The UFC returns to Las Vegas for a huge fight night card where the top of the bantamweight division will find it’s next contender when Petr Yan takes on Merab Dvalishvili in the main event.
Yan and Dvalishvili are currently ranked in the top three of the 135-pound division, with the only reason that Merab hasn’t had a title shot yet being due to the fact the champ Aljamain Sterling is his teammate.
The two Russian natives will go head-to-head in a huge clash of styles in front of a big crowd, with the winner having a rightful claim to the next title shot.
Last time out at UFC 285 we had a fantastic night of picks, going 12/14 with six perfect picks to move to 849/1313 (64.66%) with 348 perfect picks (40.99%). You can see our full pick history here.
Recent fight history
Petr Yan is in a bit of a rut at the moment, having lost three of his last four fights including two title fights against the champion Sterling.
It started with that disqualification loss against Aljo, which saw him become the first fighter in UFC history to lose a belt in that manner. He followed that up with a stunning win over Cory Sandhagen to become interim champion and set up a rematch with Sterling.
That went badly though when he was out-wrestled and controlled on the mat to a decision loss, before stepping into the cage with Sean O’Malley and losing another decision in a razor-close striking clash at UFC 280 back in October.
Dvalishvili on the other hand is on an eight-fight win streak in the bantamweight division, bouncing back from defeats in his first two outings in the organisation.
Most recently he has put together mightily impressive wins over John Dodson, Cody Stamann, Marlon Moraes and Jose Aldo, where his brilliant conditioning and excellent wrestling got him over the line.
This is a real clash of styles between two fighters right at the top of their game in the UFC.
Yan is arguably the best boxer in the company pound-for-pound, with phenomenal striking defence and great speed and combinations to go with his kicks and cardio.
He’s also an excellent defensive wrestler with good scrambling techniques and super solid balance too.
But in Dvalishvili he will be coming up against one of the most relentless wrestling machines we have ever seen in the UFC, with unbelievable cardio abilities and a solid double leg and single leg takedown technique.
His striking is wild and aggressive, but it stems from being unafraid of his cardio ever leaving him to dry and his wrestling being stronger than everyone else in the division, including his teammate the champion.
It’s a classic striker vs wrestler battle, but both guys are also pretty strong in their opposing area to make for an excellent fight on paper
This is a really, really difficult fight to call and predict.
When it comes to being on the feet, there is no doubt that Yan is the better fighter and he has the power, accuracy and speed to knock Merab out cold if given the chance.
But there hasn’t been a fight in a long time where Dvalishvili wasn’t able to repeatedly take his opponent down and rack up enough top control to win the fight while landing lots of damage from his ground and pound attacks.
Yan’s defensive wrestling was seen as impossible to expose until Sterling got him down and controlled him for three rounds in their rematch. Now, there are question marks.
Merab showed against Moraes that he is open to being struck hard by technical striker and he can be hurt, and if he allows Yan to land in that way then he will lose.
The same talk about takedown defence was mentioned before Merab fought Jose Aldo, and yet he had no problems taking him down several times in a 15-minute fight.
I came into writing this with Yan being my pick, because of his takedown defence and his striking technique. But re-watching the Aldo fight, and the fact this camp has seemingly got Yan’s number when it comes to the wrestling, it’s so hard to look past Dvalishvili here.
I absolutely wouldn’t be surprised to see Yan be successful, but Dvalishvili’s incredible cardio and relentless takedowns are likely to have a big effect as the fight goes on, and I expect he should be able to win at least three of the five rounds to get the win.
PICK – Merab Dvalishvili via Decision