Sterling was victorious over rival Petr Yan on Saturday in their rematch at UFC 273 in Jacksonville, Fla., earning a split decision nod after five competitive rounds to unify his undisputed bantamweight title with Yan’s interim title. The win officially put Sterling up 2-0 in their series, with “Funk Master” having become champion at UFC 259 in March of last year when Yan was disqualified for hitting a downed Sterling with an illegal knee.
Their second encounter saw less controversy during the fight, but afterwards there was plenty of second-guessing concerning the scoring from fans, media, and UFC President Dana White. At the evening’s post-fight presser, White stated clearly that he didn’t agree with the judges’ decision.
“I thought that the judges blew that one,” White said. “I had it 3-2 the other way. I don’t know how you guys scored it. I guess it’s all in how you score that first round.”
According to the official scorecards, Round 1 was indeed the decider with judges Sal D’Amato and Eliseo Rodriguez scoring 10-9 for Sterling and judge Chris Lee scoring it 10-9 for Yan. No 10-8s were rewarded for any round, despite Sterling being in back control for almost the entirety of Round 2 while threatening with submissions and strikes.
Afterwards, Yan used his post-fight interview time to call for a rematch with Sterling. He entered Saturday as the interim UFC bantamweight champion after defeating Cory Sandhagen at UFC 267 to claim that vacant belt.
It’s likely that Yan will have to wait for a third shot at Sterling, especially considering the depth of the 135-pound roster. Two-time champion T.J. Dillashaw was in attendance at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena and earlier in the evening he stated that he would prefer a title fight against Yan.
White would like to see the Sterling-Yan trilogy put on the backburner for now, with Dillashaw waiting in the wings.
“Listen, that [third Sterling-Yan] fight’s gonna be there,” White said. “Petr Yan is one of the baddest dudes in that division. You probably do the T.J. fight.”