Capping off the televised prelims at UFC 266 was a key match-up in the promotion’s bantamweight division.
With six straight wins to his name, and the divisional record for takedowns, Merab Dvalishvili had very much been living up to his nickname of “The Machine.” Marlon Moraes, a former WSOF champ and title challenger in the UFC, marked a step up in competition for the Georgian.
The winner could find themselves inching towards a title shot, though news broke Saturday that champ Aljaiman Sterling (a friend who Dvalishvili wasn’t prepared to fight anyway) was once again injured.
Moraes vs. Dvalishvili opened with a fast pace, the pair trading. Moraes fired off a number of leg kicks but “The Machine” grabbed on to one and took Moraes down. The Brazilian was back up in a heartbeat, and fired a hook that caught Merab’s attention. The next punch floored Dvalishvili, and Moraes was suddenly all over him! Merab made it back up, was rocked even further, fired back, but was on skates. A very wobbly Dvalishvili looked out on his feet, but had the presence of mind — or just instinct — enough to hold on to Moraes with a bodylock, and land the takedown.
Somehow, Dvalishvili had gone from nearly being finished, to sitting in a dominant position working in ground n’ pound. The Georgian began unleashing hammerfists, and suddenly Moraes was in a bad spot. When the buzzer sounded to end the round, it felt like they’d barely begun — and that five minutes was in contention for round of the year.
Right off the start of round two, Dvalishvili landed a hard right hand that rocked Moares, then dropped for a takedown and put Moraes on his back. Moraes was eating short punches, with Dvalishvili adding shots to the ribs. Merab moved back into guard, landing nasty punches over the top as Moraes covered up. Moraes ate a storm of punches, and managed to get to his knees, power up, and press Dvalishvili against the cage. But the wrestler reversed position with ease. Moraes wound up covering up again, eating punches from Dvalishvili.
Following well over 100 unanswered strikes (a number announced during the televised broadcast), ref Keith Peterson finally waved it off — giving Merab Dvalishvili, who was almost finished early in the fight, a signature win.
What a comeback victory for @MerabDvalishvil 🔥
— UFC (@ufc) September 26, 2021
We know Merab Dvalishvili won’t fight good friend Aljo, but the Georgian looks like a future champ regardless. He showed that and more at UFC 266. Moraes has now dropped three straight, but not for lack of effort.
Official Result: Merab Dvalishvili def. Marlon Moraes by TKO, Round 2, 4:25