The bantamweight title fight at UFC 259 ended in a dramatic fashion as champion Petr Yan lost his title to Aljamain Sterling after he was disqualified for a deliberate illegal knee.
Sterling fought at an unusually fast pace in the first couple of rounds, mixing his striking on the feet, while hunting for takedowns. However, Yan was able to successfully defend all but one of the challenger’s takedown attempts. ‘No Mercy’ upped the ante in the third round against a fading ‘Funk Master’, and had things under control before he threw the fight away with an illegal knee to his grounded opponent’s head late in the fourth round.
Referee Mark Smith stopped Yan immediately as Sterling fell onto the canvas. The fight was waved off after a lengthy discussion between the referee and the doctor. As a result, the 31 year old was awarded the win and the belt.
Sterling Was Acting
The MMA world is divided over whether or not Sterling was as genuinely as hurt as he appeared to be. Speaking on his ‘Weighing In‘ podcast, John McCarthy said that the newly-crowned champion was as hurt as he made out.
“I have seen Aljamain take some big shots,” McCarthy said. “He’s a tough dude and he’ll fight back, but when you look at that knee, and you look at his initial response and see what occurred, I am not sure it affected him as much as it was coming out, but once he hears that he’s going to get a win here, that’s money. I’m not saying he made a bad decision, it’s called business.”
McCarthy’s co-host, the former UFC fighter Josh Thomson, also questioned Sterling’s behaviour after potentially getting knocked out.
“Was he really hurt?” Thomson questioned. “Let’s be honest. When guys get knocked out, they don’t act like that. I have been knocked out twice in 40 something fights, and never did I get up like that.”
Others including Cody Garbrandt, Henry Cejudo, TJ Dillashaw, and Darren Till also took to social media to accuse Sterling of milking it.
Sterling Wasn’t Acting
Responding to Sterling’s critics, Brian Sutterer, an avid MMA fan and a medical doctor, explained on his YouTube channel why he thinks the New York native was genuinely hurt.
“In my opinion, it’s preposterous to say anything to the sort that he was faking this or it wasn’t really as bad as it looked,” Sutterer said. “I saw the comments of what people were saying for the reasons why and I think it still represents this fundamental kind of baseline misunderstanding about concussions in the sport.
“This was an insanely high amount of force that was transmitted to Sterling’s head, definitely enough to account for the concussion and how he was behaving. Yan imparted this rapid hip flexion with his right leg swinging that right knee up while at the same time pushing off his other leg on the left side to help generate this tremendous amount of force that’s all directed through that knee and into Sterling’s head.
“As that knee comes in initially the skull moves but the brain stays stationary hitting into the side of the skull, and then as the head whips backwards, the brain continues backwards and slams into the back of the skull. Sterling’s behavior the rest of the sequence is 100 percent classic for somebody who’s had a concussion.”
Others also came to Sterling’s defence, including Jon Jones.
Cejudo also later apologised to Sterling for his comments.
”I do want to apologise to Aljamain, I really do. Because I was a little upset and a little mad, but at the same time… I was more mad at the fact that he ended up doing the interview and then the tweets and I saw the pictures with him with the belt. And man, it just rubbed me the wrong way. But at the end of the day it was an illegal strike by Petr ‘The Ugly Potato’ Yan and for that reason, that’s just the way the fight goes.”
Do you think Aljamain Sterling was genuinely hurt, or was he faking it?