Aljamain Sterling may not have initially won the belt from Petr Yan in the best way possible after a DQ ruling, but he earned it this time around by battling his way to a split decision win in the rematch tonight at UFC 273.
Body kick for Sterling and then another kick. He lands the low kick as Yan commands the center of the Octagon but remains patient. leg kick again for Sterling. He tries for a takedown, but Yan sprawls nicely.
Yan lands a body kick. Leg kick for Sterling. Body kick for him. He lands it again. Misses with a right hand. Punch glances the target from Yan.
Straight right for Yan. Body kick from Sterling. Front kick to the body now. Yan stalks him and then unleashes a punch followed by a hard kick.
Low kick from Yan. One-two for Yan. Kick from Sterling is checked. Yan swings for the fences but misses off-balance. Sterling also a little reckless trying to land a bomb, but Yan moves away.
Punches from Yan. Nice stepping elbow from Sterling. Body kick from Yan. Jab for Sterling. Light body punches from Sterling. Late in the round he grabs for a single-leg, but Sterling defends it and lands a good hook.
Leg kicks from Sterling without landing particularly cleanly. Body kick now. Body punches follow. Heavy body kick from Yan. Olbique kick now. Front kick to the body from Sterling.
Sterling grabs a single leg and they go the mat, with Yan attempting to scramble but Sterling managing to secure the takedown.
Sterling quickly manages to take the back and locks in the bod triangle. 3 minutes to go as Sterling looks to chip away at Yan and then gradually look to go for a submission.
Yan defending solidly for now. Couple of solid punches from Sterling and then he finds a chance to go for the choke. Yan defending and gets out of that.
Sterling on top now with that strong body triangle. He rolls to his back again and lands hard punches to the head from their and to the body in the remaining seconds of the round.
Sterling active offensively to start the third round, but Yan remains composed and fires back. Solid body kicks from Yan. Sterling goes for a single-leg, but Yan stuffs it well.
Sterling again trying for a takedown and Yan almost gets on top. Sterling lands a punch and Yan retreats deep into his high guard for a moment.
Sterling in on a takedown again and this time lands it. Sterling takes thh back and starts to work for a rear-naked choke.
Nothing doing yet, but Sterling is showing excellent control so far and that tight body triangle is keeping him locked in.
Yan trying to turn into the triangle but unable to. Final seconds of the round and Yan is finally able to scramble out.
Body punch from Sterling. Flurry of punches in response from Yan sends his opponent back to the cage. Sterling on his knees, but manages to get back up.
Another couple of solid punches from Yan. Sterling attempts a takedown and Yan stuffs it. Sterling pops back up and Yan gets the back clinch.
They break apart. Yan punches and lands a good knee upstairs. Body kick from Sterling. Sterling looking for a takedown. Sterling drops to the mat trying to work a triangle choke. Yan gets out and works into full guard.
Yan lands hard to the body. Sterling scrambling, but not getting out from under Yan for now. Yan landing a few punches to end the round.
Body kick for Yan. He land one to the leg too that knocks Sterling to the mat. Back up Sterling is trying to fight back but eats another solid kick. Sterling drives into a takedown, but Yan defends it as they hit up against the cage.
Yan able to get out and lands a left hand. Body punch from Sterling. Sterling attempting to clinch up without success.
Sterling into a single leg and then works around to the back. Yan standing close to the cage with one hand on the mat. Yan able to break away to striking range.
Strikes behind a takedown attempt for Sterling but doesn’t pay off. Yan then immediately stuffs another attempt.
Yan with short punches. Sterling returns the favor in close. Hard knee upstairs from Yan. Sterling’s takedown attempt fails and Yan gets on to top of the turtled up Sterling.
Sterling’s turn to scramble to his feet. Upward elbow from Sterling. Sterling tries for a takedown and Yan does very well to scramble out and then get around to the back as Sterling turtles up on his knees.
Knee to the body from Yan. Sterling tries to stand, but Yan keeps him down and then hops onto his back. Sterling stands and Yan slips off, but remains clinched to his back as the round ends.
A close fight then with Sterling certainly controlling the second and third rounds after a solid start, but Yan then coming on stronger in the fourth and fifth with heavy strikes and good mat work of his own.
In the end though it’s Sterling who has done enough to swing the judges verdict in his favor via split decision (48-47 x2, 47-48).