Merab Dvalishvili (16-4) dominated in the UFC Fight Night 221 Main Event breaking the promotion’s record for takedown attempts in a fight. Dvalishvili put an unreal pace on Petr Yan (16-5), attempting 49 takedowns and throwing 401 total strikes over five rounds. Yan tried to keep up early but the cardio and pressure of Dvalishvili helped him pull away in this contest. In the Co-Main Event UFC veteran and former Bellator Heavyweight Champion Alexander Volkov (36-10) turned back surging contender Alexandr Romanov (16-2), knocking him out in the first round. Also on the Main Card of UFC Fight Night 221, ranked Light Heavyweight Nikita Krylov submitted Ryan Spann by triangle in round one.
#3 Merab Dvalishvili (16-4) Def. #2 Petr Yan (16-5)
Tensions were high in this top-five-ranked Bantamweight tilt after Dvalishvilli and Yan had to be separated at weigh-ins. Yan came in as a betting favorite (-245) at online sportsbooks and is the former UFC Bantamweight champion. Dvalishvili trains at Team Serra-Longo in New York with Bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling. Sterling recently competed against Yan twice for the belt and used Dvalishvili as his main sparring partner. While receiving high-level coaching in a competitive environment, Dvalishvili entered this matchup on an eight-fight win streak not having lost since 2018. Yan recently lost a controversial split decision to Sean O’Malley and desperately needed a win to stay in title contention.
Dvalishvili was the crowd favorite, as many Georgian flags were displayed during his walkout at the Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada. There was no love loss between these two as neither attempted to touch gloves before the fight. Dvalishvili immediately tried to go on the aggressive pressuring Yan to the fence. Yan was fighting out of the southpaw stance and attempted to keep Dvalishvili off him with a stinging jab and straight left hands. Dvalishvili seemed unfazed by Yan’s attacks and shot in for takedowns with reckless abandon.
Multiple times Dvalishvili grabbed Yan’s legs, forcing him to tumble to the ground and scramble to his feet. Dvalishvili only landed two brief takedowns in round one but established cage control and drained Yan’s energy by mixing up his wrestling and boxing combinations. In the second and third rounds, Dvalishvilli began to take control. On the feet, Dvalishvilli threw punches in bunches mixing up his attack to the body and head of Yan as he was pressed against the fence.
Final Rounds and What’s Next?
Yan did the best that he could but seemed overwhelmed by the constant grappling attack of Dvalishvili. Yan showed flashes on the feet at times landing 75 significant strikes throughout the fight. Dvalishvilli had otherworldly output in this fight attempting ten or more takedowns in each of the final two rounds. In total Dvalishvilli attempted 49 takedowns and secured 11 over five rounds. Yan’s energy was significantly depleted entering round five and he was significantly behind in the fight. Yan was tough and experienced enough to survive to the final bell but Dvalishvili put on a truly historic and dominant performance. After five rounds Dvalishvilli won a unanimous decision (50-45) on all judge’s scorecards.
Normally, such an impressive outing over a former champion would warrant an immediate title shot from the UFC. That may not be the case in this situation however as Dvalishvili trains with Sterling the current 135-pound champion. Dvalishvili stated that Sterling is a dear friend and he will not be competing against him. Dvalishvili would rather have Sterling defend his championship a few times and then move up in weight. If this is the case and Dvalishvili forgoes a title opportunity he may be matched up against undefeated rising star Umar Nurmagomedov (16-0). This would be a matchup of two dominant grapplers on long-winning streaks.
#8 Alexander Volkov (36-10) Def. #14 Alexandr Romanov (16-2)
In the Co-Main Event Alexander Volkov stopped fellow Heavyweight Alexandr Romanov in the first round. Romanov is a good grappler who uses his wrestling and physical strength to smother his opponents on the ground. Although he is an accomplished fighter on the ground, Romanov struggles at times while striking. Volkov is a former professional kickboxer who is one of the most experienced fighters in the division. Volkov holds impressive stoppage wins over Alistair Overeem as well as Jairzinho Rozenstruik and has won championships in other high-level MMA promotions.
Immediately as this fight started Romanov rushed over and grabbed Volkov desperately trying to drag him to the ground. Romanov briefly secured his takedown but the (6’7) Volkov was able to scramble back to his feet. Once on the feet, Romanov seemed lost and Volkov capitalized. While pressuring his opponent to the fence, Volkov landed a straight right hand behind the ear that dropped the 264-pound Romanov. Once on the ground Romanov was clearly hurt and covered his head while face down. Volkov landed a few more punches and the fight was stopped by referee Mark Smith.
Volkov looked tremendous on Saturday night and should be involved in a high-profile fight going forward. While looking impressive Saturday, Volkov may face Tai Tuivasa next in a battle of entertaining Heavyweights who love to strike. This would be a must-see main card matchup and almost certainly wouldn’t last the full fifteen minutes.
#6 Nikita Krylov (30-9) Def. #8 Ryan Spann (21-8)
Top-ten-ranked Light Heavyweights competed this Saturday as Nikita Krylov submitted Ryan Spann in the first round. Krylov was coming into this contest off back-to-back wins over former title challengers Volkan Ozedemir and Alexander Gustaffson. Krylov is extremely well-rounded, as a black belt in Karate and Jiu-jitsu. Spann recently knocked out Dominick Reyes and has massive punching power in his hands.
Spann pressured Krylov early in round one looking to open up with his boxing. Krylov got clipped with a punch on the inside and was able to take Spann to the ground as he was off balance. When on the ground Spann reversed position ending up on top of Krylov. This may have been Krylov’s plan however as he swung a leg over the head of Spann, locking in a triangle submission that forced a tap. This ended up being a wild back-and-forth grappling match between two fighters who are known predominately as strikers.
Krylov will more than likely face a top-five opponent next. A perfect fight for him would be against fellow ranked 205-pounder Alexander Rakic(14-3), who hasn’t fought since injuring his leg in May of last year. This would be a perfect way to welcome the talented Rakic back to the promotion, while also getting to find out Krylov’s potential.
UFC Fight Night 221 Prelims:
The UFC Fight Night 221 Prelims contained some entertaining and noteworthy moments. Up and coming Bantamweights Said Nurmagomedov (17-3) and Jonathan Martinez (18-4) fought in a highly competitive contest that ended in a split decision. Nurmagomedov was the busier fighter in round one out landing Martinez on the feet and attempting a few submissions that looked close. Martinez fought back however in rounds two and three as Nurmagomedov seemed to gas out. Martinez was able to earn a decision victory on the scorecards, extending his win streak to five.
Next week the UFC will be back with a massive PPV card from London, England. Welterweight Champion Leon Edwards (20-3) faces familiar foe Kamaru Usman (20-2) for the third time. Also on the card, dangerous striker Rafael Fiziev (12-1) fights fan favorite Justin Gaetjhe (23-4).
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