A major bantamweight fight between Petr Yan and Merab Dvalishvili has been targeted to headline UFC Fight Night 221 on March 11th in Las Vegas.
For former champion Yan this is a particularly important fight as though he’s still held in high regard in the division, he’s actually now lost three of his last four fights, which is not something anyone would have predicted when he won the vacant title with a TKO victory over Jose Aldo back in July of 2020, at which point he had amassed a 15-1 career record.
There’s more to the story than that however as while Yan lost the title in his first defense against Aljamain Sterling, the reality is that this was only due to him being DQ’d after landing an illegal knee late in the fourth round of a battle he appeared to be winning.
Yan did end up claiming the interim title in his next outing with a decision win over Cory Sandhagen, but he then lost again to Sterling by split decision, and has since picked up another split decision defeat against Sean O’Malley.
So Yan’s air of invincibility may have wore off, but the close nature of all those fights suggests he’s still one of the division’s best, and indeed he still holds the No.2 spot on the rankings.
However, Dvalishvili is now hot on his heels at No.3 in the rankings thanks to an eight-fight winning streak that has also marked him out as a leading contender in the weight class.
Along the way the 32-year-old has fought an increasingly rising level of opposition, culminating with victories over the likes of John Dodson, Cody Stamann, Marlon Moraes and most recently Jose Aldo.
Yan vs. Dvalishvili will front a UFC Fight Night 221 card that is also expected to feature Raphael Assuncao vs. Kyler Phillips and JJ Aldrich vs. Ariane Lipski, while it remains to be seen if Anthony Smith will remain on the card after his intended opponent Jamahal Hill was moved to fight for the 205lb title at UFC 283.