Two top 15 Bantamweights collide at the UFC Apex on Saturday night as John Dodson and Merab Dvalishvili look to move one step closer to UFC gold.
John Dodson comes into this fight with a spring in his step due to a much-needed win against England’s top prospect, Nathaniel Wood.
After two very close rounds, Dodson needed to finish the fight in order to make a statement. As the 3rd round began, ‘The Magician’ dropped Wood with a venomous counter left hook. Dodson, therefore, swarmed upon Nathaniel Wood, landed some heavy ground and pound which forced referee, Joe Coca to stop the fight.
Dodson began his MMA career in 2002 when legendary MMA coach, Greg Jackson recruited him due to his extensive wrestling background.
In 2011, Dodson took part in The Ultimate Fighter: Team Bisping vs Team Miller. Going undefeated, Dodson won the competition in an impressive style which included a first-round TKO against former UFC Bantamweight champion, T.J Dillashaw.
Sitting 12th in the official Bantamweight rankings, Dodson has gained an impressive resume. Dodson has victories over T.J Dillashaw, and most recently Pedro Munhoz. However, his rollercoaster career has gone through difficult periods due to two defeats against Demetrious Johnson for the Bantamweight strap.
Meanwhile, Merab Dvalishvili comes into this fascinating matchup in the best form of his career. Dvalishvili is currently riding a 4-fight winning streak and sits 15th in the Bantamweight rankings.
On his last outing, Dvalishvili was scheduled to fight Ray Borg. However, Borg withdrew from the bout due to personal reasons which led to the promotional newcomer, Gustavo Lopez stepping in at a catchweight of 140lbs.
Dvalishvili made a gigantic statement towards the rest of the division by steamrolling his way through the fight and recording a personal best 13 takedowns. Despite being without the legendary pairing of Ray Longo and Matt Serra due to Covid19, the absence paid no difference to the outcome of the 15 minutes.
8 years after his dreams to pursue MMA as a career, Dvalishvili finds himself with an 11-4 professional record. Despite losing his debut against Frankie Saenz in December 2017, Merab has accumulated 4 out of 6 wins in the UFC, including a win over The Ultimate Fighter: Cormier vs Miocic winner, Brad Katona.
In this fight, Dodson will look to keep the fight standing. Throughout his UFC career, half of his victories have come through knockouts due to the power that his hands can throw. However, he has looked troubled against wrestlers, and at this moment in time, his opponent is one of the best wrestlers in the division.
If Dodson can land a haymaker to the jaw of Dvalishvili he could end the fight but that is a lot easier said than done.
Dvalishvili will look to take Dodson to the mat and due to his superior strength advantage, he will have Dodson on the octagon floor.
I believe that Dodson will have the heart to stay in the fight and prevent a finish, but it will be a straight forward night for the Georgian native.
Fight prediction: Merab Dvalishvili via unanimous decision.