Overwhelming is an apt description of Merab Dvalishvili’s win over Petr Yan in the main event of UFC Vegas 71 on Saturday.
Dvalishvili opened the fight by putting pressure on the former UFC bantamweight champion and never took his foot off the gas. In the first two rounds of the five-round contest, Dvalishvili attempted 142 significant strikes and 15 takedowns. In the final two rounds, he attempted 150 significant strikes and 20 takedowns. The pace and output Dvalishvili set in sweeping Yan on the scorecards was astounding.
In the co-main event, Alexander Volkov picked up his second straight first-round finish with a knockout of Alexander Romanov.
Before the top two fights on the card, the UFC’s bantamweight division earned the spotlight with Jonathan Martinez, Mario Bautista, Davey Grant and Victor Henry all picking up big wins in entertaining fights.
Saturday’s UFC event was a solid fight card. However, the matchmakers fumbled by booking two questionable fights in the middle of UFC Vegas 71. The affair that closed the prelims and the matchup that opened the main card were not suited for their positions.
Read on for the winners and losers of UFC Vegas 71, which took place at The Theater at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas. The entire card streamed on ESPN+.
Merab Dvalishvili: Someone might look at Merab Dvalishvili’s stats for his UFC Vegas 71 win over Petr Yan and point out the number of significant strikes Dvalishvili did not connect on or the amount of takedowns he failed to secure. And while those numbers are noteworthy — he failed to land 191 significant strikes and did not complete 38 takedowns — to point out those “failures” would be to miss the point of Dvalishvili’s fighting style.
While Dvalishvili is pressuring his opponent with strikes and making him defend takedowns, he’s also not allowing his foe the time and space to mount an offense of his own. That’s the beauty of how Dvalishvili fought on Saturday. It’s also what is going to make him extremely hard to beat unless someone can find a small opening to mount an effective offense. No one has done that since Frankie Saenz and Ricky Simon defeated Dvalishvili in his first two UFC fights, which took place in 2017 and 2018.
Dvalishvili is beatable because he tends to go the distance in his fights under the UFC banner, but it will take an exceptional fighter with a sound game plan, a lot of resiliency and a bottomless gas tank to end his winning streak.
Dvalishvili looked remarkable in disposing of Yan.
Alexander Volkov: Alexander Volkov picked up a second straight first-round knockout win on Saturday, steamrolling over Alexander Romanov in the evening’s co-main event.
Nikita Krylov vs. Ryann Spann: Nikita Krylov and Ryan Spann packed a lot of living into the time they spent inside the octagon. The two combined for three submission attempts, three takedowns and 12 significant strikes before Krylov wrapped things up with a triangle choke at 3:38 of the first stanza.
With the victory, Krylov is on a three-fight winning streak.
Said Nurmagomedov vs. Jonathan Martinez: The bantamweight matchup between Said Nurmagomedov and Jonathan Martinez was a tremendous scrap.
Martinez extended his winning streak to five straight with a top-notch effort. He put Nurmagomedov in a lot of tough spots in this fight, using excellent clinch work, a deep gas tank, strong striking and fantastic fight IQ to get the win.
While Martinez’s stock will increase with the win, Nurmagomedov’s should not fall too much. That is if his team looks at his loss on Saturday as a way to shore up his overall game. Martinez tested the 30-year-old Nurmagomedov and Nurmagomedov fell short, but not by much. Nurmagomedov’s next fight might be the most crucial matchup of his career.
The UFC’s matchmakers did an excellent job in putting this one together.
Mario Bautista: Mario Bautista was a monster favorite against Guido Cannetti heading into UFC Vegas 71 on the strength of two previous first-round submission wins in the UFC. The 29-year-old picked up his third straight first-round finish by forcing Cannetti to tap to a rear-naked choke. A member of the UFC since 2019, Bautista has looked very good over the past year and his confidence seems to be increasing with every victory.
Following his finish, Bautista told UFC commentator Daniel Cormier that he deserves a shot at a ranked bantamweight opponent in his next outing. I can’t disagree with that statement.
Vitor Petrino vs. Anton Turkalj: the light heavyweight bout between Vitor Petrino and Anton Turkalj was not a technical scrap. Moreover, neither man showed the greatest fight IQ, but for those fans who put entertainment above all, this was a fun scrap to open the UFC Vegas 71 main card.
Davey Grant: Davey Grant took advantage of a questionable call from referee Keith Peterson and went on to finish Raphael Assuncao late in the third round via a spinning back fist to reverse triangle choke. It was a wild sequence to secure the come-from-behind victory for Grant.
