First came a left hook from Marlon Moraes that wobbled Merab Dvalishvili. Another left 25 seconds later staggered Dvalishvili, then a flurry of strikes brought the Georgian fighter to his knees. Then another knockdown and a 30-second flurry of strikes from Moraes.
Yet, those watching the UFC 266 prelims on Saturday night learned why Dvalishvili’s teammates at Serra-Longo call him "The Machine."
He doesn’t stop.
"I was hurt," Dvalishvili said. "Everybody gets hurt. I get some blind punch. But, I’m a warrior. I tell the referee, if something or accident happen, stop when me I’m dying, don’t stop me early. This is nothing for me."
Referee Keith Peterson did not stop the fight in the first round as Moraes pressured Dvalishvili with strikes. Had he stopped the bout, fans would have missed out on one of the most exciting comebacks in recent years.
Dvalishvili won by TKO with 35 seconds left in the second round to win the bantamweight fight, the biggest thus far in his career. It was the seventh straight win for the 11th-ranked Dvalishvili, and third straight loss for No. 6 Moraes.
In that first round, Dvalishvili manage to escape the punches, run to the other side of the cage and eventually clinch with Moraes along the cage. That led to a takedown fo Dvalishvili, one of his specialties. He worked his ground and pound and landed dozens of powerful strikes to the head. Such a comeback it was that one judge scored it 10-9 in favor of Dvalishvili (14-4). The other two judges had it 10-9 for Moraes.
"He made me mad, he dropped me," said Dvalishvili, who lives in Bellmore. "And I said, ‘No, I gotta go now. You’re gonna pay me back,’ so that’s what happened."
Round 2 was a bit more clearcut as Dvalishvili threw a shutout in the second round with zero strikes absorbed. He dominated Moraes from start to finish in the second round in what most likely would have been a 10-8 round across the board for Dvalishvili had the referee not stopped the bout.
To put the swing into perspective, consider this statistic: At one point in the first round, Moraes had a 34-10 lead in total strikes. By the time the first round was over, it 104-34 in favor of Dvalishvili. When the fight was stopped with 35 seconds left in the second round, Dvalishvili held a 246-34 lead in total strikes. That includes a 142-0 second round for the man they call "The Machine."