Surging Russian contender Petr Yan will look to follow in the footsteps of his fellow countryman Khabib Nurmagomedov as he bids to capture UFC championship gold at his first attempt.
Yan (14-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) will take on two-time former UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo (28-6 MMA, 10-5 UFC) for the vacant bantamweight title on the main card of UFC 251, which takes place Saturday at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and ESPN+.
The fight will see one of the rising stars of Russian MMA take on a bonafide legend of the sport, and a fighter who will be competing in his 15th major MMA title fight. Ahead of their highly-anticipated bantamweight title clash, we take a look at five fights that have helped define Yan’s MMA career to date.
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Magomed Magomedov at ‘ACB 32: The Battle of the Lions’ – March 26, 2016
After winning the bantamweight grand prix in Russian promotion ACB, Yan was handed a shot at the vacant bantamweight title, against the more experienced 11-0 contender Magomed Magomedov. But, despite conceding the experience advantage to his opponent, Yan showed his all-action fighting style to the fullest in an instant classic in Moscow.
While Magomedov looked to relentlessly get the fight to the mat, where his grappling skills could take over, Yan showed outstanding footwork and scrambling ability as he turned the fight into a wild back-and-forth scrap that left both men bloodied over five thrilling rounds.
It looked like Yan was all set to claim victory when, after what looked to be an innocuous clash of heads, the referee halted the contest with just seconds remaining and penalized Yan with a yellow card for a headbutt.
That sanction proved decisive, as Yan lost out via a controversial split decision, and Magomedov claimed the vacant 135-pound strap. There were immediate calls for a rematch, but Yan would have to wait for a year, and defeat British contender Ed Arthur, before getting his wish.
Next up: “Payback”