The Prelim Breakout Star is a once per event article that helps fans get to know those who will be entertaining them from the undercard. The intention of the article is not to bring attention to the most talented fighter on the preliminary card, but rather one that the common fan may have overlooked or underestimated.
Affiliation – Longo and Weidman MMA
From – Tbilisi, Georgia
Height – 5’6″
Weight – 135 lbs (Bantamweight)
Record – 7-3 (0-1 UFC)
What makes him impressive
If you ask Ray Longo for a couple of prospects he’s really excited to see grow, the first two names out of his mouth are typically Ulka Sasaki (also on this card) and Merab Dvalishvili. The reason why for both is that they have a really solid set of grappling skills, and time with the famed Longo will round out the rest of their game.
With Dvalishvili it’s all about judo. As a kid in Georgia, he learned judo at a young age and in a pure form. But he’s transitioned those skills really well to the MMA game, getting plenty of takedowns in his debut against Frankie Saenz (he hit 11).
Why he has been overlooked
While he took Saenz down a gaudy number of times, Dvalishvili wound up losing the fight by split decision. However, a quick peek at MMADecisions.com shows that the majority of the media members think that Merab got robbed. So, despite this great performance, he walks away looking like any other fighter who lost his debut.
What makes this a good match-up
Ricky Simon is a wrestler at heart. In fact, he was a wrestling coach before switching to MMA full-time. But that’s not all that different than Saenz, who was a D1 wrestler at Arizona St. Saenz in the end though was 0-3 in taking down the judo specialist. If the more polished Saenz couldn’t get him down and succumbed to 11 takedowns, you have to imagine this will be more of the same.
Prelim Breakout Star Record: 140-62-1 (2 NC) (6 DNF)