T.J. Dillashaw is picking Petr Yan to defend the UFC bantamweight championship at UFC 259, but sees a tough fight ahead for the Russian.
Dillashaw, who is now eligible to return to action from his drugs-related suspension, does concede that contender Aljamain Sterling is as tough a fight stylistically for Yan, but is still finding it hard to pick against the champion.
“I think it’s a tough fight for Yan because of the style of the fighter,” Dillashaw said, speaking on the “Real Quick with Mike Swick” podcast. “I think Yan’s the better, (more) well-rounded fighter. He’s got more of the skills and more aspects of fighting. But Sterling’s wrestling is very aggressive.
“His striking is real uncomfortable. He doesn’t really set anything up — he just kind of bombs kicks non-stop, kind of got that distance. But then he can grab a hold of you. He’s got great wrestling and his jiu-jitsu is amazing, too. I watched him take [Cory] Sandhagen out in 45 seconds. We watched him do a lot of great grappling in some of his fights. So I think it’ll be a tough fight because I do think Yan, maybe his biggest weakness is his wrestling.”
Sterling’s wrestling is seen as the advantage by most going in, but Dillashaw — a man who mastered the ability to manage the distance in his own fights — sees Yan being able to negate that wrestling offensive and earn the win.
“He lost in the past to a guy that’s in Bellator just by getting outwrestled, so we’ll see the gains he’s made in his MMA wrestling,” Dillashaw said. “I would still probably put my money on Yan just because he’s a little more well-rounded, structurally and , on the feet. I think he’ll be able to keep the distance good enough. But you can’t underestimate a tough-nosed wrestler. So he can’t be counting his chickens before they hatch because he’s trying to call me out, but he’s got to get past Sterling and stay on top.”