Analyzing Petr Yan’s Competitive Ceiling
At UFC 245, Petr Yan showcased just how elite of a bantamweight he is, dispatching hall-of-famer Urijah Faber via third round headkick. Although the finish came in the final round, Faber was beaten and battered for a majority of the fight, suffering gruesome cuts on his face as a result of a furious salvo of strikes.
For the hardcore fans of MMA, Yan has long been considered a top-tier bantamweight, but not many people outside of the immediate bubble of the sport knew the extent of his skills. A product of the Russian organization Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB), Yan amassed an 8-1 record before joining the UFC, having avenged his only loss to Magomed Magomedov. Since joining the UFC, Yan is 6-0 with three finishes. Currently, he is the number four ranked bantamweight in the official rankings.
So, what makes a fighter like Yan so special? To start, he has a striking accuracy of 52%, decidedly higher than most of his fellow bantamweights. For example, Marlon Moraes, the number one ranked contender in the division, has a striking accuracy of 35%. Yan also lands a staggering 6.46 strikes per minute, 77% of which land to the opponent’s head. This strikes-per-minute ratio is incredibly high compared to other contenders (Cejudo – 3.82; Moraes – 3.23; Sterling – 4.18). Therefore, not only does he throw more strikes than others, they land with frightening accuracy. Additionally, his takedown defense is 83%, substantially higher than most others (Moraes – 60%; Sterling – 52%; Munhoz – 77%). His grappling accuracy (takedowns landed vs attempted) checks out at 50% (Moraes- 25%; Munhoz – 21%). As a result, Yan is essentially able to dictate where the fight takes place. When he is overcoming his opponents with strikes, they are rarely able to take him down. If Yan feels as though he wants to take the fight to the mat, he is more than capable of doing so.
Yan is a master of sport in boxing, a master of sport in mixed martial arts, and a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Simply put, Yan is well-rounded, with a high output of strikes (majority of which land), and elite takedown defense. Yan has also knocked down each of his UFC opponents, showcasing his tremendous punching power. Yan rarely takes a backstep, consistently pressuring toward his foe. Faber thought so highly of Yan that he said he anticipates a decade-long rivalry between Team Alpha Male fighters and the dominant Yan. This statement by Faber harkens back to the camp’s longstanding rivalry with Dominick Cruz, who reigned over the bantamweight division for years, defeating numerous Team Alpha Male competitors that challenged him. In fact, Yan had a backstage altercation with former bantamweight champion and Faber protege Cody Garbrandt after the fight, with Garbrandt subsequently calling for a fight in Moscow.
All of this praise raises the question – what is next for the surging Yan? Although he called for a title fight with bantamweight and flyweight champion Henry Cejudo, or “triple clown” as Yan called him, it is unclear if Cejudo is going to return to flyweight for a fight with Benavidez or remain at bantamweight. If Cejudo remains at bantamweight, I believe the title shot should go to Aljamain Sterling, leaving Corey Sandhagen to fight Yan for the next shot at the winner. If Cejudo returns to flyweight, a fight with Sterling or Sandhagen is sure to please as a fight night main event. Nonetheless, Yan is well on his way to becoming a mainstay at the top of the division, and his next fight, presumably a step up from Faber, will tell us a lot about his readiness for a title fight.
Photo Credit: Tiger Muay Thai