There was no glove touch to start the fight, which was to be expected after the trash talk that led up to this fight.
The fight opened with Sterling landing a body kick to Yan. In their first fight Sterling ran out of gas early on and it appeared he’d learned from his mistake and was taking the round with a measured approach.
Going into the second round, Sterling was told to kick more to the body and come forward with more bodywork. Yan started by controlling the cage and landing a body kick on Sterling. A trip about a minute in gave Sterling the back of Yan with lots of time left to work. Sterling secured the body lock and then went to work for the rear-naked choke. They peppered small shots on each other (as the crowd booed) hoping the other would make a critical mistake. That mistake happened and Sterling got Yan’s neck for a moment. Yan rolled to his stomach and Sterling landed ground and pound and now looked for the arm triangle. Both times Yan got out of danger of the submission but stayed under Sterling’s control to end the round.
Going into the third Sterling had pep in his step. Aljamain’s corner warned him that Yan was “embarrassed” and would come out hot. Yan’s corner admonished him for giving up his back. They both came out hot, exchanging kicks and strikes in the opening moments. Sterling went for the single leg but Yan defended. But Sterling landed it the second time and took Yan’s back again, again with more than three minutes in the round. We saw a repeat of the second round with Sterling completely dominating Yan on canvas. Sterling wasn’t able to find the submission and we head into the fourth round.
Within seconds they were back on the ground, this time due to Yan’s power. Back up on their feet for a moment before a slip and they are on the canvas again. This time Yan was dominating Sterling, though he wasn’t in any real danger. A knee separated the pair and Sterling gets ahold of Yan on the ground with his legs but he lost it and now Yan was in Sterling’s guard with half the round left. The round ended in the same position, a good round for Yan.
The fifth and final round was going to be crucial. There was no obvious winner in round one, though much could be said for it being Yan’s round. That meant they were 2-2 going into five. Sterling was looking for the takedown but Yan struggled and stayed on his feet. A scramble in the final round left the men on the mat, both struggling to tell the judges it was their round, but it looks like Yan was going to narrowly win the round.
Their UFC 273 co-main event was a rematch of their controversial first fight. In that bout, Sterling won the undisputed title via disqualification in the fourth round after Yan kneed him while he was grounded. The fight was immediately turned into a rematch but was rescheduled due to Sterling needing neck surgery.