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UFC 252 card: Merab Dvalishvili vs John Dodson full fight preview

UFC Fight Night: Dvalishvili v Lopez Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight talents Merab Dvalishvili and John Dodson will square off this Sat. (Aug. 15, 2020) at UFC 252 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.

There’s a real case that Dvalishvili should be undefeated after six trips to the Octagon were it not for some strange officiating. Regardless of that, Dvalishvili has cleanly won his last four bouts and looked damn good in the process, earning both a number by his name and step up in competition. Meanwhile, Dodson just keeps lingering on as a ranked Bantamweight. His game may be somewhat limited, but each time it seems that Dodson is on his way out, the two-time Flyweight title challenger drops a left hand on his opponent and reminds us all why he’s so dangerous.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

Merab Dvalishvili

Record: 11-4
Key Wins: Casey Kenney (UFC Fight Night 167), Brad Katona (UFC Fight Night 151), Gustavo Lopez (UFC on ESPN 10)
Key Losses: Ricky Simon (UFC Fight Night 128), Frankie Saenz (UFC Fight Night 123)
Keys to Victory: Dvalishvili’s nickname is “The Machine,” which accurately portrays his non-stop approach to working constantly alongside inhuman conditioning. It does not, however, fully represent the unique creativity and seeming randomness of Dvalishvili’s offense. His movements are anything but robotic — they’re pure chaos.

Dvalishvili is a guy who simply does not concern himself with his opponent’s offense. He doesn’t care if he gets taken down, because he’ll just scramble back up and return the favor. Punch him in the face? The man has a head like a cinderblock, and Dvalishvili will immediately throw six punches, a spin kick, and shoot a takedown to even the scorecards a bit.

It’s a style that demoralizes opponents, but there are clear risks. Namely, Dodson hits tremendously hard. If Dvalishvili thinks he can walk through his foe’s left hand and play it off, he’s likely to wake up with his eyes aimed at the ceiling of UFC APEX.

Dealing with more dangerous and experienced contenders requires an adjustment. Dvalishvili must balance his aggression and volume with at least a hint of self-preservation. That’s really the fight in a nutshell, as it will tell us whether Dvalishvili can adapt and find success against a higher level of competition.

John Dodson

Record: 21-11
Key Wins: Pedro Munhoz (UFC 222), Nathaniel Wood (UFC Fight Night 167), Eddie Wineland (UFC Fight Night 108), TJ Dillashaw (TUF 14 Finale)
Key Losses: Petr Yan (UFC Fight Night 145), Jimmie Rivera (UFC 228), Marlon Moraes (UFC Fight Night 120), Demetrious Johnson (UFC 191, UFC on FOX 6)
Keys to Victory: It’s really remarkable how simple Dodson’s approach is. Long before Tyron Woodley was backing himself up into the fence and then exploding into his power hand, Dodson was implementing a similar strategy, admittedly with some additional bouncing.

The odds of Dodson winning a decision in this fight are catastrophically low. There’s no way he matches Dvalishvili’s volume or wrestling to the point that he wins rounds. No, Dodson is hunting for a knockout, and fortunately, Dvalishvili will give him plenty of chances to land.

That said, a bit of variety would really increase the odds that Dodson’s heavy left hand does land. Namely, I’d love to see Dodson kick! John Lineker sought to overwhelm Dodson with volume and aggression once, but Dodson did a great job in that fight of mixing it up with ripping body kicks, which will slow even the most tenacious wild man.

Bottom Line

We’ll find out just how good Dvalishvili is.

Dvalishvili has earned a step up in competition, and the outcome is a real interesting match up. If Dvalishvili runs through Dodson with ease without adjusting his style, sky is the limit for the Georgian contender. Even Petr Yan got dropped by Dodson! In the more likely event that Dvalishvili runs into some trouble but still pulls out the victory, it’s still a quality win that sets him up for a Top 10-ranked foe next.

Worst-case scenario: Dvalishvili learns that some punches have to be respected.

As for Dodson, he’s pretty firmly entrenched in gatekeeper-to-the-top-10 territory. At 35 years of age fighting a weight class above his ideal category, that’s pretty impressive! Dodson may not fight for the title again, but he serves an important purpose at 135 pounds regardless.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 252 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+/Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 252: “Miocic vs. Cormier 3” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

At UFC 252, Merab Dvalishvili and John Dodson will go to war. Which man will have his hand raised?

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