UFC 266 Prelims: Unbreakable Merab Dvalishvili Breaks Marlon Moraes in Las Vegas

By Brian Knapp Sep 25, 2021

Merab Dvalishvili now has the world wondering whether or not he is human.

The Serra-Longo Fight Team product staged a remarkable comeback and climbed another rung on the Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight ladder, as he put away Marlon Moraes with punches in the second round of their featured UFC 266 prelim on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Dvalishvili (14-4, 7-2 UFC) brought it to a close 4:25 into Round 2, extending his current winning streak to seven fights.

Moraes (23-9-1, 5-5 UFC) slammed kicks into the former Ring of Combat champion’s lower leg, ripped combinations to the head and connected with a crippling left hook in the first round. He swooped in for a potential finish on the Georgian but emptied his gas tank and conceded a takedown. The indomitable Dvalishvili cleared his head and chipped away with hammerfist-laden ground-and-pound, increasing the intensity of his strikes with each passing second. By the end of the period, Moraes was teetering on the brink; and the one-minute intermission did not afford him enough time to recover. Dvalishvili followed a right hand into a takedown, worked punches to the body and eventually trapped the Brazilian in a kneeling position. Punches continued to fly until referee Keith Peterson had seen enough.

Related » UFC 266 Round-by-Round Scoring

Hooker Rights Ship, Sinks Haqparast

City Kickboxing star Dan Hooker put the brakes on a two-fight losing streak with a comprehensive effort, as he laid claim to a unanimous decision over Nasrat Haqparast in a three-round lightweight scrap. Hooker (21-10, 11-6 UFC) swept the scorecards with 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26 marks from the cageside judges.

Haqparast (13-4, 5-3 UFC) struggled and ultimately failed to established a foothold in the match. Hooker controlled the center of the cage, attacked the body with kicks and kept the Tristar Gym export honest with consistent jab and close-quarters knee strikes. He incorporated level changes, takedowns and ground-and-pound once fatigue set in, as he turned in one of his most complete performances to date.

The win was Hooker’s first since Feb. 23, 2020.

Daukaus Wrecks Returning Abdurakhimov

Chris Daukaus wiped out former Abu Dhabi Fighting Championship titleholder Shamil Abdurakhimov with punches and elbows in the second round of their heavyweight battle. In his first assignment since Sept. 7, 2019, Abdurakhimov (20-6, 5-4 UFC) met his end 1:23 into Round 2.

Daukaus (12-3, 4-0 UFC) was quicker on the draw. He swept Abdurakhimov off his feet with a leg kick in the first round and nearly finished him later in the period when he folded him with a left hook, climbed to high mount and cut loose with ground-and-pound. The Fighting Eagle rep survived, but the proverbial writing was on the wall. Daukaus sent spit flying with a crushing right cross to the Russian’s finely manicured beard early in Round 2, swarmed into top position and sealed the deal with punches and elbows.

The 31-year-old Daukaus now finds himself on a five-fight winning streak.

Ascending Santos Outclasses Modafferi

Astra Fight Team contender Taila Santos outstruck and outgrappled “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 26 finalist Roxanne Modafferi to a unanimous decision in a three-round women’s flyweight encounter. A short-notice substitution for Tatiana Suarez, Santos (18-1, 3-1 UFC) drew 30-27 scorecards from all three judges.

Modafferi (25-19, 4-7 UFC) found herself outmatched no matter where she turned. Santos executed multiple takedowns, successfully navigated the Syndicate MMA rep’s guard and piled up points with punches and control time. The Brazilian did her best work on the feet, where she pieced together clean combinations and sat down Modafferi with a left hook in the third round.

Santos, 28, has recorded three straight wins and looks like an emerging force at 125 pounds.

Turner Throttles Unbeaten Medic

Dana White’s Contender Series alum Jalin Turner submitted Uros Medic with a rear-naked choke in the first round of their lightweight affair. Medic (7-1, 1-1 UFC) succumbed to blows 4:01 into Round 1, as the Kings MMA rep tasted defeat for the first time as a professional.

Turner (11-5, 4-2 UFC) struck for a takedown off a head kick, worked from side control and later returned to his feet. From there, he chopped down Medic with lightning-quick body-head combinations, powered into top position and moved to the back before snaking his arms in place for the fight-ending choke.

The still-developing Turner has rattled off three consecutive victories.

Maximov Subdues Replacement Brundage

Takedowns paired with ground-and-pound and positional control carried the unbeaten Nick Maximov to a unanimous decision over Factory X standout Cody Brundage in a three-round middleweight tilt. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28 for Maximov (7-0, 1-0 UFC).

A short-notice replacement for Karl Roberson, Brundage (6-2, 0-1 UFC) performed well under less-than-ideal circumstances. Maximov more often than not closed the distance and stayed glued to his hips, transitioning to takedowns before either applying his ground-and-pound or targeting the neck with chokes. He withstood a late surge from Brundage in the third round, reversing into top position in the waning seconds.

Brundage has lost two of his last three fights.

Surging Semelsberger KOs Sano

Clinch Academy representative Matthew Semelsberger knocked out Martin Sano in the first round of their brief welterweight confrontation. In his first outing since Feb. 18, 2017, Sano (4-3-1, 0-1 UFC) bowed out just 15 seconds into Round 1.

The 28-year-old Semelsberger (9-3, 3-1 UFC) pushed out his jab, feinted to the body and uncorked a devastating right hand upstairs that froze the Californian where he stood. An unconscious Sano collapsed to the canvas and ate a hammerfist before referee Mark Smith could rescue him from further damage.

Semelsberger has won six of his past seven bouts.

Pearce Choke Submits Morales

Fight Ready export Jonathan Pearce submitted Omar Morales with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their featherweight pairing. Morales (11-2, 3-2 UFC) conceded defeat 3:31 into Round 2, suffering his second setback in three appearances.

Pearce (11-4, 2-1 UFC) dictated the terms of their engagement from the outset, as he countered effectively and executed multiple takedowns in a largely one-sided first round. He freed himself from an attempted brabo choke in Round 2, transitioned to Morales’ back and climbed to full mount before threatening with an arm-triangle choke. Pearce advanced to the back when the Sanford MMA rep stood, cinched the choke and let his squeeze do the rest.

The 29-year-old Pearce has recorded back-to-back victories, both of them second-round finishes.
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