Frankie Saenz on narrow win over Merab Dvalishvili: 'In the future, watch out for that guy'

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Frankie Saenz left Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 123 event with a much-needed win and a warning about opponent Merab Dvalishvili.

“In the future, watch out for that guy,” Saenz told MMAjunkie.

In a preliminary-card bout that aired on FS1 from Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., Saenz (11-5 MMA, 4-3 UFC) squeaked by promotional newcomer Dvalishvili (7-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) with a narrow split-decision victory.

According to MMADecisions.com, it was a difficult fight to score. Media members registered tallies that ranged from 30-27 for Saenz to 30-27 for Dvalishvili. Ultimately, though, Saenz got the win with official 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 tallies.

Once a top bantamweight prospect, Saenz was stuck in a three-fight skid before his close win over Dvalishvili, a native of the country of Georgia who now trains with Team Serra Longo in New York. Saenz, a 37-year-old former KOTC champion, got his first victory since August 2015, and he endured three hard-fought rounds at UFC Fight Night 123 to get it.

Afterward, he raved about Dvalishvili, who entered the fight as nearly a 2-1 favorite and overcame a nasty and bloody head gash to keep the pressure on.

“Tough dude, man,” Saenz said. “He’s got a great career ahead of him, that’s for sure. … I hit him with a lot of shots, but in this game, everyone is tough.

“I hit him with a few, and he bounced back. He kept coming. He kept coming. That says a lot.”

Before the win over Dvalishvili, Saenz lost to Augusto Mendes via split decision but earned “Fight of the Night” honors. Before that, he tested himself against some elite 135-pounders – Urijah Faber and Eddie Wineland – and came up short. Now in his late 30s, he knows he has only so many years of fighting left ahead of him, but with a victory in the final fight of his current contract, he’s got some new life.

So, what’s next?

“Christmas with my family,” he said. “That’s what I’m thinking about right now.”

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC Fight Night 123 results: Frankie Saenz outworks Merab Dvalishvili for split decision

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Frankie Saenz spent much of his night just trying to stay upright against a takedown-minded Merab Dvalishvili.

But in a battle between one man who saw the clinch as an opportunity to strike and another who looked at it as an invitation to wrestle, Saenz (11-5 MMA, 4-3) did enough damage with his punches and knees to win a narrow split-decision victory over the debuting Dvalishvili (7-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC).

The bantamweight bout was part of the preliminary card of today’s UFC Fight Night 123 event at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. It aired on FS1 following additional prelims on UFC Fight Pass and ahead of a main card on FS1.

For Saenz, the challenge in this fight was finding and maintaining enough space to strike. That’s because Dvalishvili made it his mission to suffocate Saenz’s offense in close, using one body lock after another to attempt to drag Saenz to the mat and shut down his momentum.

The problem for Dvalishvili is that even when he finished those takedowns, they didn’t lead to much meaningful offense on the mat. And he found himself at a striking range with Saenz, he got battered by short punches and knees to the body in the clinch.

Early on it seemed like those blows might take a toll on Dvalishvili, as could the accidental clash of heads that opened his face up early in the fight.

But the UFC newcomer’s pace hardly waned over the course of three hard rounds, just as Saenz remained ever vigilant against the threat of the takedown while also managing to fire off some strikes in the small space he had to work with.

In the end, Saenz did enough to convince two of the three judges, winning the fight by the slimmest of margins with scores of 28-29, 29-28, and 29-28.

For Saenz, the win snaps a three-fight losing streak in the UFC, giving him his first victory in more than two years. Dvalishvili’s loss ends a six-fight winning streak outside the UFC.

Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 123 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan contributed to this report on site in Fresno.)

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Frankie Saenz vs. Merab Dvalishvili added to UFC Fight Night 123 in Fresno

The lineup for the UFC’s debut in Fresno, Calif., continues to grow with the addition of a bantamweight bout.

Frankie Saenz (11-5 MMA, 3-3 UFC) will take on promotional newcomer Merab Dvalishvili (7-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 123 in December. UFC officials recently announced the new booking following a report from MMA DNA.

UFC Fight Night 123 takes place Dec. 9 at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. The main card airs on FS1 following prelims on FS2 and UFC Fight Pass.

Saenz is badly in need of a win. After starting his UFC career with three straight decision wins over Nolan Ticman, Iuri Alcantara and Sirwan Kakai over a one-year stretch from 2014-15, the Arizonan is on a three-fight slide.

He had a solid showing against regular title challenger Urijah Faber at UFC 194 in December 2015, but lost a back-and-forth fight by unanimous decision. At UFC on FOX 20 in July 2016, he was knocked out by Eddie Wineland in the third round. And in January, in front of his home fans in Arizona, he got a “Fight of the Night” bonus – but lost a split call to Augusto Mendes for his third straight setback.

Dvalishvili is a member of the Matt Serra-Ray Longo fight team on Long Island in New York and gets his call from the UFC on the strength of a six-fight winning streak. In June, he landed a spinning back fist for a 15-second knockout of Raufeon Stots at Ring of Combat 59, giving him four straight wins for that promotion. Prior to that, he had a pair of wins for CES MMA in 2016 after a 1-2 start to his pro career.

With the addition, the UFC Fight Night 123 card now includes:

  • Cub Swanson vs. Brian Ortega
  • Liz Carmouche vs. Alexis Davis
  • Scott Holtzman vs. Darrell Horcher
  • Eryk Anders vs. John Phillips
  • Trevin Giles vs. Antonio Braga Neto
  • Carls John de Tomas vs. Alex Perez
  • Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Davi Ramos
  • Bryan Caraway vs. Luke Sanders
  • Merab Dvalishvili vs. Frankie Saenz
  • Benito Lopez vs. Albert Morales
  • Aljamain Sterling vs. Rani Yahya

For more on UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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