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Dvalishvili outworks Cejudo in key bantamweight bout

Chris Unger / UFC / Getty

Merab Dvalishvili left no doubt that he should be next in line for a shot at the UFC bantamweight title in his fight against former champion Henry Cejudo.

Dvalishvili defeated Cejudo via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) at UFC 298 on Saturday night at Honda Center in Anaheim.

Dvalishvili, the No. 2-ranked bantamweight, extended his winning streak to 10 with the victory. He said in his postfight interview he wants to fight the winner of the UFC 299 main event between champ Sean O'Malley and Marlon "Chito" Vera, which takes place March 9 in Miami. O'Malley was cageside for the fight and shown on the broadcast.

Cejudo, who was competing in his second fight after coming out of retirement last May, said earlier this week that he would retire again if he lost to Dvalishvili. The 37-year-old wasn't interviewed in the Octagon after the fight.

Cejudo started the fight strong, as he rocked Dvalishvili on the feet early in the first round. Cejudo got on top of Dvalishvili after a scramble midway through the frame, racked up a couple minutes of control time, and landed some ground-and-pound shots.

But Dvalishvili took over in Round 2 and never looked back. The Georgian fighter, known for his cardiovascular endurance, tagged Cejudo with big punches and dumped him to the ground. Dvalishvili attempted a guillotine late in the round, but Cejudo survived.

Dvalishvili outworked a tired Cejudo in the third. He sealed the win with a high-amplitude takedown and by controlling Cejudo against the fence at the end of the fight.

The 33-year-old stepped into the Octagon for the first time since a dominant win over former 135-pound titleholder Petr Yan last March. Dvalishvili, who also defeated UFC Hall of Famer Jose Aldo during his current stretch of victories, remains unbeaten since 2018.

Cejudo has now lost two in a row after dropping a split decision to then-champ Aljamain Sterling in his comeback bout at UFC 288. Cejudo, who also held the flyweight belt, retired in May 2020 as the reigning bantamweight champion.

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