Merab Avoids Battling His Best Friend

December 13, 2023
3 months

UFC CEO Dana White is disgusted by the idea that his top two bantamweight contenders won’t fight each other. No. 1 contender Aljamain Sterling and No. 2 contender Merab Dvalishvili won’t lock horns because they are close friends and long-time training partners. That presents White with a significant issue, according to the MMA latest updates.

The UFC needs to keep the division moving forward and can’t be worried about hurting anyone’s feelings. After some contemplation, the UFC seems to have figured things out in the bantamweight division. White still found a way to find Dvalishvili an exciting matchup for his next bout.

Dvalishvili will fight former two-division champion Henry Cejudo on Feb. 17, 2024, at the Honda Center in Anaheim. This is an important fight for both men. Cejudo is still trying to prove that he deserves to be on the main-event scene after a long layoff.

Dvalishvili has won nine consecutive fights. The previous two victories came over former champions. Now, Dvalishvili would like to add a third straight win over a former champion to stake a claim to a future chance at fighting for a championship.

Sterling Loss Changes Division

Sterling getting knocked out in the second round by O’Malley changed the bantamweight title picture drastically. Before Sterling’s loss, there was talk that if Sterling beat Sean O’Malley, he would move up to featherweight to take on Alexander Volkanovski, according to MMA news websites.

Many believed that Dvalishvili would move in to fight for the title after his friend went up in weight class. But Sterling’s loss makes it unlikely he will try and go up a weight class. Sterling being so outspoken about not fighting his friend has also made people wonder how quickly Sterling will get another shot to fight for the bantamweight championship.

O’Malley is set to settle an old feud in his next fight when he takes on Chito Vera, who handed the champion his only loss in the promotion. If O’Malley can defend his belt, there are several strong challengers who will be eager to step up.

Dvalishvili is a Tiny Tornado

The Republic of Georgian-born wrestler has been consistently exciting during his UFC tenure. It’s hard to fight Dvalishvili because of the forward pressure he applies. Dvalishvili has been working on whether his striking was up to par. During Dvalishvili’s last fight, he demonstrated he had the tools to be a top-notch striker.

Dvalishvili picked up a significant victory over Piotr Yan. Dvalishvili was overwhelmed with his wrestling and was able to make a fairly one-sided decision. The nine-fight winning streak Dvalishvili has put together is an impressive turnaround.

Dvalishvili lost a bizarre fight to Ricky Simon in 208 in Atlantic City, falling to 7-4. Originally, Dvalishvili was caught in a choke with about a minute left in the fight, but the referee didn’t waive the fight. Dvalishvili had made it to the end of the third round, but the fight was ruled in Simon’s favor because Dvalishvili had gone unconscious due to the choke.

Since then, Dvalishvili has used his aggressive wrestling style to stack up victories. Dvalishvili beat former title challenger Marlon Moraes at UFC 266 by TKO. He then beat José Aldo and Yan to extend his record to 16-4.

Dvalishvili isn’t a fighter who carries a lot of power and overwhelms his foes with steady volume. He has only won four of his 16 victories by finish. A win against Cejudo likely would make Dvalishvili a legitimate title contender. However, a loss could send him tumbling quickly back down the rankings.

King of Cringe Eager to Regain Throne

Cejudo is a rough matchup for nearly any opponent. Especially in this case against Dvalishvili, Cejudo may not have a better matchup than any other ranked contenders. Dvalishvili loves to wrestle.

Cejudo is an Olympic gold medalist wrestler. While wrestling in MMA isn’t the same as mat wrestling, Cejudo holds a distinct advantage over Dvalishvili in the grappling. What is hard to understand about Cejudo, 36, is why he returned after such a long absence.

According to MMA breaking news, Cejudo won on top of the mountain in May 2020 when he knocked out Dominick Cruz in the second round to defend the bantamweight championship. He had also won and defended the flyweight championship in two memorable bouts with T.J. Dillashaw.

However, Cejudo retired after his fight with Cruz and contract issues with the UFC. Cejudo would sit on the sidelines for three years, talking trash to then-champion Sterling and challenger O’Malley, teasing a return.

When Cejudo returned, he was granted a title fight against Sterling at UFC 288. Cejudo lost a split decision, dropping his career record to 16-3. This fight against Dvalishvili is important for Cejudo to stay in the title picture. With another loss, Cejudo may again consider retirement.

UFC 298 Set to Feature Several Tough Battles

While Volkanovski suffered a rough knockout loss to Islam Makhachev attempting to add the lightweight championship, he will have another chance to prove he is still the featherweight king at UFC 298. Volkanovski will be matching up with undefeated challenger Ilia Touporia.

Touporia is 14-0 and has finished 12 of his victories. Volkanovski is coming off his first knockout loss in 10 years. This will be an exciting challenge if Volkanovski wants to make his sixth consecutive featherweight title defense. Volkanovski’s return is a tricky proposition for the Australian champion.

He is returning from a vicious knockout and is fighting the person whom many people believe is the most dangerous challenger in his weight class.

Here are other known fights announced for UFC 298:

  • Welterweight: Danny Barlow vs Yusaku Kinoshita
  • Heavyweight: Marcos Rogério de Lima vs Justin Tafa
  • Light heavyweight: Zhang Mingyang vs. Brendson Ribeiro
  • Middleweight: Anthony Hernandez vs Ikram Aliskerov
  • Women’s flyweight: Andrea Lee vs. Miranda Maverick

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