Following the disappointment of his second consecutive loss in 2022, which came via a controversial decision against Sean O’Malley at UFC 280, reports suggested that the Russian was disgruntled with the promotion to the point he was even considering leaving.
He’s evidently had a change of heart, with the Las Vegas Review Journal reporting his first outing of 2023 for UFC Vegas 71. At the event, set to be held at The Theater at Virgin Hotels on March 11, “No Mercy” is being lined up against rising contender Dvalishvili in the main event.
For Petr Yan (16-4), the bout will mark a crucial opportunity to return to contention following a rough period.
While a disqualification loss to Aljamain Sterling in 2021 ended his reign prematurely, he promptly rebounded by winning the interim belt against Cory Sandhagen.
But last year, he was unable to regain undisputed status, losing a narrow five-round decision in his rematch with Sterling at UFC 273. Although he’d hoped to avoid a skid at the expense of O’Malley, who was ranked outside the top 10 at the time, the Russian fell on the wrong side of a much-debated split decision in Abu Dhabi.
While Yan looks to bounce back on March 11, Dvalishvili (15-4) will be hoping to continue his fine form, which has seen him record eight consecutive wins en route to #3 in the bantamweight rankings. Most recently, the Georgian sent former featherweight king José Aldo into retirement with a unanimous decision win at UFC 278.
Fans React To Planned Petr Yan vs Merab Dvalishvili Headliner
On Twitter, mixed martial arts enthusiasts flocked to give their immediate thoughts on the planned headliner, which pits the #2 and #3-ranked bantamweight contenders against each other.
Many praised the matchmaking, with some noting it as a pairing they’d hoped to see collide in the Octagon for a while.
In a similar vein, one fan noted Yan vs. Dvalishvili as the latest addition to a stacked March for the UFC, which already includes Jon Jones’ return and the trilogy fight between welterweight titleholder Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman.
Some chose to praise Yan for taking on the challenge, with one Twitter user pointing out that the Russian isn’t looking to face lighter competition despite his recent poor run of form.
Many commented with their predictions for the targeted UFC Vegas 71 main event. Some expressed confidence in Yan, claiming that the former champ will “expose” Dvalishvili.
Others suggested that the Georgian, who trains alongside Sterling, a two-time opponent of Yan’s, will have enough to add to the Russian’s woes.