Jose Aldo had moments when it looked like he might become a two-division UFC champion. But in the end, Petr Yan may have brought about a changing of the guard in the lighter weight classes.
Yan (15-1 MMA, 7-0 UFC) became the UFC’s new bantamweight champion with a fifth-round TKO of former featherweight champ Aldo (28-6 MMA, 10-5 UFC). The stoppage came at the xxx mark of the final frame.
Yan pounded out Aldo to win the belt vacated by Henry Cejudo earlier this year and denied Aldo a chance to win a UFC title in a second weight class. The fight was relatively close for the first three rounds before the 27-year-old Yan turned it on and poured it on in the fourth and fifth.
The vacant bantamweight title bout was part of the main card at UFC 251 at Flash Forum at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. It aired on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN/ESPN+ and early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.
“I expected it to be a hard fight, but then he kicked my leg and it forced me to change my stance,” Yan said through a translator on the broadcast after the fight. “In the beginning, we wanted to put pressure on him, make him tired, and after the third round, put the pressure on. That’s exactly what happened.”
Both fighters looked patient inside the first 90 seconds, but Yan landed a heavy right hand that wobbled Aldo for a moment, but didn’t take him off his feet. Seconds later, though, Aldo threw a low kick that swept Yan right to the canvas. He bounced up quickly, but Aldo went to the body to keep his opponent honest.
Aldo continued to work kicks to the body, but with 50 seconds left Yan again landed a big right hand. Aldo dropped for a takedown attempt, and when Yan stuffed it, Aldo went to his back and welcomed Yan to come into his guard. But Yan landed heavy punches from up top and seemed to hurt Aldo down the stretch. While Aldo covered up, Yan tried to finish, but Aldo made it to the horn.
Yan had no issue staying right in the pocket in the second round and was unafraid to throw bombs the Brazilian’s way. Aldo kept working kicks to Yan’s legs and tried to pop shots to the body. Yan wanted to land with big punches more often than not.
In the third, Aldo landed solidly to the body, then seemed to hurt Yan up top. They briefly clinched, and Aldo continued to the body in close. But Yan pushed away and backed Aldo up with another power punch. Midway through the frame, with Yan covering up, Aldo landed a knee up the middle just to continue to show some striking variances. Both worked to the body, but down the stretch in the middle round, Aldo was able to duck away from several Yan punches. Still, though, they traded in close and Yan added an elbow to the mix for good measure.
The fight remained close in the fourth, though it appeared Aldo started to slow down just a little bit. Yan continued to walk Aldo down, and late in the fourth Yan landed several big punches that had Aldo covering up on the fence. Yan pulled Aldo away, then swept his foot to get a perfect takedown. Yan got on top and worked punches while Aldo covered up on his back. He landed several big ones ahead of the horn.
Just 10 seconds into the final round, Yan landed a big punch that took Aldo off his feet. On the canvas, he worked quickly and had Aldo covering up. Yan nearly jumped to mount, but Aldo kept him in half guard. But Yan landed heavy elbows and punches despite Aldo’s attempts at defense. Yan pounded away at Aldo with hammerfists and elbows until referee Leon Roberts finally stepped in with Aldo bleeding all over the canvas.
Up-to-the-minute UFC 251 results include: