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Welcome to the Terrordome: How far will Petr Yan go in the UFC?

Fight cards across the Pacific aren’t particularly kind to denizens of the western world, but luckily, Saturday’s UFC event in Singapore offers a few reasons to burn the midnight oil, with top bantamweight prospect Petr Yan leading the charge.

Here’s an appraisal of the Russian wunderkind’s skills ahead of his first walk to the Octagon opposite Teruto Ishihara in UFC Fight Night 132’s featured preliminary bout.

Background

Age: 25
Division: Bantamweight
Record: 8-1 (6-1 ACB, 3 KO/TKO, 1 sub.)
Team: Tiger Muay Thai

The Tiger Muay Thai man’s maiden voyage to the combat sports world came at 13 when he began training in boxing, with Petr Yan trading the sweet science’s gloves for MMA’s 4-ouncers seven years later.

Yan turned pro not four years ago and competed under Russia’s Absolute Championship Berkut banner in all but two of his nine career bouts, the sole blemish on his record coming in the form of a split verdict in a five-round thriller opposite Magomed Magomedov in March 2016. He’s since avenged the loss and claimed ACB 135-pound gold with a one-sided decision, and now heads to Singapore for his Octagon debut on a three-fight win streak after inking a four-fight deal with the world’s preeminent fight factory at the top of 2018.

The Tape

“No Mercy’s” first handful of fights yielded a fearless, albeit hittable pressure striker equally capable of landing 1-2s and blistering low kicks from either stance. Despite boasting a sturdy sprawl, Yan’s aggression often got him taken down off body kicks or knees, and the youngster did little off his back other than control posture or tie his opponent up to mitigate damage. But the results were nothing to sneeze at, as Yan quickly compiled a 5-0 slate including three victories within the distance.

In four subsequent showings, Yan’s commitment to rounding out his game has been plain as day, most notably over the 10 rounds he shared with Magomedov. Yan was repeatedly taken down by the best grappler he’s ever faced en route to his only loss to date at ACB 32, but flashed sneaky scrambling ability and fearlessly went for armbars and triangle chokes with his back to the canvas instead of merely accepting the precarious position as he had in fights prior.

Ever the quick study, the youngster was no longer resigned to camping out on his back when he and Magomedov ran it back 13 months later. Not only was he stuffing his foe’s attempts to bring the action to the mat, he was handily working Magomedov over when clinching in space – landing knees, elbows and body shots while threatening with trips – and even scored some takedowns of his own in the later rounds. Between the newly developed facets of his game and his patented clinch work and pressure striking, Yan claimed a far more clear-cut decision in the rematch. He’d face another form of adversity in his striking duel with Matheus Mattos at ACB 71.

Up until his dance with the previously unbeaten Brazilian, Yan had walked every one his opponents down and handily led the striking exchanges with little resistance. Mattos didn’t succumb to Yan’s pressure without a valiant stand, however, fluidly circling away from the cage to keep the fight in space and rendering Yan gun-shy with feints, slick jabs to the body and low kicks through the early going. That all changed in the second round, as Yan got back to pressuring relentlessly and floored Mattos with a right hand. Mattos survived the knockdown, one that made him think twice about throwing hands and allowed Yan to get in his Gaethje-esque bag and keep his foe honest with the jab until a combination capped by a pair of short left uppercuts put Mattos’ lights out in Round 3.

The stoppage might have been emphatic, but the matchup saw Yan pass a stiff and necessary test ahead of a jump to a UFC bantamweight crop rife with strikers as technically proficient as they are deadly.

The Debut

Petr Yan has developed far more swiftly than Ishihara has under the tutelage of Sacramento’s Team Alpha Male, but that doesn’t mean the Japanese product can’t exploit Yan’s shortcomings.

For much of his UFC career, Ishihara’s calling card has been the counter left hook, which Yan may give him opportunities to land should he get lazy with his head movement and merely shell up while pressuring a la Gaethje, as he’s been wont to do. Rarely one to work from the outside or off the back foot, Yan could very well treat Ishihara to the kind of fight he wants – a striker’s affair – but he’d be wise to keep this one in the clinch, where he’s eaten many a man’s lunch. If Ishihara pursues the takedown, Yan’s counter-grappling should keep the fight where he wants it, and he isn’t averse to putting the opposition on its hind parts and uncorking some ground-and-pound.

Prediction: Petr Yan takes a unanimous decision in his UFC debut and cracks the bantamweight top 15 for fights with the Thomas Almeida’s and Rob Font’s of the world within a handful of promotional bouts.

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