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Assessing the Strengths and Weaknesses of Petr Yan

| February 19, 2021 5:51 am PDT
Petr Yan’s Strengths and Weaknesses in the UFC

From early on, Petr Yan’s strengths in the cage saw him touted as a future star.

But was Yan good enough to become a great fighter in the UFC?

The prodigious Russian arrived in the promotion, having taken the ACB bantamweight championship in April 2017. MMA fans were quick to buy into the hype, with the more judicious of the crowd even keener to put Petr Yan’s weaknesses under the microscope.

In July 2020, Yan beat Jose Aldo to take the interim 135-pound strap. Just like that, everything changed.

Now the UFC bantamweight king, suddenly everyone is looking for a piece of the action. Especially those betting on Petr Yan’s fights in the UFC, who love to make money on his stunning performances.

If you have read my previous pieces, you’ll know that I have covered the talents and shortcomings of some of the best fighters in the UFC. Today, I’m shifting my attention to the strengths and weaknesses of Yan to try and separate the man from the talent.

Keep reading, and all will be explained.

Yan’s Main Strengths

Petr Yan’s key strengths have given him the platform to achieve a lot in such a short period.

The average fan can tell you why a guy with such weapons would do well, but how about the things that aren’t as visible to the naked eye? If you are gambling on Yan to win a fight, this is vital information.

Now, this is a gambling-focused website, so it should come as no surprise that I am keen to talk about that side of things. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get valuable information from this piece if you are not looking to bet on Yan’s fights for real money.

Striking

A tremendous pressure fighter, Yan’s game is built around his hyper-intelligent striking.

Movement is a major part of his game, especially when cutting off the cage. This is very important to his overall style, but we’ll get to that a little later.

A crafty boxer, Yan’s main weapons are his fists. The initial phases of his attack are usually built off his sharp left hand, with jabs and shifting straights, when he changes stance. His shot selection from boxing range is awesome but is almost completely dependant on the movement and positioning of his opponent.

Yan’s background in Muay Thai is also evident by his strength in the clinch. He comes across as influenced by the old-school Muay Mat style, but perhaps without the power. And certainly with better footwork.

Speaking of which…

Movement

Without Yan’s exceptional movement, he would not be the fighter he is today.

Preferring to incrementally swallow up space to force his opponents against the cage, Yan’s patient approach is just awesome to watch. Once he has you where he wants you, the striking specialist will carve you up like mom’s Thanksgiving turkey.

You can identify both the amateur boxing and Muay Thai backgrounds in the way Yan moves. His footwork is absolutely tailored to the opponent in front of him, and we even see glimpses of a Taekwondo stance in some instances.

Yan knows the range where he can cause maximum damage. Therefore, his movement — which includes clever feints, set-ups, angle-cuts, and slides — comes down to where he has you.

His defensive movement is sound, too. He has great head movement, can bounce in and out of range with ease, and use his advanced sense of distance to pull out of the pocket before creating attacks from his defense.

He proved this when he beat Aldo for the title in 2020.

Wrestling

Although Yan has massively improved on his wrestling chops, it was already strong to begin with.

Now, I’m not saying Yan’s wrestling strengths are on par with iconic, fellow-Siberian Alexandr Karelin. But it is a big part of his game.

In the earlier stages of his career, Yan’s wrestling was not as defined as it is now. In fact, it seemed to be almost entirely based on sambo with a little judo thrown in for good measure.

But the stats don’t lie. One, in particular, stands out since he joined the UFC — his takedown defense.

Petr Yan’s UFC Stats
Category Stat
Takedown Average 1.46
Takedown Accuracy 52%
Takedown Defense 88%
Significant Strikes LPM 6.32
Striking Accuracy 50%
Significant Strikes APM 3.25
Striking Defense 63%
Submission Average 0.2
  •  LPM = Landed Per Minute
  • APM = Absorbed Per Minute

The evolution of Petr Yan’s wrestling was there for all to see in his rematch against Magomed Magomedov in April 2017. Since then, it has developed to the point where you can clearly see his nous in the scramble.

With constant improvements in his wrestling technique, you would expect Yan to develop into even more of a devastating fighter than he is today. A scary thought for Yan’s next opponent, it must be said.

Is wrestling one of Yan’s main strengths? I have no qualms about saying that it is. But how does it, alongside his striking and movement, contrast with his weaknesses?

Let’s find out.

Yan’s Main Weaknesses

There are things Petr Yan is good at, and there are things that Yan is not good at.

But, in all honesty, there are few areas to criticize in the Russian’s game. I knew this when I began writing this piece, and I am only well aware of it now.

In short, three areas could be considered as Petr Yan’s weaknesses as a fighter in the UFC.

Let’s start off with his reach.

