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Merab Dvalishvili dominates Petr Yan in UFC Fight Night Main Event

Merab “The Machine” Dvalishvili passed his biggest test with flying colours as he won every round in his main event victory over Petr Yan.

The Georgian wrestling standout showed how appropriate his nickname of "The Machine" is by putting on a cardio performance unseen before in the octagon, but where does he go from here?

Liam Hampton looks at "The Machine" and the other main card winners to try and see where they go next.

Vitor Petrino def Anton Turkalj by Unanimous Decision

A $50,000 bonus cheque is just the icing on the cake Vitor Petrino could do with after a hard-fought win over Anton Turkalj.
Brazil's Petrino looked impressive but still very green as he secured his first UFC win and climbed to 8-0 as a professional, in-cage experience will prove crucial for Petrino as he moves up the rankings.
Having only gone to a decision once before in his MMA career, Petrino looked to avoid that fate when a flurry of hooks sent Turkalj to the canvas, but the Swede was tough and despite many more positives from Petrino he was unable to get his opponent out of there before the final horn.
A solid performance by Petrino which gained him Fight of the Night honours, but it did show off his somewhat questionable cardio.

Next opponent: Tyson Pedro

Australian brawler Tyson Pedro seems to finally have put the injury woes that kept him out for nearly four years behind him.

A two-fight win streak was snapped after Pedro was defeated by short-notice replacement Modestas Bukauskas at UFC 284 in Perth, but Pedro is still only 31 and with the right adjustments can take his well-rounded game to the next level.
Matching these two together makes sense as Petrino will get valuable cage experience against a well-rounded opponent who could test all facets of his game, whereas Pedro gets a winnable matchup against a talented but flawed fighter.

Mario Bautista def Guido Cannetti by Submission in Round 1

Mario Bautista provided a slick performance in his submission victory over Guido Cannetti, the MMA Lab fighter picked up his fourth win in a row and third by submission, tapping out the Argentine midway through the first round.
Now is his time to take a step up in his career but the bantamweight division is packed with talented athletes looking for an opportunity, so while finding an opponent is easy finding the right opponent is a different challenge.

Next opponent: Raoni Barcelos

My pick for his next opponent is Brazilian boogeyman Raoni Barcelos, one of the most underrated fighters in the division, Barcelos is a man who has been knocking on the door of the top 15 for several years and has been the litmus test for proven top 15 talent such as Umar Nurmagomedov and Chris Gutierrez.
A knockout loss against Nurmagomedov does not diminish the quality Barcelos has, slick striking and submissions and heaps of UFC experience against top talent shout prove to be an excellent test for Bautista to see how close he is to break into the top 15.

Jonathan Martinez def Said Nurmagomedov by Unanimous Decision

One of the biggest underdogs on the card, it was a successful night for the Factory X team with fighters Josh Fremd and Jonathan Martinez both securing upset victories.
It was Martinez who shone brightest though, taking out Dagestani wrestling machine Said Nurmagomedov by unanimous decision.
That puts Martinez on a five-fight win streak with a record of 18-4 and now the 28-year-old should be expecting to wake up with a number next to his name, much like Bautista finding an opponent for Martinez at bantamweight isn't an issue however finding the right opponent for him is a slightly trickier task.

Next opponent: Dominick Cruz

A big jump from unranked guys to the number seven in the world and former champion but there is a method to the madness.
Cruz is coming off a brutal knockout loss to Marlon "Chito" Vera and whilst he has no plans on retiring anytime soon, a stylistic matchup against Martinez makes more sense than a fight with Dagestani wrestler Umar Nurmagomedov.
Martinez previously called out Cruz after his victory over Cub Swanson so there is also a history between the two, a very cordial history but it's there.
In this sport the young often eat the old, will the old dog Dominick Cruz pull out a victory? Or will new blood Jonathan Martinez establish himself as the new leader of the pack?

Nikita Krylov def Ryan Spann by Submission in Round 1

In a shock to very few, the fight between Nikita Krylov and Ryan Spann ended without the need for the judges' scorecards. A scrappy whirlwind of a fight ended after Spann followed Krylov to the ground and was immediately caught in a triangle choke by the Ukrainian, which takes his winning streak to three and will keep his ranking in the top 10, but finding his next opponent will not be easy in a top-heavy and confusing light-heavyweight division.

Next opponent: Khalil Rountree

A tendency to stay active and a log jam at the top of the division has left Krylov with few legitimate options as a next opponent, but as last resort options go there are many worse options than Khalil Rountree.
A devastating striker on a three-fight win streak, Rountree has the power to cause anyone in the division a problem, and with his ability to finish a fight early, it should be an attractive prospect to Krylov, who is also a kill-or-be-killed type of fighter.

Alexander Volkov def Alexandr Romanov by TKO in Round 1

Russian giant Alexander Volkov proved he isn't going anywhere anytime soon, after his disappointing loss to Tom Aspinall, two wins over Jairzinho Rozenstruik and now Alexandr Romanov has secured his place in the upper echelon of the UFC heavyweight division.
An active heavyweight who isn't afraid to take risky fights, Volkov will never be too far away from the title picture with performances like that and his next opponent should indicate that.

Next opponent: Serghei Spivac

A man sporting his own impressive win streak, Moldova's Serghei Spivac needs a fight that will keep his forward momentum going whilst continuing to test his skills at the top level of competition.
Volkov should be an attractive dance partner then as both men are ranked No. 7 & No. 8 respectively and offer opposite skillsets to each other, with Volkov offering a striking-based game using his 6'7" frame to keep his opponents at bay, whereas Spivac does his best work from a top position using his smothering wrestling to beat down and submit his opponents.

Merab Dvalishvili def Petr Yan by Unanimous Decision

The cardio king at bantamweight has been crowned and his name is Merab Dvalishvili. A suffocating performance against one of the best bantamweights in recent years should have catapulted him to an immediate title shot.
However, the recent announcement of Aljamain Sterling vs Henry Cejudo and the outright refusal from Sterling and Dvalishvili to fight each other (They train together under Matt Serra and Ray Longo) means "The Machine" won't be gearing up for a title fight quite yet.
His next fight deserves to be someone at his level instead of fighting down and in my opinion, there is only one man for the job.

Next opponent: Sean O'Malley

The UFC's uber-prospect who has also beaten Petr Yan, Sean O'Malley thought he had earned himself a title shot after defeating the Russian at UFC 280, recent events such as Dvalishvili's dominance and Cejudo's return mean the Californian will have to wait for his opportunity at undisputed gold, but a potential #1 contenders match could be ordered to clear up the top of bantamweight.
With only a handful of names not already booked inside the bantamweight top 15, a fight between Dvalishvili and O'Malley could provide some clarity in possibly the UFC's deepest division.

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