Merab Dvalishvili Knocks Out Petr Yan To Win UFC Main Event

LAS VEGAS — They really don’t call Merab Dvilashvili “The Machine” for nothing.

Dvilashvili (16-4) earned the biggest win of his career on Saturday as he dominated former champion Petr Yan (16-5) in a five-round unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night inside the Theater at Virgin Hotels. All three judges scored the 135-pound bout a 50-45 shutout for Dvilashvili, who came in as a 2-1 betting underdog.

The Georgian bantamweight put on a historic performance in the win. He attempted a UFC-record 49 takedowns and was successful in 11 of them, breaking the previous record of 33 set by former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez in 2012. According to UFC Stats, Dvalishvili also landed 202 of 401 strikes overall, compared to 87 of 155 by Yan.

“I said earlier – it was personal to me,” Dvilashvili said. “I tried to keep it professional. My team was telling me I was taking this fight differently. Thank God, I did professional. He called me Zero. Who’s Zero now?”

There was definitely bad blood between the two all fight week. Dvalishvili, who has a tattoo of the Georgian flag on his chest due to the UFC’s recent ban on fighters walking into the octagon with his country’s flag, made a point of speaking out against Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine. Yan fights out of the Russian city of Yekaterinburg.

A large section of Georgia fans turned out for Dvalishvili’s performance on Saturday and enjoyed his victory over the former UFC champion and pound-for-pound candidate.

“I am very proud, thank you to all you Georgians who came here and watched from home,” Dvilashvili said. “We are only fifty million, but we are strong. I am very happy to be here and represent my country.”

Even those who predicted the Dvilashvili upset would have had difficulty imagining it coming this way. Dvilashvili hung on from bell to bell, constantly shooting single-leg takedowns and crowding him in the striking exchange. He turned every second of the bout into a grueling affair, attacking Yan with leg kicks, jabs, right hands, knees and elbows from the clinch.

He appeared to injure Yan’s left leg with a kick in the second round, and in the middle of the fourth round his right eye was swollen with punches. Yann didn’t look too fatigued by Dvilashvili’s pace, but he looked extremely uncomfortable with the sheer volume thrown at him. It was Yan’s fourth loss in his last five bouts after starting his career with a 15-1 record.

As far as what Saturday’s victory means to Dvilashvili, that part is less clear. He is a close friend and training partner of defending champion Aljamene Sterling, who defeated Yan twice in the rivalry between 2021 and 2022. Fighting led by Ray Longo and Matt Serra, the two friends have made it clear that they will not fight each other. Others, even if a belt is on the line.

“He’s my brother and the world champion,” Dvalishvili said of Sterling, who was in his corner on Saturday. “Whenever he decides to move up in weight and fight whoever it is, then I’ll fight for the title. Of course I want to be the champion.”

Sterling is scheduled to defend his title against two-weight champion Henry Cejudo on May 6 at UFC 288 in Newark, New Jersey.

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