The action was nonstop until the bulls—”
Not the way I’ve always wanted to win a fight. It was tight, competitive and action packed. I felt like the knee was intentional, especially after the referee announced that I was a downed opponent, so I didn’t expect to get hit.
Yan is a bad guy! WE WILL DO IT AGAIN!# UFC259
– Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) March 7, 2021
After the fight, it was revealed that Yan’s corner told him that he could knee Sterling even though the challenger was grounded.
I apologize and wish a speedy recovery to @funkmasterMMA I didn’t want to launch an illegal strike, I just made a big mistake and paid for it.
– Petr “Merciless” Yan (@PetrYanUFC) March 7, 2021
Sterling flew off the blocks, launching everything in the first minute and a half. Yan was tagged in abundance and backed by the insane pace and pressure from the challenger.
Aljo hit the first takedown he attempted, but Yan bounced back and quickly reversed the momentum of the fight with a massive right hand.
Sterling was stunned when he hit the mat and was sent back from a vicious low kick seconds later.
It was so intense in the second, with Sterling pressing hard for a takedown. Aljo looked calm and relaxed in the early stages of the first round, but put more effort into each movement in the second and third.
Meanwhile, Yan was as patient and calculated as ever, and began to take more control in the third.
Just when it was starting to look like a formality, Yan uncorked a brutal illegal knee to Sterling’s head. Sterling was grounded at the time, with Yan digging his knee into his head.
Sterling was stunned and lay on his back for over three minutes.
“For your own health and safety, this should be called,” Rogan said. “Aljamain is a tough guy. If he could get up, he’d get up. This should be called. Call this fight.”
Smith had no choice but to cancel the fight, awarding Sterling a disqualification victory.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.