Dvalishvili (15-4 MMA, 8-2 UFC) faces Yan (16-4 MMA, 8-3 UFC) in the UFC Fight Night 221 headliner March 11 at The Theater at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas.
With UFC bantamweight champion Sterling holding two wins over Yan in title fights, he’ll be Dvalishvili’s perfect training partner. Dvalishvili has mostly used his grappling to suffocate his opponents, most recently former featherweight king Jose Aldo.
“When Yan tries to be super technical, it’ll leave those wild strikes some openings and some room for (Dvalishvili) to set things up to get those takedowns,” Sterling said on his YouTube channel. “Or (Dvalishvili can) just get the entry and push him against the cage, drop a couple of strikes, push off, go back and do that again. And it’s not Merab’s job to get off the cage – it’s Petr’s job to get off the cage and do damage. Merab’s job is to put him on the cage, do damage, try to take him down, do damage.
“And that’s going to be the tempo of the fight. He’s going to have to fight Merab’s fight the entire time. This is a dangerous fight for Merab, but this is just as dangerous of a fight for Petr Yan. When you’re at the top of the game, it’s a game of inches. Merab just needs to be super dialed in, and I think he has the blueprint already on how to beat him. He’s got a striker’s blueprint from Sean O’Malley. He’s got a wrestler’s blueprint from myself.”
Former bantamweight champion Yan has been on the wrong end of back-to-back split decisions in a grapple-heavy affair with Sterling at UFC 273, followed by a standup battle against Sean O’Malley. In his loss prior to that, Yan lost his title to Sterling in their first outing at UFC 259 by disqualification, in a fight he was winning.