John Dodson said during the week that he trained being taken down and getting back up over and over again in anticipation of facing takedown specialist Merab Dvalishvili.
On Saturday night at UFC 252 in Las Vegas, Dodson showed that training paid off. He quickly popped up each time Dvalishvili, from New Hyde Park by way of Tbilisi, Georgia, got him off his feet.
But Dvalishvili’s nickname is “The Machine,” and he does not stop pushing the pace and moving forward. He did just that, and with the threat of the takedown looming, Dvalishvili mixed in effective striking to win the bantamweight bout by unanimous decision. All three judges scored the bout 30-27.
It was the fifth straight win for Dvalishvili (12-4) and the third loss in the last five for Dodson (22-12), a former “Ultimate Fighter” season winner.
“That was the biggest test of my fighting career,” Dvalishvili said. “But it was easy. I’m not even tired.”
Officially, Dvalishvili landed just 2 of 20 takedown attempts, since Dodson got up so quickly so many times. But in the first round, the first time Dvalishvili got him down and Dodson got up, the Serra-Longo fighter maintained the clinch for 90 seconds and peppered the back of Dodson’s thighs and calves with knees.
For someone with Dvalishvili’s takedown pedigree — his 52 coming into the bout are a UFC bantamweight record, and in only six fights — his striking looked crisp. And it carried him in the second and third rounds as Dodson seemed concerned about the takedown and didn’t strike as much as he often does.
Dvalishvili landed 39 strikes in the clinch and 17 strikes from distance, compared with four clinch strikes and 24 distance strikes by Dodson, according to the UFC's on-screen fight stats graphic.
Asked who he wants to fight next, Dvalishvili said, "Good luck, Sean O'Malley."
O'Malley fights in the co-main event on Saturday night.