In this weekend’s pay-per-view co-main event, fans will witness “FunkMaster” throw down inside the Octagon for the first time since last March. His rematch with arch-rival Yan will also be the first time he’s entered the cage as the divisional titleholder.
While Sterling will look to legitimize a reign that some fans have downplayed given the way he won the gold at UFC 259, Yan will be hoping to regain the strap he doesn’t believe he ever rightfully lost.
As well as the pair’s personal back and forth, a sizeable narrative heading into UFC 273 has been a perceived disrespect felt by Sterling.
From criticism of the media for its reaction to the illegal strike that led to his championship crowning last year to a strong disagreement with his heavy underdog status, Sterling has certainly had a chip on his shoulder during fight week.
Per BetOnline.ag, Sterling currently sits as a +375 underdog. With the hype surrounding Yan, and with many, including his bantamweight peers, expecting the Russian to comfortably bring out “and new” from Bruce Buffer, the champ has posed the question, ‘What happens when I win?’
Sterling Expects To “Run Through” Yan
During UFC 273 media day on Wednesday, Sterling acknowledged the lopsided odds and the fact that predictions for a successful defense are few and far between
With the hype surrounding his opponent in mind, “Funk Master” questioned whether a victory over him would ascend him towards the top of the group of historical bantamweight elites, essentially challenging Yan’s supporters to put their money where their mouth is should their man fall short in decisive fashion.
“However this fight goes, I really do think I’m gonna run through this man,” claimed Sterling. “Like I said, people think he’s good. If and when I run through him, what are people gonna say about me? I mean, do I become the greatest of all time in this division? I don’t know. There’s a lot of history to still be written, a lot of fights to still be had, and this is just another one on the checklist.”
In the eyes of many, Yan was comfortably on his way to victory on the scorecards before throwing an illegal knee at a downed Sterling last March. With that in mind, as well as the Russian’s five-round interim title victory over Cory Sandhagen in October, it’s perhaps unsurprising that he’s favored ahead of this animosity-fueled rematch.
Nevertheless, the odds and predictions are certainly heavily against a man who rode a five-fight win streak, which included choking Sandhagen unconscious in one round, into his championship date with “No Mercy.”
Sterling will be hoping to prove a lot of people wrong on Saturday, April 9.
Where do you think a victory over Petr Yan at UFC 273 would place Aljamain Sterling among the all-time best at bantamweight?