Last Saturday, Yan took a sizable step towards reversing the damage done by the illegal knee he delivered to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259. In March this year, “No Mercy” was hoping to make his first title defense. After a comfortable and controlled three rounds, he looked minutes away from doing just that. However, after connecting a knee to a downed Sterling’s head, Yan was disqualified and watched “Funk Master” leave the Octagon with the 135-pound belt.
After his chance to exact revenge last month was delayed due to the champion’s withdrawal from their scheduled rematch, Yan faced top contender Cory Sandhagen at UFC 267. After a five-round war, the Russian had his hand raised via unanimous decision, and had UFC gold wrapped around his waist again, albeit an interim one strap.
O’Malley: Sandhagen Fight Helps Us Develop Yan Gameplan
One man who was incredibly impressed with Yan’s performance was Sean O’Malley. Despite being unranked and having never faced an opponent inside the top 15, “Sugar” has managed to keep himself in conversation with the champion and top contenders through his personality and presence on social media. He’d even thrown his name into the hat to replace Sterling at UFC 267.
Discussing Yan on a recent episode of the TimboSugarShow, O’Malley attributed the Russian’s success to his adaptability. According to the rising bantamweight star, “No Mercy” belongs with the likes of Kamaru Usman and Israel Adesanya in the pound-for-pound top three.
“Adaptability (is his biggest strength). I mean, his boxing obviously, but the way he can fucking adapt to losing to Aljo in the first, losing to Cory in the first, losing to José Aldo in the first. Getting outstruck massively… He’s gotta be pound-for-pound top three, right? I think Kamaru’s probably #1, Izzy’s up there right now. It probably goes Kamaru, Izzy, Petr.”
As well as lauding Yan for his performance, O’Malley suggested seeing the interim champ go five rounds with Sandhagen has allowed him and his coach Tim Welch to prepare a better gameplan for when he’s matched up with Yan. According to the 26-year-old, that clash is certain to happen, and will be a “massive” pay-per-view headliner.
“So, it’s cool though, it’s good to see all this, it just gives us a better gameplan. ‘Cos me and Petr are gonna fight someday and it’s gonna be a massive fight. It’s gonna be a fucking pay-per-view headliner; massive fight. Whether it’s 2023, 2024, whatever the fuck, whenever the fuck, it is, it’s gonna be massive.”
How do you think Sean O’Malley would fare against Interim UFC Bantamweight Champion Petr Yan?