UFC 266’s Merab Dvalishvili: “You’ve Got to Kill Me to Stop Me”

Las Vegas, NV — There’s a strong argument that the opening five minutes of Merab Dvalishvili vs. Marlon Moraes at UFC 266 was the Round of the Year for 2021.

It’s certainly in contention, after a wild back-and-forth between the bantamweight pair. Moraes found success early, rocking Georgia’s Dvalishvili repeatedly and coming close to a finish. Somehow, Dvalishvili not only survived but had the presence of mind to land a takedown. Ground n’ pound ensued, and it appeared Moraes had suffered a flash knockout before things headed to the second, where Merab Dvalishvili sealed the deal.

The TKO victory is the Georgian’s seventh straight in the UFC’s 135lb weight class. A statement win, a signature win, with one of the best opening rounds in recent memory.

“My coaches just told me about it, but I’m just happy to have a win tonight,” Dvalishvili told Cageside Press following the fight when asked about the accolades being thrown at the bout. “Win is win for me, especially against a strong opponent like Marlon Moraes. I’m just happy for the win.”

And yes, if it wasn’t obvious, “The Machine” was hurt in that opening round. Although like The Terminator, he kept on coming.

“I got hurt, but you’ve got to kill me to stop me,” Dvalishvili exclaimed. “I’m a warrior. I survived, and I was fighting. I take him down after. I was hurt, but not like this. I tell you, you’ve got to kill me to stop me.”

Ahead of Saturday’s UFC 266 card, word made the rounds that bantamweight champ Aljamain Sterling was out of his title fight with Petr Yan next month. Don’t expect Dvalishvili to take his pal’s place, even if the UFC opts to keep Yan on the UFC 267 card.

“No, Aljo will fight Peter. Aljo will dominate him,” stated Dvalishvili, who added that he didn’t think the withdrawal was official just yet. “We will see. I think it’s fake news, I’m not sure. I’m just going to fight somebody top five, somebody with a big name.”

That said, the Georgian has no love for Petr Yan it seems. “I respect all the fighters, everybody, but if you ask me who I don’t like personally as a fighter, I would say Petr. I respect everybody, but he’s a little bit cocky. Anyway, Aljo will go beat him.”

Watch the full UFC 266 post-fight press scrum with Merab Dvalishvili above. More coverage of the event can be found below.