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UFC Vegas 71 Main Event Breakdown

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After a four-week stint in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, the UFC has one more show before heading back out on the road. A week from Saturday night, the promotion heads to London for UFC 286 on pay-per-view.

UFC Vegas 71 will be held this Saturday, but it’s not at the UFC Apex facility. Due to the Apex being utilized later on in the evening for Power Slap‘s live finale, UFC Vegas 71 will instead be held at The Theatre at Virgin Hotels, a venue that will play host to the first three PFL events of its regular season in April.

The Power Slap finale has also caused UFC Vegas 71 to take place at an earlier-than-normal time. Undercard action for Saturday’s MMA event takes place at 3 pm ET/ noon PT, with main card fights at 6 pm ET/ 3 pm PT. In total, the show features 14 fights on a day when not everybody will be watching college basketball or the XFL.

Bantamweight Showdown in UFC Vegas 71 Main Event Saturday

Highlighting the day and evening’s itinerary in Sin City is a battle between top gladiators at 135 lbs. No. 2 contender Petr Yan (16-4 MMA, 8-3 UFC) takes on No. 3 contender Merab Dvalishvili (15-4 MMA, 8-2 UFC) in the UFC Vegas 71 main event.

Its winner could be awaiting a date with current UFC Bantamweight Champion Aljamain Sterling (22-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC) down the road. As with all UFC main events, this one is an advertised maximum of five rounds at five minutes per round to close the show.

UFC Vegas 71 Main Event Fighter Comparison and Betting Odds

Heading into the UFC Vegas 71 main event on Saturday night, Petr Yan, the former UFC Bantamweight Champion, stands as the taller combatant at 5-foot-7, compared to the 5-foot-6 frame of Merab Dvalishvili. The latter owns a one-inch reach advantage (68 inches to 67 inches) over the former, with the fighters standing level in leg reach (38 inches apiece.)

As it stands currently, the oddsmakers have Petr Yan installed as a -275 favorite, with Merab Dvalishvili countering as a +210 underdog. If you plan on betting on this or any other fight happening this weekend, please wager responsibly.

Petr Yan Looking to Rebound From Two-Fight Losing Streak in UFC Vegas 71 Main Event

Petr Yan enters Saturday night’s main event having gone 2-3 in his last five UFC appearances. He’s fallen on hard times of late and is currently on a two-fight skid. Last time out, the losing streak was extended due to a split decision against Sean O’Malley (16-1, 1 NC MMA, 8-1, 1 NC UFC) in UFC 280 last October, even though the former had the advantage in takedowns landed throughout the contest.

Yan made his opinions known about the judging, tagging the UFC’s official Instagram account in his story following the bout, using the middle finger emoji three times over. Several UFC fighters found the judge’s decision to be one that shortchanged Petr Yan.

UFC commentator Joe Rogan weighed in on the controversy on his podcast after the fight took place.

“A lot of people were shocked [at the decision]”, Rogan said on the Experience last fall. “There’s a video of Khabib [Nurmagomedov] watching the decision and Khabib is like, ‘How, how did he win? How?’…He was certainly in the fight against Petr Yan. He was a former champion, one of the best in the division, and by far the number-one contender. It was a very close fight, and he hurt Petr on multiple occasions, caught him with that big knee, and rocked him.”

Should Petr Yan drop the UFC Vegas 71 main event on Saturday night, it would be a career-high three-fight skid and would take him out of the championship discussion at bantamweight for the time being. Will he break the streak?

Dvalishvili Blasts Yan Ahead of UFC Vegas 71 Main Event

In the other corner, Merab Dvalishvili has gone 5-0 in his last five bouts. At the moment, he’s won eight fights in a row.

Back in August of last year, he scored a unanimous decision victory against Jose Aldo (31-8 MMA, 13-7 UFC) during UFC 278, the latter’s last bout before turning to boxing. In the pre-fight media availability on Wednesday afternoon, Dvalishvili got in a few verbal jabs at Yan.

“I think he’s a great fighter, a good family guy, but he’s not a humble guy,” Dvalishvili said. He’s not a great human. It doesn’t matter how good of a fighter you are, you have to be a good person.”

The time for the war of words is over. It’s almost time for the war in the cage. Can Dvalishvili take the next step toward the UFC Bantamweight Championship?

Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

Stylistically, the UFC Vegas 71 main event looks to favor Petr Yan, a Master of Sport in both boxing and MMA with a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, compared to Merab Dvalishvili’s black belt in judo.

Petr Yan’s Kicking Game Could Be Key in UFC Vegas 71 Main Event

Petr Yan has been known to knock his opponent down and out in the past. When it’s happened, it can be amazing to watch. Almost three and a half years ago, UFC Hall of Fame inductee Urijah Faber discovered it firsthand.

In the third and final round of action, although Yan nearly swelled Faber’s eye shut the previous round, Faber answered the bell. Yan opened things up with kicks to Faber’s midsection, with the two men each biding their time as they looked to land the next big blow.

Yan pieced Faber up with a kick to the body, followed by some feints to the head, forcing Urijah Faber to go to the clinch. It didn’t work for long.

About 40 seconds into the period, Yan landed a head kick right on the button to flatten Faber like a pancake during breakfast time. If Petr Yan can land as little as a single kick, the UFC Vegas 71 main event could be done and dusted in a hurry.

Dvalishvili Can Punch His Way To a Win

In the other corner, just as Petr Yan can find success in the kicking game, Merab Dvalishvili can knock him out with punches. Just ask Marlon Moraes and watch the footage from their last fight in September.

Round two saw Dvalishvili score with a kick to Moraes’ head and land a right-handed punch to knock him down. Moraes, already badly wobbled from a barrage of ground and pound shots late in the first round of the fight, absorbed body shots on the ground.

It was all Merab Dvalishvili, all the time in the second round. At one point, Dvalishvili had teed off for 67 straight punches. Although referee Keith Peterson gave Moraes every chance to defend himself, Dvalishvili had his number on that night.

Moraes attempted a takedown, but Dvalishvili thwarted his adversary’s efforts and continued to land more punches. Peterson mercifully stepped in with 35 seconds left in the round.

All it will take for Merab Dvalishvili to win on Saturday in the UFC Vegas 71 main event is to land one takedown. If he takes Petr Yan down, he can land ground and pound at will and control the pace of the fight.

Final Thoughts

This is an appealing fight on Saturday night. Whichever of the two fighters lands that first big punch is likely going to be the fighter who gets a championship shot in his next fight.

Prediction: Merab Dvalishvili by Unanimous Decision.

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about MMA since the spring of 2018. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew enjoys a good game and an even better fight. When he's not writing, you can find him playing video games and listening to music.