Last weekend’s UFC Fight Night card in Prague, Czech Republic may not have been packed with A-list fights, but there were a couple of names who could soon find themselves challenging for UFC gold.
One is Thiago Santos. The Brazilian light-heavyweight scored a spectacular knockout of Jan Blachowicz in the main event on Saturday night to push himself right into the world championship discussion.
But, we want to focus on the other man fans and media alike were raving about after the event. Siberian striking sensation Petr Yan registered a unanimous decision victory over seasoned contender and former flyweight title challenger John Dodson in Prague.
And if people weren’t excited about Jan’s potential beforehand, they most certainly are now. Here are a few things you need to know about the rising Russian star.
He’s from Siberia, but he trains in Thailand
Yan hails from the city of Omsk in the heart of the huge Russian region of Siberia, but despite living in the at-times freezing cold temperatures of northern Russia, Yan trains in the dripping heat of Pattaya, Thailand.
Yan is a regular at the world-renowned Tiger Muay Thai camp, which is respected as one of the very best striking-based gyms in the martial arts world.
His coaches say he’s the real deal
Yan’s coaches at Tiger Muay Thai have every faith that he’s heading for the top of the sport.
“He’s an extremely talented kid,” said George Hickman, head coach at Tiger Muay Thai.
“He’s athletic, he’s fast, he’s powerful, he’s flexible, he’s got everything. What sets him apart is he doesn’t care. When he fights, he will try anything and he’s not worried about what’s going to happen.”
That sentiment was echoed by Tiger Muay Thai MMA coach Andrew Wood, who called Yan “a freak athlete.”
“We have to slow him down sometimes because he likes to dance around,” he admitted.
“His athleticism is crazy. He’s got a real bright future ahead of him.”
He was a MMA champion in Russia
Before joining the UFC Yan fought for the top Russian MMA promotion ACB (now renamed to ACA) and had a memorable two fights with the organisation’s reigning bantamweight champion Magomed Magomedov.
The first saw Yan fall to his first (and so far only) defeat as a late point deduction for a headbutt saw him lose by split decision. But, he got revenge in the rematch after a superb performance saw him claim the unanimous decision and the ACB bantamweight title at the age of just 24.
He’s 4-0 inside the octagon
Since joining the UFC, Yan has delivered the goods with four wins from his first four fights, and his most recent performance against former flyweight title challenger John Dodson was his most impressive in the UFC to date.
Faced with a world-class opponent and a man who is notoriously tricky to hit, Yan walked down the American and peppered him with shots throughout the contest to earn a unanimous decision victory and earn a spot in the UFC’s bantamweight Top 10 as a result.
As of Monday morning, Yan was ranked at No.8 in the UFC bantamweight division, and with each and every fighter ranked above him offering the possibility of a hugely entertaining matchup, Yan’s next bout could well be his most exciting yet.
He doesn’t say much, but he makes his words count
I had the opportunity to chat to Yan twice while over in Prague, once before the fight and once after his victory and, while he is a man of few words, he still manages to be engaging and interesting in a no-nonsense, straight-talking sort of way.
In my time chatting with him he mocked No.7-ranked John Lineker for picking easier fights instead of fighting him, and criticised world champion TJ Dillashaw, saying he needs to defend his bantamweight belt vacate his belt.
Then, after his win, he called for a fight with No.6-ranked American Jimmie Rivera, before mocking me by daring to ask him when he would fight again.
“I fought four times in eight months. What do you think? Is it frequent or not? Do you think I need to rest, or not?”
He said it with a small grin and a little chuckle, which is about as expressive as the 26-year-old Siberian gets.