UFC bantamweight Aljamain Sterling has referenced “Khabib-style type of pressure” as part of an approach which he believes will lead to victory when he faces Russian reigning 135lbs champion Petr Yan at UFC 259.
Sterling and Yan collide in a rearranged title match-up in Las Vegas on March 6 with both men on hot streaks.
Yan captured UFC gold with a fifth-round TKO victory over Brazilian icon Jose Aldo at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi in July, the latest in a 10-fight winning run for the Siberian.
Sterling, meanwhile, heads into his meeting with ‘No Mercy’ on a five-fight winning streak, and in his last Octagon appearance submitted fellow contender Cory Sandhagen.
Yan and Sterling were originally slated to fight in December, only for the Russian to reveal that visa issues and travel disruption had scuttled those hopes.
But with Yan now training in the US and both men ramping up their preparations, things are set for the two standout bantamweights to grace a stacked UFC 259 card at the UFC Apex.
And when they do meet, Sterling has pointed to a clear strategy he feels will pay dividends against the 28-year-old champ.
“I think he’s been tested, [but] I don’t think he’s necessarily had guys attacking him constantly like a Khabib-style type of pressure looking to get him to the ground, and that changes the tempo of the fight,” Sterling told ESPN, MMA Junkie reported.
“He can try to stop the takedown with punches as much as he wants. I just need one takedown. I can shoot a hundred times, he can stop it a hundred times. I get that one takedown, that 101st takedown attempt, I get him down on his back, it’s going to be a long night for that guy.
“That’s what I honestly, truly do believe. He’s good on the ground, I know he can hurt me, I know what the threats are but at the end of the day, he has to connect. I just need to get my hands locked and it’ll be a bad night for him.”
Jamaican-American star Sterling boasts eight submission wins in his 19 victories as an MMA professional – while Yan is known more for the kind of concussive striking power which ultimately proved too much for Aldo when they met last year.
“I still know he’s dangerous and he’s fundamentally sound,” Sterling added of his opponent. “I just want to know how the gains he’s made in his defensive approach for stopping a takedown.
“There’s a reason he pulled out of the fight from the first one. We never had no clarity on why he pulled out of that fight. It’s got to be something up.”
Yan, meanwhile, recently vowed that his fight with Sterling will not go the distance, scoffing at Sterling’s proposed plan for a takedown barrage and claiming instead that he will need “plan B aka plan ‘Bicycle’.”
Sterling and Yan will meet in the first of three title fights at UFC 259, as women’s stars Amanda Nunes and Megan Anderson contest the Brazilian’s featherweight crown, before Polish light-heavyweight ruler Jan Blachowicz puts his title on the line against Kiwi middleweight champ Israel Adesanya.