UFC Las Vegas: Merab Dvalishvili pushes devastating pace in shutout win over Petr Yan

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 11: Merab Dvalishvili (left) of Georgia reacts after finishing his bantamweight bout against Petr Yan of Russia during the UFC Fight Night event at The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas on March 11, 2023 in Las Vegas Vegas.  , Nevada.  (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
On Saturday, Merab Dvalishvili defeated former bantamweight champion Petr Yan for his ninth straight win. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS — Seconds before the big bantamweight bout with Petr Yan, Merab Dvalishvili revealed his plan for the fight: he relentlessly pushed forward, using his superior cardiovascular system to take down the former champ and take a dominant win in a close match at The Theater at the Virgin. Hotels.

Dvalishvili’s nickname is “The Machine” because he can be tough from start to finish, but he’s taken it to another level.

He was constantly going for takedowns, but also taking the best of the punching exchanges and just beating Jan from start to finish. It was 50-45 on all three maps and it wasn’t that close.

Dvalishvili had a 147-75 advantage in significant strikes, but it was the statistics of the fight that became the real discovery in this fight. Dvalishvili landed 11 takedowns in an incredible 49 attempts, almost two per minute, and he never stopped trying. Yang was only 1 out of 5 in takedowns.

Dvalishvili’s pace was crushing. He landed 202 of 401 punches and kept Jan on the defensive for the full 25 minutes. Jan’s right eye swollen by the middle of the third round due to a point-blank elbow strike from Dvalishvili.

Yang had some notable moments in the fight, and the best of them came when he defended himself from takedowns. His balance and defensive struggles were, as usual, excellent, but he hardly participated in the attack.

Dvalishvili never gave him a moment to catch his breath or step aside. He was ahead of the Russian, and Jan simply could not keep up with the pace set by Dvalishvili.

Dvalishvili, who is a teammate, training partner and close friend of bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling, defeated Yan more clearly than either Sterling or Sean O’Malley in Yan’s previous two fights. Yang lost by split decision to both of these men, but he had his moments in each of them.

On Saturday, he had little to offer Dvalishvili, who was bouncing and dancing around the ring like Clay Guida, and it looked like he could fight 10 rounds at the same pace.

The ease with which Dvalishivili dealt with Jan was no surprise to Sterling, who fought Jan twice.

“Was I surprised by this? Not at all,” Sterling said. “Everyone is doing [Yan] be such a big monster, but he’s not like that.”

Before the fight, Ian placed 2nd and Dvalishvili placed 3rd and Dvalishvili will clearly move up to 2nd after this performance. Sterling and former two-time champion Henry Cejudo will fight for the title on May 6 at UFC 288 in Newark, New Jersey.

Perhaps it makes sense for O’Malley and Dvalishvili to fight to determine the #1 contender.

However, few doubt that Dvalishvili poses a threat to everyone in the division. Dvalishvili is gaining momentum after a one-sided win over Hall of Famer Jose Aldo, but he didn’t get the full credit for that victory at UFC 278 on August 20 because it was Aldo’s last fight.

He has made it clear that not only is he an elite contender in the division, but he will be a handful for anyone who can win if he fights the way he did on Saturday.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 11: Petr Yan of Russia reacts to a decision loss to Merab Dvalishvili of Georgia in bantamweight bout during UFC Fight Night event at The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas on March 11, 2023 in Las Vegas, state of Nevada.  .  (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Petr Yan fell to 16-5 after losing his third fight in a row on Saturday. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

He fought emotionally because he is from the Republic of Georgia and Jan is from Russia, and the two countries don’t get along. Before the fight, he put pressure on himself by saying a lot of nonsense, but he was able to back up his words.

He said he was motivated to win for several reasons, including as a way to show support for the Ukrainian people after Russia invaded them last year.

“Russia does not want to be friends with other countries,” Dvalishvili said. “… Russia wants to be on its own. They say: “If you go to NATO, we will kill you,” and they start throwing bombs.”

The pressure on Dvalishvili escalated when Ian punched him in the throat at Friday’s weigh-ins. He said he called Jan by his first name after that, for which he apologized on Saturday and knew he would have to take his game to the next level.

He did it with an amazing effort that was clearly a championship.

After that, the geopolitical situation in the world hung over Dvalishvili. He poured out his soul when he spoke about his country, about the support he received from his compatriots, and about Russia’s relations with its neighbors.

“We cannot stop Russia, but at least we can beat her in sports,” he said. “… I hope that this war will stop and we can live in this world in peace.”


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