In the featured prelim at UFC 266, we saw a bantamweight matchup between “Magic” Marlon Moraes (23-9-1) and Merab Dvalishvili (14-4). Both of these men entered the contest going in completely opposite directions.
Dvalishvili was souring heading into UFC 266 and looked like he was ready to take the next step into serious title contention. Meanwhile, Marlon Moraes has been tail spinning ever since he lost to Henry Cejudo in a battle for the UFC bantamweight championship.
The fight on Saturday couldn’t have started better for Moraes. Moraes was lighting Dvalishvili up with powerful kicks and then he landed vicious shots that had Dvalishvili out on his feet. For a moment, it looked like a Moraes finish was in the bag.
However, Dvalishvili somehow survived and the fight continued at UFC 266. Once Moraes didn’t get the finish, you could actually see the desire and fight inside of him completely leave his body.
After nearly finishing Dvalishvili, Moraes almost got finished by Dvalishvili late in the first round. The rest of the fight was completely dominated by The Machine and Dvalishvili went on to score a second round TKO.
What’s next for Moraes after UFC 266?
Marlon Moraes lost his UFC debut to Raphael Assuncao (27-8). After that loss, he won four straight which included avenging that loss against Assuncao. He also knocked out Aljamain Sterling and Jimmie Rivera during that stretch.
Those four wins gave him a UFC title shot against Henry Cejudo. In that fight, Moraes dominated the opening round. However, when it became clear that Cejudo wasn’t going away, Moraes started to break.
Cejudo would go on to stop Moraes in the third round. After that, Moraes got a win over Jose Aldo, however, the majority people thought he lost. Then, he was knocked out in back-to-back fights by Cory Sandhagen and Rob Font.
Those losses led him to UFC 266. Again, Moraes started great, but broke when he couldn’t get the finish. There are spots in Moraes’ fights where he looks like one of the best in the world. However, if his first gameplan doesn’t work, he completely falls apart.
There’s so much talent there, but he’s becoming so predictable. If you can survive the onslaught early, you’re going to finish him more than likely. He has some real soul searching to do ahead of his next UFC fight.
In terms of what’s next, I’m honestly not sure. He’s dropped to tenth in the rankings and the only fight that I can think of that makes sense is Raphael Assuncao again. The two are 1-1 in their series and the trilogy makes a ton of sense.
Now, Assuncao is fighting Ricky Simon in December. Regardless of that result, I think Assuncao should be the fight for Moraes.