At the April 9 pay-per-view, reigning champion Aljamain Sterling and interim titleholder Petr Yan will look to finally settle their bitter rivalry over a year after it ignited.
The pair first collided at UFC 259 in March 2021. While Yan, the then-champ, was expected to extend his reign and was well on his way to doing so after three rounds, a fourth-frame disqualification crowned a new 135-pound king inside Las Vegas’ APEX.
After surgery kept him out and forced a withdrawal from his scheduled defense at UFC 267 opposite “No Mercy,” Sterling has been on the sidelines with the belt for 12 months. At UFC 273, he’ll be hoping to finally legitimize his reign by adding another blemish to the Russian’s record.
While some, including the #12-ranked Sean O’Malley, expect Sterling to arrive to the cage with an improved game plan from last time out, “Chito” Vera, the current #8 man in the division, doesn’t have high hopes for “Funk Master.”
Vera Expects To Hear ‘And New!’
During a recent appearance on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, the Ecuadorian gave his assessment of the April 9 bantamweight championship rematch. While he gives Sterling the kind of puncher’s chance that always exists in a sport with as many disciplines as MMA, he ultimately said it should be an “easy” win on paper for Yan.
“That fight, on paper, it’s pretty easy (for) Yan. He just has way better striking,” said Vera. “But that’s the thing with MMA. Sometimes you don’t need to be Israel Adesanya to win a fight. MMA, the speed is different, the range is different. You fucking throw three hooks in a row and oops, you won. It’s not a sport like boxing or kickboxing, (where) most guys are like, perfect technique.
“You see a guy who comes from jiu-jitsu not give two fucks and just start swinging from the fences, it’s hard to read those punches” Vera continued. “That’s why you gotta spread across a little bit of everything. But, you know, everybody can punch in MMA. And there’s so many things you can do; clinch, fight on the fence. On paper, I do believe Yan kicks his ass. Because Sterling gets tired every time he’s not able to get a hold of you. He gets tired quick; he gets anxious. Yan is pretty calm in there.”
Given his own form in the 135-pound weight class, Vera will certainly be keeping a close eye on proceedings come UFC 273 fight night. Having secured a second consecutive win by brutally knocking out Frankie Edgar last November, “Chito” is set for his first chance to enter the main event spotlight.
A few weeks after Yan vs. Sterling 2, Vera will headline a UFC Fight Night opposite top-five contender Rob Font. With a victory, the 29-year-old will likely move to within just one triumph of a meeting inside the Octagon with the bantamweight kingpin.
Do you agree with Marlon Vera? Is the UFC 273 co-main event “easy” to predict on paper?