Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight contenders Petr Yan and Merab Dvalishvili will clash TONIGHT (Sat., March 11, 2023) at UFC Las Vegas inside The Theater at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Yan’s recent run has been unfortunate to say the least, as two consecutive split decisions have gone against him. Fortunately, he remains ranked the Top 5 and acknowledged as one of the best Bantamweights on the planet. “No Mercy” still isn’t too far from the title mix, and taking out Dvalishvili helps right the ship. “The Machine,” meanwhile, rides an eight-fight win streak into his first main event slot. Dvalishvili exists in a weird vacuum in that he won’t fight his teammate and divisional champion, Aljamain Sterling (here’s why). Fortunately, Sterling seems eager to test Featherweight waters sooner than later, so the current logjam could soon clear out.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Cory Sandhagen (UFC 267), Jose Aldo (UFC 251), Jimmie Rivera (UFC 238), Urijah Faber (UFC 245), John Dodson (UFC Fight Night 145), Douglas Silva de Andrade (UFC 232)
Key Losses: Aljamain Sterling (UFC 273, UFC 259), Sean O’Malley (UFC 280)
Keys to Victory: Yan is one of the best strikers in the sport. A brutal pressure fighter, Yan can fire off aggressive combinations from both stances and strike from any distance, and his offense only heats up as fights wear on.
In this bout, Yan must be the man moving forward. Dvalishvili may be an excellent wrestler, but Yan cannot let the threat of the takedown deter him from his usual approach to kickboxing. He has to be confident in his own takedown defense, which remains some of the division’s best.
Dvalishvili does not have sound defensive boxing. His defense comes in the form of aggression and wrestling. If Yan is methodically walking him down with smart combinations, cutting angles and shifting stances without overextending, the relative lack of fundamentals in Dvalishvili’s striking will start to become very apparent.
Dvalishvili is only going to get easier to hit as the damage builds up. There’s no way to out-cardio lots of hard rips to the legs, mid-section and face.
Key Wins: Jose Aldo (UFC 278), Marlon Moraes (UFC 266), Cody Stamann (UFC Vegas 25), Casey Kenney (UFC Fight Night 167), Brad Katona (UFC Fight Night 151)
Key Losses: Ricky Simon (UFC Fight Night 128), Frankie Saenz (UFC Fight Night 123)
Keys to Victory: Dvalishvili is an agent of chaos. He attacks with wild kicks, spinning punches and big swings. He’ll take down his opponent and let them up, just so he can land a couple strikes and another big slam takedown. Once he’s trapped his opponent in his style of fight, it’s very difficult to break his form.
Dvalishvili has to earn Yan’s respect here. If he can score a takedown right away, that would be great, but even that may not be enough. Realistically, Dvalishvili has to land a punch that makes Yan take notice, even if it doesn’t necessarily stun the former champion.
Like Sterling did, Dvalishvili would be wise to mix up his offense. Punching the body against Yan’s famously high guard is always a good idea. Any failed takedown should be looked at as an opportunity to score with a punch or knee on the break. If Yan is intent on walking straight towards Dvalishvili, front kicks could be a good weapon even if Dvalishvili is a bit shorter.
If Dvalishvili lands enough that Yan starts reacting to his punches, the takedown will come so much easier.
Only one man leaves this fight still in title contention.
Yan’s performances are stronger than his recent results suggest … but results still matter. If he comes up short here in any fashion, he’s effectively pushed out of the title picture. No excuse will matter: no disqualification or bad judges decision will erase a three-fight losing streak. Yan would be forced to go on a serious win streak to return to the mix, whereas currently, one strong performance tonight could have him in strong position.
As for Dvalishvili, an eight-fight win streak is usually enough to earn a title shot. Until Sterling leaves the division or loses the belt, though, he has no chance of becoming champion. All he can do is keep winning and ensure he’s in excellent position when one of those two events happens.
At UFC Las Vegas, Petr Yan and Merab Dvalishvili will go to war in the main event. Which man will leave the cage with his hand raised?
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