Aljamain Sterling

Ray Longo: Aljamain Sterling game plan won’t be much different for Petr Yan rematch

With the grudge match rematch finally scheduled between UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling and interim champion Petr Yan at UFC 272, the focus on the fight has arrived. Sterling won the belt away from Yan at UFC 259 last March when he suffered an illegal knee from Yan which led to a disqualification and crowning him the new bantamweight champion.

The rematch between Sterling and Yan was postponed after the new champion was sidelined due to a neck injury, and after their initial rematch was canceled, Yan was scheduled to face Cory Sandhagen for the interim title. It was at UFC 267 in October when Yan solidified the rematch against Sterling, as he secured the interim title, setting the stage for a unification title fight for the undisputed title.

In their first fight, Yan was in control for most of the time against Aljamain Sterling, until the illegal knee struck. Now that they’re just a couple of months away from the rematch, one of Sterling’s coaches insists that the game plan will not be changing for the rematch, despite Yan’s success in the first fight.

Speaking to Sirius XM Fight Nation’s ‘Unlocking The Cage‘ Ray Longo detailed what he’s heard about Sterling’s recovery and where he currently sits with his health, and why the rematch was never truly in the cards for an October fight last year.

“I’ll tell you what, based on what he’s been saying he feels a million percent better. Just to go back to the beginning the October thing [UFC 267] he was never on board with that. I don’t know how that got thrown in there, he was never looking to get back that early and that was pretty quick. He said he’s feeling great now and that’s all I can go by.”

Without diving into too much detail, Longo would go on to say that the game plan for Aljamain Sterling likely won’t change much, no matter if people want to believe it was working or not.

“I’m gonna say believe it or not, I’m not gonna say [the game plan] is not going to be much different. Look, Yan’s pressure is unbelivable even with a guy Sandhagen who I think is a phenomenal fighter and that was definitely a competitive fight, but Yan won. He’s proven he can go five rounds hard. That to me is the fight. It’s the pressure of Petr Yan against the movement and angles of Aljo and obviously his submissions are great when it’s on the floor but that wasn’t looking good in the first fight, so we have to change up a couple of things.”

While not giving out a technical game plan or thoughts on what may need to change from Sterling inside the cage, Ray Longo did discuss one major key for the champion that needs to be addressed, and that is his cardio.

“My thing is always, I don’t want to make cardio a factor in the fight, you should have excellent cardio and Aljo did start to gas the last time and that’s the first thing that has to be corrected which is an easy thing to do.

It was almost like [Chris] Weidman at the beginning of his career, he would stalk you down and I remeber saying to [John] Danaher ‘By the time they [opponents] realize what’s going on, it’s too late.’ That’s what made him really special at the beginning, that forward pressure and he can put that fight where he wanted. I think Yan, it’s similar to that [Weidman] I think it’s hard to look from the outside when we’re analyzing the fight but at this point you have to come to the conclusion that it breaks people down and he throws hard. So right now he [Yan] doesn’t have many gaps in his game.”

Being complimentary to Petr Yan shows an understanding that Ray Longo and the coaches behind Aljamain Sterling understand the task at hand in front of them at UFC 272, and with just some small changes in camp, they believe the outcome will lead to Sterling defending his title.

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