What a fight! Sources have confirmed that former bantamweight champion, Petr Yan, and surging contender Merab Dvalishvili have verbally agreed to lock horns. No official bout agreements have been signed as of now, but this fight is looking promising. Yan vs Dvalishvili will be the marquee bout of UFC Fight Night 211 in Las Vegas.
— MMA Junkie (@MMAJunkie) January 18, 2023
This is a fight that has a lot of intrigue attached to it. Yan, ranked number three at bantamweight, is on a two-fight losing streak. He lost his rematch against Aljamain Sterling by split decision last April, and then he dropped another split decision against Sean O'Malley. It's worth noting that both of these losses were very controversial, and one would be foolish to think that Yan has shown any decline in skill or desire to get the strap back.
Dvalishvili is riding the wave of an eight-fight winning streak coming into this bout. He's friends and a close training partner to the current champion, Aljamain Sterling. The two have made it clear that they will not fight each other; Dvalishvili is a win or two away from the title, and Sterling hopes to jump up to the featherweight division by the time his Georgian teammate challenges for the belt.
This is a very interesting matchup, and it shows how exciting the bantamweight top five truly is. Dvalishvili brings a grappling-heavy approach to his opponents, but he's improvements in his striking with each performance. However, Yan isn't the guy Merab will want to workshop his jab against. The former champion has a striking prowess that has even impressed the likes of Israel Adesanya.
There's no easy way to beat Petr Yan, but the best option for Dvalishvili is coincidentally what he does best — go out there and grapple like his life depends on it.
Bad news for ‘The Machine' is that Yan is a pretty good grappler himself. He's got some very crafty trips, a 90% takedown defense, and he's got a gas tank that should be able to stuff takedowns even in the fifth round of the fight. The waters at bantamweight are a bit murky; Sean O'Malley has earned a title fight but it looks like Henry Cejudo will jump the line. Petr Yan vs Merab Dvalishvili should add a bit more structure to this tempestuous division.