Three words figured prominently in the training camp of John Dodson for his upcoming bout at UFC 252.
Merab. Dvalishvili. Takedown.
“The preparation for this fight, I had to get taken down and then taken down and then get taken down and then get taken down and then get taken down and then get taken down and it just keeps going down like that,” Dodson said Wednesday at UFC 252 media day. “And I had to keep on popping back up every single time. It’s a lot of getting taken down and getting back up, getting taken down and getting back up. And now somebody has to suffer for all that. I’m going hit this man into oblivion.”
Strong words from the veteran, 35-year-old former "Ultimate Fighter" winner who trains at Jackson-Wink MMA in New Mexico. Such preparation is required, though, when you're facing New Hyde Park's Merab Dvalishvili, the UFC record holder for takedowns among 135-pounders.
The bantamweights will face each other on the main card of UFC 252 on Saturday night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Dvalishvili, who emigrated to Long Island from Tbilisi, Georgia, is ranked 15th in the division and the more experienced Dodson is 12th.
Where such numerical positioning differ greatly is in the category of getting the opponent off his feet and onto the mat. In his six UFC fights, Dvalishvili has totaled 52 takedowns, the most for a bantamweight in promotion history. Second place is about half that. In his last fight in June, Dvalishvili set the single-fight takedown record for bantamweights with 13 (tied for fourth in UFC history for any division). The record was 12, held by … Dvalishvili.
“I’m not looking for takedowns this fight, I’m not looking for a new record,” Dvalishvili said. “I’m just looking for the win. It can be knockout, can be submission, can be anything. I have to do everything for the win. I have some plans, but let’s see how the fight goes.”
Dvalishvili (11-4, 4-2 UFC), who trains at Longo and Weidman MMA as well as Serra BJJ, is on a four-fight win streak, all by unanimous decision. Dodson (22-11, 10-6) is coming off a third-round TKO win over Nathaniel Wood in February after losses to Petr Yan and Jimmie Rivera.
Dvalishvili said his training camp for this fight was “much better” than when he beat Gustavo Lopez earlier this summer. He took that fight on 10 days’ notice while he was in Vegas helping teammate Aljamain Sterling prepare for his fight.
“I have to show new stuff, I think more striking. I have to be patient,” Dvalishvili said. “Dodson, it’s not easy to finish him but I have to show a hard fight.”
Dodson, nicknamed “The Magician,” has never been finished in his career dating to 2004. But he does absorb more significant strikes (3.59) than he lands (3.30) on average per UFC fight. Dvalishvili averages 4.01 significant strikes landed and 2.12 absorbed. Dvalishvili averages 8.67 takedowns, with a 50% success rate. Both fighters have an 80% takedown defense.
“His nickname is ‘The Machine,’ he’s programmed to only do takedowns,” Dodson said. “So what’s the best aspect of a ‘Magician?’ I can have the full range of creativity to destroy his world of simple commands.
“The hardest thing he’s going to have to do is be able to go ahead and keep me down on the ground or even try to get me taken down. We’ve seen my track record. I don’t get taken down that much and when I do, I hop right back up and I’m like a little sprig. I’m like that little jack in the box that pops out every single time.”