Yan’s battle with Sandhagen in UFC 267’s co-main event was an electric affair that captured Fight of Night honors on Saturday night in Abu Dhabi. The two bantamweights combined for a stunning 729 total strike attempts in a back-and-forth battle that ultimately saw Yan defeat Sandhagen via unanimous decision to win the interim bantamweight title.
“It was unbelievable. The fight was awesome,” UFC president Dana White said at UFC 267’s post-fight press conference. “Sandhagen was staying on the outside and using his distance. The counter-punching by both of those guys, the body punching by both of those guys, the kicks to the body — those two went to absolute war tonight. Petr Yan is a savage. This guy is unbelievable. He’s unstoppable. He just keeps moving forward.”
Yan’s clash with Sandhagen wasn’t the UFC’s original plan for UFC 267. The promotion initially intended to pair the Russian in a rematch with bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling. Yan and Sterling collided at UFC 259 in a controversial result that saw Sterling snatch away the UFC title via disqualification after Yan threw an ill-advised knee to the head while Sterling was grounded late in the fourth round. At the time of the illegal knee, Yan was ahead on the scorecards and had seized momentum in the contest.
Sterling underwent neck surgery in the aftermath of UFC 259 and those same neck issues were ultimately the culprit that forced him to withdraw from UFC 267, paving the way for Sandhagen to fight for an interim strap. Sterling is excepted to return to action sometime in 2022, and White indicated that he didn’t mind seeing how cleanly Saturday’s result played into the ongoing story that’s unfolding at the top of the 135-pound division.
“Here we are,” White said. “If you look at the way that whole thing played out [at UFC 267] and the last fight [between Yan and Sterling], this was the right way for this to go.”
White also reiterated that there’s no question of where the division heads from here: As long as everything goes to plan, Yan and Sterling will get the chance to settle their rivalry next.
“He’s the champ,” White said of Yan. “He and Aljamain will do it again.”