At UFC Las Vegas, bantamweight contender Merab Dvalishvili put the world on notice with his performance against Petr Yan. He dominated the contest on March 11, winning the bout via a 50-45 unanimous decision on Saturday in the main event. Dvalishvili is now on a 5-year undefeated streak after his win at The Theater.
As evidenced by his performance against the 2x bantamweight champion, Merab Dvalishvili has all the makings of a championship contender. However, both before and after his victory, the Georgian bantamweight reiterated that if he were to receive a title shot against his Sierra-Longo teammate, Aljamain Sterling, he would decline it.
This has often been the case in the UFC when two fighters from the same gym share a weight class. Daniel Cormier moved down to the light heavyweight division when his AKA (American Kickboxing Academy) teammate Cain Velasquez was the UFC heavyweight champ. However, it seems Merab’s respectful gesture has rubbed UFC President Dana White the wrong way.
Following the Power Slap finale, White talked to the media about Dvalishvili’s decision. Dana said, ” If that’s what he wants to do, I can tell you how that story ends. It’s not a good ending to that story…You can still be friends and want what your friend has. It would be a really bad idea for Merab to go down that path [turning down the Sterling fight].”
What’s next for Merab Dvalishvili?
UFC Las Vegas saw the #3 ranked Georgian bantamweight extend his UFC winning streak to 9. With that run including wins over elite fighters like Jose Aldo and Marlon Moraes, he is definitely a favorite to fight for the championship. However, assuming that Aljamain Sterling prevails over Henry Cejudo at UFC 288, that fight is not currently an option.
So, the next best fight for Merab Dvalishvili and the bantamweight division as a whole would be against Sean O’Malley. Suga Sean, like Merab, is coming off a win against former champ Petr Yan. And he currently occupies the rank 2 spots above Dvalishvili at #1.
Moreover, Suga hasn’t fought since the close decision victory against Yan at UFC 280. A fight against Merab would do wonders for both. If Suga wins, he is instantly legitimized as the only viable contender for the bantamweight title.
As for Merab, a fight against one of the biggest draws in the company will put him on many people’s radars, even ones that ignored him earlier. But for now, Merab will revel in the glory of beating Petr “No Mercy” Yan in a lopsided fight.