Short Reach

A reach advantage over an opponent can be an important factor in how a fight pans out.

The perfect example of a mixed martial artist using their reach to their advantage is light heavyweight legend Jon Jones, who has a freakish 84.5″ span. Standing at 6’4″, Jones ape index works out at 8.5, which is ridiculous.

By comparison, No Mercy is not so genetically gifted in this department.

In fact, he is below average for the bantamweight division when it comes to his wingspan. At 5ft 7.5 and with a 67″ reach, Yan has a negative ape index of 0.994.

Here’s how Yan compares to a mix of UFC bantamweights from the past and present.

Fighter Height Reach
Miguel Torres 5’9″ 76″
Aljamain Sterling 5’7″ 71″
Renan Barao 5’6″ 70″
Cory Sandhagen 5’8″ 70″
Petr Yan 5’7” 67”

 From a technical standpoint, Yan is excellent on the feet.

I mentioned this earlier, even going as far as to elaborate on how his movement helps him stay out of trouble. But he absorbs 3.25 significant strikes per minute, which hints at a little more punishment than he should be taking.

Is this down to Yan’s short reach? There is an argument that it is, even if he is anything but a T-Rex compared with other champions of the UFC bantamweight division. It would be unfair to compare him to Miguel Torres, of course, but that can’t be said for the other fighters above.

I’m sure I can hit the nail on the head here by saying the problem is not his reach alone. It is the combination of his style and short-reach that could be a weakness against particular styles and opponents.

Unproven Ground Game

Yan’s wrestling, especially his takedown defense, looks awesome.

At the time of writing, No Mercy is 88% in the UFC for takedowns defended. That’s a huge number for a guy regarded by some as nothing more than a striker.

But one thing that Yan’s super impressive ability here does is make it difficult to gauge how strong he is against a submission expert. If he faces a fighter that can take him down and look to test him, how would he fare?

Yan has just one submission to his name. This came against Kharon Orzumiev in ACB back in 2015. Conversely, he has never been submitted and doesn’t seem to place a lot of emphasis on this part of his game.

Is this a red flag, or just something that we will need more of a chance to gauge?

Just like his Tiger Muay Thai teammate Valentina Shevchenko, one of Yan’s weaknesses as a fighter is his submission game. At least, that’s what it appears to be right now.

Stoppage Power

I think it’s worth bringing up Shevchenko again in this section.

I recently put together a piece covering Shevchenko’s strengths and weaknesses. I have to say that there are some parallels between her and Yan as fighters, as crazy as that sounds.

Now, let me make it clear that No Mercy and The Bullet are very different stylistically, but they do possess similar traits. For example, both have negative ape indices. Furthermore, neither are particularly strong off their backs.

Oh, and both also have similar KO/TKOs to win ratios, averaging out close enough to the 50% mark.

Is this something to do with their coaching? I’m not sure about that. But, when it comes to stopping power, it’s clear that Yan doesn’t really have the type of venomous crack that the likes of Conor McGregor or Francis Ngannou can boast of.

Compared to former bantamweight titlists, however, his numbers aren’t that bad. Garbrandt being the exception.

Fighter Wins KOs Submissions
Henry Cejudo 16 8 0
T.J. Dillashaw 16 8 3
Cody Garbrandt 12 10 0
Dominick Cruz   22 7 1
Renan Barao 34 8 15
Petr Yan 15 7 1

Yan joins the likes of Shevchenko, Jon Jones, and other champions who have taught us that phenomenal KO power doesn’t always go hand in hand with being a great fighter.

But it sure does help.

You might make an argument for this not mattering as much as other things. But you cannot deny that it needs to be pointed out.

The Balance of Yan’s Strengths and Weaknesses

On the balance of things, Petr Yan’s biggest strengths outweigh his main weaknesses inside the cage.

His striking, movement, and wrestling make him a huge problem for any modern-day fighter in the UFC bantamweight division. The champ will continue to fine-tune these individual arts, too, so count on even further improvement.

Yan’s weaknesses in MMA are not as obvious, but they are still there.

I talked about his short reach, unproven submission offense/defense, as well as a lack of stopping power on the feet as his main shortcomings.

While all three areas are there to be exposed, it would take one hell of a fighter to do so in a ruthless fashion. And I’m not sure the fighter is out there. Yet.

If you enjoyed reading this breakdown of Yan’s strengths and weaknesses, you should read some of the following content on other UFC fighters.

Adam Haynes

Adam is a sports writer and tipster with a strong background in MMA, boxing, and combat sports.

When Adam isn't writing about those, as well as politics, rugby, and Gaelic Games, he can be found working on methods and strategies to beat the bookies.

For his troubles, Adam is a fan of Leinster Rugby, Glasgow Celtic, and trusting the process.

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