Preview: UFC 266 Prelims - Dvalishvili vs. Moraes

By: Tom Feely
Sep 23, 2021

Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream UFC 266 live on your smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s return to pay-per-view on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas brings with it a strong preliminary lineup. Former bantamweight title challenger Marlon Moraes will look to defend his turf against surging contender Merab Dvalishvili in the featured spot. Meanwhile, Dan Hooker tries to snap a two-fight losing streak against rising lightweight talent Nasrat Haqparast in another hotly anticipated encounter. Beyond that, we find the usual mix of interesting prospects, from lightweights Uros Medic and Jalin Turner to heavyweight Chris Daukaus.

Now to the preview for the UFC 266 prelims:


#11 BW | Merab Dvalishvili (13-4, 6-2 UFC) vs. #6 BW | Marlon Moraes (23-8-1, 5-4 UFC)

ODDS: Dvalishvili (-245), Moraes (+205)

Where exactly does Moraes stand? Moraes mostly lived up to the hype after coming to the UFC in 2017. The Brazilian was coming off of a violent reign as bantamweight champion in the World Series of Fighting, and after a frustrating debut loss to Raphael Assuncao, Moraes picked up where he left off with four straight wins, including quick finishes of Aljamain Sterling, Jimmie Rivera and Assuncao in a rematch. That set up Moraes for a bout against Henry Cejudo for the UFC’s then-vacant bantamweight strap, which went well enough early before clearly turning south. Moraes’ style is built around big bursts of offense, and at a certain point, Cejudo decided to just eat damage and constantly pressure him—a strategy that eventually led “The Messenger” to a third-round stoppage victory. Moraes seemed to rebound well enough: He was Jose Aldo’s first test at 135 pounds and walked away with the win, laying back and countering the Nova Uniao superstar’s pressure just enough to stay ahead on the scorecards. Then things got weird. Cejudo picked Aldo as his next challenger despite the loss, the coronavirus pandemic intervened, Cejudo retired and the end result was that Moraes found himself frozen out of a title picture that somehow included a man he had just beaten. From there, Moraes suffered through a terrible 2020 campaign that added injury to insult. First came a rough stylistic matchup against Cory Sandhagen, whose size and pace prevented Moraes from ever truly getting into the fight before a second-round knockout. Then came a worrying December performance against Rob Font, as Moraes suddenly pivoted to a wrestling-heavy approach that still led to him getting knocked out early. The vibes are poor for Moraes, and he gets another tough test here against the surging Dvalishvili.

Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream UFC 266 live on your smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.

From the jump, Dvalishvili has been a relentless wrestler, though that brought him surprisingly little success in his first two UFC bouts. Frankie Saenz scored a narrow win by causing damage in the moments between Dvalishvili’s many takedown attempts, while the Georgian’s bout against Ricky Simon saw him memorably get choked unconscious at the final horn. However, Dvalishvili has turned things around in a major way since, racking up six straight wins while making himself seem inevitable as a future contender. Any discussion of Dvalishvili still has to center on what brought him to the dance, as he is about as dogged a wrestler as the sport has ever seen, and he backs it up with a superhuman amount of cardio that should eventually serve him well in five-round fights. Still, recent bouts have seen “The Machine” learning to pick his spots. Wins over the typically sturdy John Dodson and Cody Stamann saw Dvalishvili mix in his striking and use his takedowns to actually lead to damage, keeping those opponents off-guard while also clearly putting himself ahead on the scorecards. Even if a Dvalishvili win appears inevitable to some, Moraes still has a path to victory. The Brazilian is a solid grappler in his own right and should still be difficult for Dvalishvili to control, and the dynamic on the feet could play out much like the Aldo fight, with Moraes being able to snipe at a pressuring opponent and one with much less built-in defense than Aldo. However, it remains unclear if Moraes can even recapture the form of two years ago, while Dvalishvili seems likely to eventually find success through sheer determination. The pick is Dvalishvili via decision.

Continue Reading » Hooker vs. Haqparast Advertisement
« Previous Fight Odds Next Fight Odds »

More Fight Odds

Fighter Profiles

GRRRR!!!More on Mobile