Sterling and Yan have developed quite the feud since their clash at UFC 259 earlier this year. “No Mercy,” who was champ at the time, largely controlled the fight and appeared on his way to a comfortable defense. That was until the fourth round when he struck a grounded Sterling with an illegal knee to the head. After the Russian’s disqualification, “Funk Master” became the first champion in UFC history to be crowned via DQ.
After taking time away from the cage to undergo neck surgery, Sterling was expected to defend his gold for the first time in a rematch against Yan at UFC 267. After failing to secure medical clearance due to the lingering issues from his operation, the champ was forced to withdraw. In his place, #3-ranked Sandhagen has stepped up and will meet Yan in Abu Dhabi for an interim title.
In his last fight, Sandhagen fell on the wrong side of a tight split decision against the returning TJ Dillashaw. With the former champ recovering from the knee surgery he required after his encounter with “The Sandman,” and Rob Font’s recent bout of COVID-19 ruling him out, Sandhagen found himself with a championship opportunity off the back of a loss.
Despite that, and the short-notice nature of the October 30 co-main event, Aljamain Sterling believes Sandhagen will leave the Etihad Arena with interim gold. During a recent appearance on The MMA Hour, the 32-year-old suggested he’s going to be annoyed when Sandhagen defeats Yan before him.
“I saw Cory Sandhagen at UFC 266 in Vegas, and we spoke after the fights. And like I said, I’m a very honest man. I asked him if he was taking the fight. He said yes. I said good luck. And I said, ‘I know you’re gonna smoke him. And I said, ‘The only thing about this that annoys me is that you’re gonna be the first one to do it, and that bothers me. Because I know I can beat this guy.’ And I said it just like that to his face.”
Sterling’s prediction comes from his belief that Sandhagen is nightmare stylistic matchup for Yan. However, even if the Colorado native emerges victorious and sets up a rematch with him, Sterling assured Yan that he will 100% face him again at some point down the line.
“No matter what, before I retire, before he retires, we’re fighting again. Simple as that.”
Who do you think will have their hand raised at UFC 267, Cory Sandhagen or Petr Yan?