Top 10-ranked Middleweight veterans, Marvin Vettori (No. 4) and Roman Dolidze (No. 9) locked horns TONIGHT (Sat., March 18, 2023) inside The O2 in London, England, kicking off UFC 286’s ESPN+-streamed pay-per-view (PPV) main card.
Vettori was looking to rebound from a one-sided loss to Robert Whittaker, while Dolidze had won four straight, stopping his last three opponents via strikes and showing off an incredible grappling game in the process. Regardless of recent successes or failures, the winner of this 185-pound showdown would inject himself into the title chase moving forward.
And when the dust settled, it was a mature Vettori who fought a smart, calculated three-round fight to halt the Georgian’s impressive run in its tracks.
Roman tried to touch gloves with his former training partner, and Vettori responded with a low kick. High kick from Vettori was blocked as Roman barreled in with a jab-short elbow attempt. Looping right hand from Roman, then a barrage up against the cage as Vettori circled out and smirked. Vettori landed a big left hand on the restart as Roman circled, waiting for his next entry. Roman pawed a left jab, looking to drop a big right hand as Vettori scored with a one-two combination. More low kicks from Vettori — inside and out — as Roman struggled to put anything together mid-round. Nice right hand from Vettori, then another right hook as Roman barreled in with some short shots. Both fighters traded inside low kicks with Roman missing on looping left hook. Action was stopped after in incidental clash of heads, which Vettori took the brunt of. High kick from Roman was blocked on the restart, but he landed a nice cross to the jaw moments later. Another right hand from Roman, then another, as Vettori backed up against the fence, swinging wildly to get the Georgian off him. Brief exchange at the bell — very competitive, close fight after round one.
Vettori opened up the second stanza with more kicks, with Roman firing a left hand down the middle in response. Vettori launched a high kick the was blocked, then he went back to work downstairs. Straight right hand from Roman, who started to talk some trash along the fence. Nice right hand bounced off the top of Vettori’s metal head, then another hook that grazed the Italian. Roman attempted to trap him in the corner, eating leg kicks on his way in, but Vettori beat him back with a hard right jab. Roman continued to duck his head and wing a big right hook, while Vettori was content to kick him incessantly. Roman went in on a single-leg takedown attempt, but he was not really committed and released it seconds later. High kick from Vettori was blocked again, with Roman unable to really pull the trigger or score much in round two.
Heading into the third and final round, it was up in the air who was up on the judges scorecards. Roman looked solid early and Vettori appeared to pull away in the second round. Roman came out the aggressor, perhaps thinking he needed a finish. He got Vettori backed up against the fence early and clubbed him with some shots, but not the sort of artillery needed to take out Vettori. Roman finally got him pinned against the cage and landed some grazing shots, but Vettori was out fast and back to kicking. Check right hook from Vettori, with Roman just missing with a counter missile shot. Roman barreled in with another combination, scoring this time, but it wasn’t enough. Huge shot from Roman midway through the round, but Vettori didn’t feel it. Less than two minutes down and Roman was willing to just throw caution to the wind, but Vettori didn’t take the bait, fighting a very smart, technical fight.
And that was Vettori’s key to victory — intelligence. He landed crisp shots, used his legs and didn’t get baited into a fire fight with the dangerous Georgian. He should hold onto his No. 4 ranking with the win, but who he fights next is anyone’s guess.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 286 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN2/ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 286: “Edwards vs. Usman 3” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
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