Some years ago, I wrote an article titled, “Colby Covington makes a coward of Robbie Lawler.” An incendiary headline that’s based on the classic quote of unknown origin, written in wrestling rooms and gymnasiums across the world: “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” The headline was no shot at Robbie Lawler — one of the toughest men in the history of the sport — but merely an acknowledgement of the realities of wrestling fatigue.
In a similar vein, Merab Dvalishvili just made a coward of Petr Yan — another extremely hard-nosed former champion — at UFC Las Vegas last night (Sat., March 11, 2023) inside The Theater at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada.
I don’t know that there’s a better single fight example of the power of pace and wrestling. Round-by-round, one can watch Yan deteriorate from pace alone. There was no one moment where Dvalishvili landed a brutal shot that stunned Yan ruined his performance for the rest of the fight. Instead, Yan went from nearly winning the first round to barely landing a punch in the fifth, simply because Dvalishvili broke down his fighting ability as much as his body.
From a technical stand point, Dvalishvili didn’t do anything new. He landed some nice calf and snap kicks, but that’s not an unprecedented part of his game. At most, he threw more elbows than normal, likely an outcome of team mate Aljamain Sterling’s own pair of training camps for “No Mercy.”
Still, for the most part, it was standard Merab Dvalishvili techniques on display. The problem is that standard Merab style is absolutely heinous for his opponents. It offers no room to think, breathe, or adapt to his constant wrestling onslaught, and it frequently makes great fighters look subpar.
Dvalishvili’s cycle of offense is akin to a whirlpool. Once his opponent begins to feel that pull towards the center, there is no swimming away. No extra bit of hustle will make up for the progress lost. Unless a knockout shot happens to land — and GOOD LUCK with that, Marlon Moraes nearly killed him to no noticeable effect— there is nowhere to go but the vortex itself.
At which point, the fighter, be it a former champion like Yan or a random talent like Casey Kenney, will be spit back out only to be pulled back in. All their energy will be spent avoiding drowning, but any thought of actually escaping the waters is lost.
This is Dvalishvili’s game. It doesn’t matter if 30 of his takedown attempts fail, or his opponent has a 100 percent stand up rate. Those numbers are meaningless, because Dvalishvili keeps his opponent trapped in the same cycle of getting touched, wrestled, released, and thrown again.
Rinse and repeat until the final bell dings or his opponent accepts their fate and turtles up. Jose Aldo — the greatest counter wrestler in mixed martial arts (MMA) history — managed to stop the shot, but even he could not escape Dvalishvili’s cycle of offense to initiate his own attacks.
Until Dvalishvili falls off athletically, he’s going to be a nightmare for just about everyone.
Except this very important person, of course.
For complete UFC Las Vegas: “Yan vs. Dvalishvili” results and play-by-play, click HERE.