Josh Fremd: Josh Fremd overwhelmed Sedriques Dumas in their middleweight contest, ending the unbeaten streak of Dumas while ending his two-fight UFC losing skid.
Fremd used calf kicks well and scored with his counters before securing a guillotine choke submission in the second round.
Victor Henry vs. Tony Gravely: These two put on an entertaining and fast-paced bantamweight fight with both men digging deep and looking for the victory. There was a lot to like about this contest, especially the pace and output of Henry in the second round.
Ariane Lipski: A significant underdog to JJ Aldrich, Ariane Lipski didn’t have much of a problem pulling off an upset win on Saturday. Lipski overwhelmed Aldrich in the striking department, landing 101 significant strikes to Aldrich’s 49 and stopping all 12 of her opponent’s takedown attempts.
Bruno Silva: Bruno Silva had not fought in nearly two years when he stepped into the octagon on Saturday against Tyson Nam. Following an entertaining first round, Silva landed a nasty front kick that dropped Nam to the mat. As impressive as that strike was, what came next showcased Silva’s fight IQ and ability to capitalize on openings as he secured a fight ending rear-naked choke as Nam tried to work to his feet.
Nam entered UFC Vegas 71 as the No. 15 fighter in the official UFC flyweight rankings.
Carlston Harris: Carlston Harris struggled a bit in the striking department during the first round of his bout opposite Jared Gooden. However, Harris made a smart adjustment heading into Rd. 2, deciding to go after takedowns and use ground control. That change in approach allowed Harris to dominate the final 10 minutes of the fight and get the unanimous decision win.
UFC: From all appearances, the UFC moved the location and time of this event to accommodate a Power Slap event at UFC Apex. I’m not complaining about the earlier start time, but the idea that the UFC is willing to switch things up for a “sport” with very little interest seems silly and one could argue that the vanity project of UFC president Dana White seems to be more important to him and therefore more important to the UFC than the MMA promotion he heads.
Petr Yan: What direction does Petr Yan’s career go if he doesn’t throw — and land — the illegal knee that cost him the UFC bantamweight title at UFC 259?
Raphael Assuncao: Raphael Assuncao didn’t deserve to have his career end on a fight where the outcome was affected by the referee.
Keith Peterson: I understand that Keith Peterson, as the referee in the Raphael Assuncao vs. Davey Grant bout, had the discretion to restart the fight in the standing position after he paused the action to take a point away from Grant for a fence grab. I also know that the reason the UFC commentators gave why Peterson restarted the men in the standing position was not valid.
The commentary team said Grant was in top position when the fight was paused. He wasn’t. Grant was defending a takedown and he prevented that takedown from being completed by grabbing the fence. Peterson should have restarted the fight in the same position when he paused the action. Putting the fighters back in the open and standing rewarded Grant by putting him in a neutral position rather than a defensive spot.
The rules state, “ If a fighter grabs hold of the cage and because of the infraction, the fouling fighter ends up in a superior position due to the foul, the fighters should be restarted by the referee, standing in a neutral position after determining if a point deduction is appropriate.”
Grant did not end up in a superior position because of the fence grab. He was still defending the takedown when the fight was paused. If he had ended up in a controlling position on top of Assuncao, restarting on the feet would have been the correct call.
This is not a superior position. It’s defensive.
Sedriques Dumas: For a fighter who was a more than 2-1 favorite, Sedriques Dumas did not look ready for primetime in his UFC debut. Dumas left himself open for counters by overthrowing his strikes and had little to offer his opponent Josh Fremd on the mat.
Jared Gooden: Jared Gooden accepted his lightweight matchup against Carlston Harris on a few days’ notice. He missed weight by seven pounds and looked ill-prepared for his scheduled welterweight bout against Carlston Harris.
Gooden’s striking defense was nonexistent. In addition, his takedown defense was poor and his ability to get off his back was lackluster. In short, Gooden, who was released from the UFC in 2021 after going 1-3, might be one and done during his second run with the promotion.
Daniel Cormier: UFC commentator Daniel Cormier began his in cage interview with Victor Henry by saying — twice — “First UFC victory” in reference to Henry. The problem with that is Saturday marked Henry’s second UFC win. He defeated Raoni Barcelos at UFC 270.
DWCS: I understand the UFC has a lot of events to book to satisfy its deal with ESPN, but this card pointed out that many fighters who Dana White signed off the Dana White Contender Series are not ready to fight under the UFC banner. White needs to be more selective with the fighters he inks off the DWCS cards.
During the first season of the DWCS, White signed 16 fighters. The most recent season saw him offer deals to 43 fighters.