The Film Room: Petr Yan

By Kevin Wilson Feb 22, 2019
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Highly touted Russian prospect Petr Yan will make his fourth appearance under the Ultimate Fighting Championship flag when he takes on John Dodson in a bantamweight showcase at UFC Fight Night 145 on Saturday at the O2 Arena in Prague. Yan, 26, has already established himself as one of the most well-rounded fighters in the 135-pound weight class, and many believe it to be only a matter of time before he becomes a UFC champion.

Yan’s prodigious skills provide the material for this installment of The Film Room.

Training out of Tiger Muay Thai, Yan is already one of the best strikers in the bantamweight division and has the grappling prowess to hold his own on the ground with the best of them. On the feet, Yan compares favorably to Justin Gaethje: hands high, plodding forward and waiting for the opponent to strike, at which point he can land his favorite counter lead hook. He does not have Gaethje’s leg kicks, but the high boxing bull guard and ability to stand in the pocket and slip the opponent’s strikes before coming back with a counter are all Gaethje 101. Something to notice in these exchanges is how Yan will switch stances in the pocket before landing a counter. These slight stance switches in the pocket often go unnoticed, which means the counter coming in afterward is landing at an angle the opponent is not expecting, unless he saw the switch. Generally speaking, switching in the pocket like this is dangerous since you can get caught with your feet square, but Yan keeps his stance tight, which makes the switch quicker and harder to recognize.

Yan is the perfect mix of knowing when to sit back and counter and when to rush in with a leading combo, and he often fights one way or the other, depending on the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes, he is ultra-aggressive looking for the finish, and other times, he is patiently countering the entire fight or switching between the two. This makes game planning for him incredibly difficult, as you never really know which Yan is showing up until it is too late. Something to watch with Yan’s leading attacks is the sheer variety of what he throws. He never throws the same combo over and over again, and he is just as comfortable on the lead as he is on the counter.

Yan comes from a muay Thai background, and it is evident in his masterful clinch work. Most of his takedowns come from the clinch, and his ability to get a collar tie and hammer knees to the body is second to none in the division. Another admirable trait is how he will mix in trip attempts with his striking in the clinch. Notice how he will attempt a half-hearted outside trip to get the opponent defending and then immediately switch to a knee to the sternum. His clinch entries are also creative. Instead of driving forward with hands out trying to grab the back of the head, Yan will stand in the pocket and wait for the opponent to strike and then duck under and force the opponent to fall into the clinch.

Yan struggles with keeping opponents down, but his ability to get them there is spot on. He would rather use trips and throws from the clinch, though he will occasionally shoot for single- and double-legs. Absolute Championship Berkut is full of elite grapplers, which might have been the cause of his inability to keep opponents down in the past. However, in Yan’s last fight with Douglas Silva de Andrade, he managed to keep the Brazilian down and land some nice ground-and-pound.

When Yan can keep opponents down, he has shown fantastic transitional grappling and guard passing that is miles ahead of where a striking-based fighter with six years of experience should be. In the past, he did not posture up and strike enough on the ground, but he showed in his last fight that he has worked on that weakness, as he landed 26 ground strikes and held Andrade on the ground for a good portion of the fight. Yan is only 26, with just three UFC fights under his belt, far but he already looks like one of the most skilled fighters in the division. If the UFC continues to let him develop and guards against throwing him into the title picture too soon, we could be looking at the future of the bantamweight division. Advertisement


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