Petr Yan taking on rising prospect Merab Dvalishvili headlines the main card of UFC Fight Night 221, which will start at 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Virgins Hotel in Las Vegas.
Yan (16-4 MMA, 8-3 UFC), a former bantamweight champion, is currently ranked No. 2 as the 30-year-old Russian seeks another title shot. He’s the -175 favorite at BetMGM against the No. 3-ranked Dvalishvili (15-4, 8-2), who has drawn 72 percent of the fight bets, while Yan has been backed by 55 percent of the total money.
The winner could be in line for a fight against current champion Aljamain Sterling, who will reportedly face former two-division champion Henry Cejudo in his next title defense.
Sterling has already defeated Yan twice — the first one came when Yan was disqualified for an illegal knee that knocked Sterling out of fighting for more than a year. Sterling beat Yan a second time last year, and the latter has lost three of his past four fights.
Dvalishvili, a 32-year-old from the nation of Georgia, has only one submission in his UFC career to go with three knockouts.
Saturday’s co-main event features Alexander Romanov (16-1, 5-1) as the -165 favorite against Alexander Volkov (+135). Romanov is coming off his first MMA loss when he lost a majority decision against Marcin Tybura at UFC 278.
“The only thing that I learned from my last fight is do not leave it in the hand of the judges, because you can’t trust what decision they’re going to make,” Romanov told reporters through an interpreter on Wednesday, per MMAJunkie.com. “So what I need to do is go in there, dominate, and make sure the fight ends before the judges decide if I won or lost.”
The underdog Volkov (35-10, 9-4) has garnered solid support with 62 percent of the fight bets and 51 percent of the money.
In other fights on the main card, Nikita Krylov is the -175 favorite against Ryan Spann (+145), Said Nurmagomedov is -200 to beat Jonathan Martinez (+165) and Vitor Petrino is -140 vs. Anton Turkalj (+120).
A scheduled fight between Ricardo Ramos and Austin Lingo was canceled after Ramos missed weight by eight pounds on Friday.
Spann (21-7, 7-2) has been backed by the most tickets of any fighter on the main card with 76 percent of those wagered on his fight against Krylov (29-9, 10-7), while Nurmagomedov leads with 72 percent of the money to beat Martinez.
Spann was originally scheduled to face Krylov last month, but the fight was canceled during the week. It is now being contested at a contracted weight of 215 pounds — 10 more than it was going to be at two weeks ago.
Nurmagomedov (17-2, 6-1) enters Saturday as a winner of four consecutive fights, while Martinez (17-4, 8-3) is coming off a victory over Cub Swanson.
–Field Level Media