Henry Cejudo may or may not be main eventing UFC 288, but he does know who he’d like to be the reserve opponent ahead of his bout with Aljamain Sterling.
That fight–who should come as no surprise to anyone–is Merab Dvalishvili.
Dvalishvili turned in a horrifyingly dominant win over ex-champ Petr Yan last weekend, mauling him en route to a five-round shutout. Yan was a moderate favorite going into the fight, only having controversial losses to Sterling and Sean O’Malley being held against him, but he was wiped out.
Indeed, Dvalishvili should be considered for such a spot. If nothing else, there’s going to be a lot of talk about who will be willing to face the wrestling monster after he shot for a record 49 takedown attempts against Yan.
Cejudo might not be out of line with his request. O’Malley refused a reserve spot as the #1 ranked bantamweight, though he had an outside shot of landing the main event if Cejudo doesn’t commit to the fight. Dvalishvili would be a fine choice, though there’s a possibility he’d have to face friend and training partner Sterling for the title.
Cejudo, Dvalishvili set to be in unofficial round robin
The emergence of Dvalishvili as a legitimate title challenger combined with O’Malley’s star power could lead to a series of great fights at bantamweight. Cejudo and Sterling are finally confirmed to fight at UFC 288, and the winner is going to have a lot of worthy challengers.
Outside of those four is Umar Nurmagomedov, who is clawing his way up the rankings and could be a tough night out for the rest of the division. Ex-champs Dominick Cruz and Deiveson Figueiredo figure to be in the mix as well, and Marlon Vera is destined for a rematch with O’Malley at some point.
This could kick off a period of high-profile fights at bantamweight not unlike what we saw at lightweight following the retirement of Khabib Nurmagomedov.
During that time, there was a series of incredible fights with practically the entire top-15 fighting each other at one point or another. Even though the bulk of those fights have come and gone, the lightweight division remains a hot spot of must-see fights.
With any luck, we’re looking at something similar at bantamweight, and that is going to make a lot of people happy for a long time to come.