Cory Sandhagen is backing Petr Yan to beat Aljamain Sterling when the two meet in their highly-anticipated rematch later this year.
Former UFC bantamweight champion Yan was stripped of his title after striking Sterling with an illegal knee that prompted referee Mark Smith to call a halt to proceedings.
He wants to run it back again with Sterling after his disqualification loss to the former Cage Fury Fighting Championships bantamweight champion.
But he will have to bide his time and wait as the Long Island native recently underwent neck surgery.
Sandhagen was unimpressed with Sterling’s post-fight antics however and isn’t convinced by the champion’s theatrics.
“You want to give Aljamain kinda [sic] the benefit of the doubt, just because the way the fight happened,” Sandhagen said to MMA Junkie. “But it’s kind of hard to give the guy the benefit of the doubt the way that he’s acting after his fight, but if he needs neck surgery, he needs neck surgery. I’m not gonna speculate on it too much. It’s more about me and focusing on what I can do. … It wasn’t as discouraging as it was kind of just a bit annoying.”
He added: “As far as the fight goes, I learned a lot by watching both of those guys in the fact that I think they both showed some holes that I think were pretty obvious, and I’m excited to watch them fight again just from a strategy standpoint where I can see some more holes and just develop a better and better game plan for when it’s time to fight one of them.”
While he believes Yan made a big mistake, Sandhagen believes “No Mercy” has the skills and the heart to match to reclaim his former belt.
“Yeah, I think Yan will definitely beat him in the next one,” he continued. “The way that the fight was going, Aljamain was coming at him with his heaviest artillery, and he couldn’t really get anything going, and Yan took it like a champ until he made a really terrible decision. Definitely Aljamain was losing in my opinion, and if I win the belt like that, I would likely be acting in a very different way. I think that I would be pretty upset because I was losing, not because I got DQ’d, but easier said than done I guess.”
He concluded: “The knee looked flagrant. I don’t think it gets too much more looking flagrant than that, so Yan definitely didn’t make a good decision, and I think he kind of deserves to get stripped with such a flagrant knee and just an awkward fight in general. It was just a weird, not great fight.”
Sandhagen is set to face former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw in the main event of UFC on ESPN 24 on May 8. He is coming off a huge knockout victory over Frankie Edgar at UFC Fight Night 184 in February.