The fight was a rematch and a title unification bout. Sterling captured the championship by defeating Yan at UFC 259 in March 2021 by disqualification. Yan delivered an illegal knee to a downed opponent during the fourth round that rendered Sterling unable to continue. Sterling became the first fighter in UFC history to win a title by disqualification.
The two were paired for an immediate rematch at UFC 267 in October, but Sterling withdrew from the bout due to injury. Instead, Yan instead faced Cory Sandhagen for the interim bantamweight championship while Sterling healed up from injuries. ‘No Mercy’ defeated Sandhagen setting up the title unification match with Sterling.
In the rematch, Sterling defeated Yan by a razor-close split decision.
Some people, including UFC president Dana White, scored the fight for Yan. Sterling clearly won rounds 2 and 3. Yan clearly won rounds 4 and 5. All three judges scored those rounds that way. Two of the judges scored the first round for Sterling giving him the split decision victory.
“I thought the judges blew that one. I had it 3 to 2 the other way,” White said during the UFC 273 post-fight press conference.
“I guess it’s all in however you score that first round.”