“Everyone knows I am the real champion”, Yan said after the fight to Sterling.
Read the play-by-play here.
Before any action even happened the crowd was chanting for the former champ. A minute into the round and not much had happened, clearly, both fighters respected the power of the other and were taking their time sensing the distance and game plan of the other fighter. Sandhagen started to pepper shots to Yan’s face, leading him to cover, then Sanhagen went to the body. They clinched in the center of the Octagon and traded shots before breaking to end the round.
They traded huge shots to start the second round with Sanhagen getting the better of the exchanges. Cage control was also belonging to Sanhagen who kept Yan in his control. But Yan wasn’t just taking it. He was landing massive spinning shots and backing up Sanhagen at times, so much that Sanhagen went for the takedown which Yan defended beautifully. Back on their feet, Sanhagen landed a massive jumping knee and they traded with heat to end the round.
In the third, Sanhagen opened with a left that nearly dropped Yan but he recovered and the slugfest continued. With just over a minute remaining in the round Yan landed a spinning back fist that dropped Sanhagen and for the first time in the fight it looked like the end was near. On the canvas, they scrambled for control before getting back to their feet to end the round, utterly exhausted.
Into the first championship round and Yan was looking to pick up where he almost finished. It was another absolute slugfest of a round. Sandhagen took Yan to the canvas but slipped and gave up his ankle. He was able to get out of the submission attempt and they went back to a standup war. With less than a minute remaining, they fall to the canvas and Yan takes over control before Sandhagen gets to his feet to end the round.
The fifth and final round sees a slower pace and more leg kicks, much like how the fight initially started. Between rounds, Sandhagen’s corner appeared to think they were losing and needed a finish, but it’s been a close fight and they may have just been trying to instill some urgency in their fighter. Sandhagen ate a huge headkick then answer back with another jumping knee. The fight ends on the feet and went to the judges.
This fight came together after reigning champion, Aljamain Sterling, was not medically cleared to fight again after neck surgery. The bout was made an interim title and the winner will face Sterling when he is cleared to fight again.
Sterling has the title due to a controversial knee which was landed in the final moments of a fight he was very clearly losing. Yan was disqualified for the illegal move and Sterling was crowned the champion. It’s been high drama between the two ever since.