Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight elites Jose Aldo and Merab Dvalishvili will collide this weekend (Sat., Aug. 20, 2022) at UFC 278 inside Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
For my money, Aldo deserved the next Bantamweight title fight opposite Aljamain Sterling far more than T.J. Dillashaw. UFC went the other direction, however, so now Aldo remains in pursuit of one last win to really lock down that title shot. He’s not being given an easy task in Dvalishvili, Sterling’s primary training partner. “The Machine” consistently lives up to his nickname, pushing a ridiculous pace and refusing to turn off despite any amount of offense from his opponent.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Chad Mendes (UFC 179, UFC 142), Frankie Edgar (UFC 200, UFC 156), Marlon Vera (UFC Vegas 17), Pedro Munhoz (UFC 265), Rob Font (UFC Vegas 44)
Key Losses: Petr Yan (UFC 251), Max Holloway (UFC 218, UFC 212), Conor McGregor (UFC 194), Alexander Volkanovski (UFC 237), Marlon Moraes (UFC 245)
Keys to Victory: Aldo just might be the greatest fighter of all time. He dominated the Featherweight division for nearly a decade, showing off next-level takedown defense and stellar Muay Thai. Then, as his career seemed to be winding down, Aldo injected new life into his performances by switching up his training and dropping to Bantamweight.
In his previous 135-pound performances, Aldo has done a remarkable job of managing his gas tank. That’s simply the reality of being an older Bantamweight: Aldo cannot expect to keep up with his younger foes in terms of pure output. However, he’s managed to win decisions and stay ahead on the cards by picking his moments and really making his shots count.
There is no match up where that’s more important than against Dvalishvili.
“The Machine” is chaos. He throws all sorts of strikes, half of which are nonsense intended to distract opponents. He dives into takedowns constantly, happy to flub his entry if it tires his opponent. He’s the type of opponent who will overwhelm Aldo if the Brazilian really gets tired, so never fatiguing in the first place is the goal.
If Aldo makes the most of his experience, he can avoid exchanges and takedowns until the moment arises that he can really hurt Dvalishvili. Even if the finish doesn’t materialize, a knockdown or two can win the scorecards.
Key Wins: Marlon Moraes (UFC 266), Cody Stamann (UFC Vegas 25), Casey Kenney (UFC Fight Night 167), Brad Katona (UFC Fight Night 151)
Key Losses: Ricky Simon (UFC Fight Night 128), Frankie Saenz (UFC Fight Night 123)
Keys to Victory: Dvalishvili is wildly fun. His striking seems without any rhyme or reason, but he throws enough at the wall that something often sticks. Then, Dvalishvili wrestles at a remarkable pace, able to take opponents down, let them up, then do it all over again with the intent of breaking them mentally.
Dvalishvili pulled off something of a miracle against Moraes. He was damn near unconscious on his feet, but he managed to just barely dodge enough of Moraes’ haymakers that he didn’t actually get stopped. Then, Moraes was dog-tired, and Dvalishvili beat his ass from top position.
That’s not an easily replicable strategy. If Aldo times a head kick or liver shot properly, no amount of toughness will save Dvalishvili from his body collapsing. As such, he has to get the wrestling scrambles going earlier, rather than hope to take big shots then wrestle.
That’s easier said than done, of course. Likely, Dvalishvili has to walk through fire one way or another, but engaging via takedowns as soon as possible should still be the priority.
This should be a Bantamweight title eliminator.
Aldo is in the midst of what is almost certainly his final title run. He’s built up an excellent win streak over several top contenders at 135 pounds, and he’s arguably earned the shot already. One more victory should confirm him fully, setting up an intriguing match up versus either Aljamain Sterling or T.J. Dillashaw. Conversely, a single loss likely ends this late-career surge, and Aldo has mentioned retirement before.
Dvalishvili’s situation is a bit more complicated. Victory here would make it eight in a row, so there’s little argument with Dvalishvili potentially getting his shot. However, with Sterling as his main training partner, the situation gets iffy if “Funkmaster” retains. Sterling has expressed willingness to go to Featherweight before fighting Dvalishvili, but ... will he actually do it? I don’t know, but the title shot goes down a lot easier if Dillashaw is champ.
At UFC 278, Jose Aldo and Merab Dvalishvili will go to war. Which man remains standing when the dust settles?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 278 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ABC/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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