The Russian prospect has been considered a potential title contender at 135 pounds in the future but he had to endure a strong showing from Rivera over all 15 minutes to get the nod with 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 scores all in his favor. Following his fifth straight win inside the octagon, Yan called for a title shot against the winner of the UFC 238 main event between Marlon Moraes and Henry Cejudo.
“I want next fight — title shot,” Yan shouted following his win.
“Jimmie is a strong fighter, a good fighter. I knew he was a tough guy but I just kept going forward and doing my job. I want fight, no problem, Moraes, Cejudo, I want [title shot].”
As dominant as Yan has been throughout his UFC career, he was struggling to find Rivera with his strikes early as the New Jersey native was evasive and very quick on his feet. Rivera was quick with punches and kicks and then moving out of the way before Yan could connect on anything flush.
That all changed with second remaining in the opening round as Yan threw a lazy right hand and then followed with a devastating left that crushed Rivera and sent him down to the canvas. Yan followed up with a barrage of punches on the ground but he ran out of time before he could get the finish.
Knowing that he had a strong start, Rivera looked to build on that in round two while bouncing back from the late knockdown. Rivera began targeting Yan’s lead leg with kicks that were landing with so much force that the Russian was twisted around and forced to switch stances.
Once again it was the latter part of the round that nearly backfired on Rivera after he backed up against the cage and Yan uncorked a head kick that blasted him in the nose. A cut opened up that had blood dribbling down Rivera’s face and he was forced to shift into survival mode. Yan followed up with a punishing uppercut that put Rivera down to the mat yet again as he saw another round slip away on the scorecards.
With his coaches telling him he needed a finish to get the win, Rivera came out guns blazing in the third round and while he was still finding a home for his punches, Yan just continued to march forward without showing any signs of wear or tear.
Yan’s ability to absorb punishment and then just return fire without any fear of reprisal was the biggest difference over the course of all three rounds that earned the Russian the win.
This latest performance keeps Yan undefeated in the UFC as he continues his climb up the rankings with a 13-1 record overall and now he awaits word on whether or not this latest win was enough to earn him a title fight opportunity.