Former Featherweight champion and current No. 3-ranked Bantamweight contender, Jose Aldo, locked horns with surging No. 6-seed, Merab Dvalishvili, TONIGHT (Sat., Aug. 20, 2022) at UFC 278 inside Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Aldo was on the cusp of a 135-pound title shot, but T.J. Dillashaw ditched the line and will tangle with division champion, Aljamain Sterling, at UFC 280 two months from now. Dvalishvili, however, is/was no pushover, winning even straight bouts heading into this evening. In fact, “The Machine” was the odds-on favorite to win thank in large part to his dominant wrestling pedigree.
And in the end, the wrestling was the key, as Dvalishvili pressured Aldo for 15 minutes, keeping “Scarface” on his back foot en route to a decision win, albeit a meaningful one.
Aldo got a huge pop from the crowd, certainly the biggest of the night so far ... by a long shot. The action started with Dvalishvili uncorking a spinning back kick that bounced off Aldo’s non-plussed chest. Dvalishvili missed with a low kick as Aldo was clearly taking his time, not really throwing a strike for the first 90 minutes. Dvalishvili was unsuccessful on his first takedown, but Dvalishvili did land a hard low kick on the break. Then he landed two more as Aldo was unable — or unwilling — to get anything going in the first three minutes. Aldo finally whipped a low kick, followed by a front kick, with Dvalishvili diving in for another takedown attempt moments later. He faked a single-leg along the fence, then cracked Aldo with a left hand before the Brazilian pushed him to the canvas. Nice knee from Aldo with one minute remaining in the opening frame. Another spinning kick from Dvalishvili missed, with Aldo firing back with a solid kick of his own as the round came to a close.
Aldo needed to get busy after a very low-output first five minutes. But it was Dvalishvili with a low kick, as Aldo continued to look for the right opportunity to explode. After 45 seconds, Dvalishvili bull rushed him into the fence for a takedown, which didn’t materialize, but he did some nice work in the clinch with his knees. Aldo started to clown Dvalishvili along the fence as if he was bored and eventually the pair went back to the center of the Octagon. They traded some hard shots, briefly, before Dvalishvili went in for his fifth takedown ... which he didn’t get. Shoulder strikes from Dvalishvili in the clinch, which made Aldo smile before ripping a nice left hook upstairs. They got back to the center of the cage, traded again real quick, with Aldo sprawling out of another takedown attempt. Low kick from Aldo, with Dvalishvili looking to close the distance and keep him close. Dvalishvili with a spinning elbow at the buzzer.
I’m not a judge, but Aldo needed to go to work if he didn’t want to drop a pedestrian decision. The two hugged to start the third and final round, with Dvalishvili going for a takedown instantly after. It didn’t happen, again, so he had to settle for chasing a gun-shy Aldo around the Octagon, again. Aldo timed a nice knee to the body, but Dvalishvili didn’t even notice. Dvalishvili continued to push the pace, and Aldo reluctantly shucked him off each time he got close. Midway through the round, Aldo tried to get centered in the cage, but Dvalishvili kept him on his back foot with irritating pressure. Aldo defended another takedown attempt, his mouth wide open, perhaps tired and frustrated from 13 minutes of pestering aggression. Dvalishvili landed a nice hip toss with one minute on the clock, but Aldo got back up to all fours and allowed Dvalishvili to knee him in the butt until the end of the fight.
It was an odd fight, especially from Aldo, who appeared bored for most a bout that more than likely would have earned him a title shot with a win. Instead, Dvalishvili just put his foot on the gas pedal and pressured Aldo into 15 minutes of basically nothing. Neither fighter landed anything of significance and it just boiled down to Dvalishvili being more active.
Final result: Dvalishvili def. Aldo via unanimous decision
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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