Merab Dvalishvili might be the No. 1 contender in the bantamweight division but a win over Jose Aldo at UFC 278 won’t change his stance when it comes to a potential showdown with his friend and teammate Aljamain Sterling.
In a workman like performance, Dvalishvili was in constant pursuit of Aldo, looking for takedowns and putting on the pressure over three rounds to secure a unanimous decision win. The final scorecards read 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 all for Dvalishvili, who has now earned eight wins in a row.
Afterwards, Dvalishvili was asked about his position in the division where he could potentially demand a title shot at 135 pounds where Sterling reigns as champion.
“This amazing guy, my brother Aljamain Sterling, he is the reason I’m stepping in here,” Dvalishvili said. “He make me who I am today. Yes, I have an [eight] fight win streak because of Aljo. I’m living my dream right now. Please don’t ask me this question anymore, we’re not fighting each other.”
Prior to his declaration, Dvalishvili first had to get through Aldo in what played out as a grueling three-round battle.
Going against a world class grappler, Aldo was smart to keep his distance until Dvalishvili finally showed his hand by diving inside to grab a leg to look for a takedown. Aldo showed great balance as he stayed upright before fighting out of Dvalishvili’s grasp to reset the fight in the center of the cage.
Dvalishvili didn’t give up on his grappling as he went for another single-leg takedown but then uncorked an overhand left that clubbed Aldo, who fired off a stiff body shot in return.
When Aldo finally unleashed his combinations, he was connecting with power and accuracy as Dvalishvili stepped into the pocket to meet him blow for blow. Eventually, Dvalishvili went back to his wrestling as he continued to look for the takedowns but Aldo continuously shrugged him off despite numerous attempts.
Aldo attempted to launch strikes whenever he had a second to work but Dvalishvili was like a dog with a bone as he kept pressing forward, pushing the Brazilian against the cage and trying to bring the fight down to the canvas.
While Dvalishvili hadn’t scored a single takedown heading into the third round, his consistent work rate and relentless pressure had Aldo stalled out and slowing down. Even though the Georgian wasn’t doing a ton of damage, he was stalking Aldo across the cage and the former featherweight champion was just stuck in cement.
That was the story of the fight as Dvalishvili secured the victory as he paid homage to Aldo after the final horn sounded.
“This is a dream,” Dvalishvili said. “I don’t believe this. It’s Jose Aldo but it was another fight. This is our job. We have to do whatever we do, we have do our best. I have to do everything for the win. I have so much respect for Jose Aldo.”