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UFC Atlantic City: Merab Dvalishvili healthy, ready to ‘break’ Ricky Simon for first UFC win

After an illness held him back in his UFC debut, New Hyde Park’s Dvalishvili believes he’ll get his hand raised Saturday in Atlantic City.

UFC fighter Merab Dvalishvili trains for his upcoming

UFC fighter Merab Dvalishvili trains for his upcoming bout on Wednesday, April 11, 2018, at LAW MMA in Garden City. Photo Credit: Newsday / Ryan Gerbosi

Merab Dvalishvili believes two things kept him from winning his UFC debut last December.

The first issue was judging, which has been a common complaint by fighters on the wrong end of a fight since the sport’s beginnings. Dvalishvili outstruck his opponent, landed 11 takedowns and maintained control for more than half of the 15 minutes of fight time, but still lost a split decision to Frankie Saenz.

The second problem is a bit easier to solve — illness.

“I fight good, I just got robbed in my fight,” Dvalishvili said “It’s hard, I know last time I was sick so this time I can do better. I learned a lot, I know I can do better.”

Dvalishvili, who settled in New Hyde Park after emigrating from Georgia a few years ago, returns to the cage Saturday in Atlantic City feeling healthy as he seeks his first UFC victory in a bantamweight bout against Ricky Simon.

The Serra-Longo fighter said he was exhausted by the end of his fight with Saenz, leaving him unable to secure the finish.

“I don’t feel well, my cardio was not good because I was sick, I tired easily because I was sick, the weight cut was hard all because I had a virus,” Dvalishvili said.

This time around, Dvalishvili (7-3, 0-1 UFC) says he’s focused on staying healthy in the days ahead of the fight. He’ll need all the energy he can get against Simon. A Washington state native, Simon (12-1) is a pressure fighter making his promotional debut, and Dvalishvili believes the former LFA champion won’t give him much room to breathe.

“He has good striking, but his best skill is good wrestling,” Dvalishvili said of Simon. “He’s a wrestler and does good takedowns, but I know how I can stop him. It’s going to be war, because this guy has good pressure.”

Dvalishvili believes it will be a competitive fight if they go the distance.

“He has good striking, but I’m going to fight my fight,” Dvalishvili said. “I’m looking for a knockout, I’m looking for some crazy punches, spinning kicks, I think I can finish him.

“It’s not going to be an easy fight because he likes to pressure. It’s going to be a very mixed fight. Ricky could do some takedowns on me, it’s going to be very back-and-forth, but I’m going to break him.”

And this time, illness shouldn’t hold him back.

“I’m healthy now, I know I have no excuses, I know it’s all up to me now. I’m not sick like last time,” said Dvalishvili. “I’m ready for war, I’m going to fight my fight.”

UFC ATLANTIC CITY FIGHT CARD

Main card, 10 p.m. Eastern on FS1

Edson Barboza vs. Kevin Lee

Frankie Edgar vs. Cub Swanson

Chase Sherman vs. Justin Willis

David Branch vs. Thiago Santos

Aljamain Sterling vs. Brett Johns

Jim Miller vs. Dan Hooker

Prelims, 8 p.m. on FS1

Ryan LaFlare vs. Alex Garcia

Magomed Bibulatov vs. Ulka Sasaki

Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Luan Chagas

Corey Anderson vs. Patrick Cummins

Early prelims, 6:30 p.m. on UFC Fight Pass

Leslie Smith vs. Aspen Ladd

Merab Dvalishvili vs. Ricky Simon

Tony Martin vs. Keita Nakamura

New York Sports