Merab Dvalishvili may be the best bantamweight in the world without a title belt around his waist after he disabled former champion Petr Yani in dominant fashion in the main event of UFC Las Vegas.
Through five rounds, Dvalishvili had a record 48 takedown attempts in 25 minutes while keeping the pressure on Yan and not giving the Russian a second to breathe. Dvalishvili mixed up some leg-heavy boxing combinations and then helped win Yann’s headache with an all-night non-stop wrestling attack.
When it was over, all three judges scored the fight 50-45, giving Dvalishvili the biggest win of his career.
“It was very personal for me, but I tried very hard to keep it professional,” Dvalishvili said after his win. “Now I’m showing the world. Peter called me Zero, now who is Zero? Who is Zero?
«The only difficult round for me is the true champion Aljamaine Sterling. My team knows that my style is tough. I’m hungry! Come on!”
A tough performance from Duvalishvili, he demonstrated unreal conditioning and a pace that would be difficult for marathon runners to maintain for five laps.
Duvalishvili’s strategy was no secret as he was constantly looking for takedowns which prevented Yann from setting up his attacks as he was always alert that the Georgian was going to hunt his legs. Tvalishvili displayed sharp boxing from the start, which seemed to trap Yann as the former bantamweight champion tried to find his footing.
Yan responded with some strong kicks to the calf, leaving a visible red welt on Tvalishvili’s leg.
In response, Dvalishvili decided to focus on his own kicks, as well as a certain shot that landed with a painful thud as Yan immediately changed position. With a potentially compromised leg, Yan tried to find a way to turn the tables, but Duvalishvili was relentless in pressing him forward.
While Yann was able to fight off many of Duvalishvili’s takedowns, he was unable to generate much offense in return. Dvalishvili gave him no time or space to develop anything as he followed the elephant with a combination of punches and holds.
On the scorecards, when the fight moved to the championship rounds, Yann must have known he was reaching a moment of despair, but he was still trying to find an opportunity to hurt Dualishvili. Yan suffered significant swelling over his right eye, showing that Duvalishvili’s blows had hurt him.
With five minutes to go, Yann was running with no time to do anything to pull off a comeback, while Dvlishvili was crushing him more and more. Dvalishvili pressed forward, throwing punches and going for takedowns.
There was a moment late in the final round where Dvalishvili took the fight to the ground and it seemed like Yan’s spirit was broken. As soon as the horn blew, Dvalishvili threw his arms in the air in celebration, realizing that he was about to beat one of the best 135-pound fighters in the world.
Under any other circumstances, Dvalishvili would probably be looking for the next title shot, but she made it clear that she won’t be going for the title as long as her friend and teammate Aljamine Sterling remains the UFC bantamweight champion.
That doesn’t mean Dvalishvili is giving up the belt, but rather biding his time.
“He’s my brother and he’s a true champion,” Dvalishvili said of Sterling. “Whenever I decide to move up a weight class for the next challenge, whoever is there, I will fight for the title after that. Of course, I want to be the champion. And now I proved it again! I’m hungry!”