Entering UFC 259, the big question already was: who gets the next bantamweight title shot?
In the first of three title fights on the card, Petr Yan was looking to defend his bantamweight title for the first time against Aljamain Sterling. It was an intriguing matchup full of trash-talking which hyped up the fight. However, Yan was already looking past Sterling, as he was talking about fighting TJ Dillashaw next. However, many pundits thought Cory Sandhagen deserved the next crack at the belt.
Early on in the fight, it appeared the future of the division was murky. Yan was stuffing the takedowns and picking Sterling apart on the feet. In the fourth round, Yan threw an illegal knee that dropped Sterling. It became clear he couldn’t finish the fight and Sterling became the new champ due to DQ.
Although the ending was full of controversy, right when the fight was called off, the uncertainty of matchmaking the bantamweight division became clear.
Immediately, both Yan and Sterling along with UFC president, Dana White said the rematch has to happen as soon as possible. The fight was a very exciting one for the fans, and there is no question the rematch will be as well. The controversy around the ending with some fans saying Sterling faked it will only add the hype for the rematch sometime later this year.
Although the UFC would’ve rather gotten a clear outcome, the controversy has now set up some massive fights at bantamweight. With Yan and Sterling having to rematch, the rumored TJ Dillashaw vs Cory Sandhagen will now have to happen.
Before UFC 259, both Dillashaw and Sandhagen were calling for title shots, and both had a case. Neither seemed to be interested in a number one contender bout, but now, it is something that has to happen.
Dillashaw has not fought since January of 2019 and is no doubt itching to return. For Sandhagen, he won’t want to wait possibly a full year to get a title shot. Having them to fight in a five-round main event would propel the winner to face the winner of Yan-Sterling later this year or early next year.
Additionally, Cody Garbrandt vs Jose Aldo seems likely to happen. “No Love” has called for a fight against the former featherweight champion and with the top-four tied up, it is a logical fight. The winner of Gabrandt-Aldo would likely be a win away from a title shot. It’s also another big fight the UFC can add to a pay-per-view or have headline a Fight Night card.
Just off the controversy alone, three high-level bantamweight fights became intriguing, but Rob Font is also out there. He seems like the odd man out of the big fight talk, but he could very well rematch Pedro Munhoz where the winner then faces the winner of Garbrandt-Aldo for a title shot.
All four of these fights can all headline cards or be featured fights on PPVs. Regardless, the UFC, despite the controversial ending which no one wanted, now has several bantamweights fights to make just because of UFC 259. Plus, Henry Cejudo has hinted at a return, leaving bantamweight to be arguably the deepest and best division in the UFC with easy fights to make after last Saturday.
Despite the controversial ending, Petr Yan’s illegal knee at UFC 259 may have made the matchmaker’s job easy and set up some big fights at 135-pounds.