Originally slated to debut against Jack Shore last month before pulling out with an injury, Zviad Lazishvili now gets his UFC opportunity on short-notice after replacing Aaron Phillips on this weekend’s card.
After putting together a 10-0 record in his native Georgia, Lazishvili was inactive for over four years before returning to competition against Josh Huber at LFA 79 in 2019. That unanimous decision victory earned him a matchup with Ricky Steele for the vacant LFA bantamweight championship, a fight the Georgian won by first round submission to improve to 12-0.
Like his countryman and fellow bantamweight Merab Dvalishvili, Lazishvili’s MMA game is built around his wrestling. During his bout with Huber he was particularly adept at catching kicks and turning them into takedowns, doing so in all three rounds of that fight. On the ground he’ll apply tight pressure to deny his opponents the space to try and get up, and he’ll also look to posture up in order to deliver hard punches from the top.
Lazishvili also favors body locks in order to get his opponents to the mat. Even if he only gets them to their knees he can still do damage, as he’ll hold them in position with strikes and look to take the back when available to hunt for submissions.
On the feet he’s shown a solid jab and can throw a straight right with power, but he rarely puts the two together in combination. In the third round of that fight with Huber he was struggling badly on the feet before finally getting a takedown, and he scored that by catching a kick rather than using any striking to set up the opportunity.
This fight with Martinez is a tough debut, especially on short-notice. “Dragon” has been in the UFC since 2019, and he’ll hold a significant advantage as long as the fight stays standing. His kicking game is staple of his striking arsenal though, and Lavishvili is fully capable of turning those kicks into takedowns.
While he finished eight of his ten wins in Georgia via submission, it has to be noted that all ten of those opponents in Georgia held 0-0 records at the time and only a few of them continued their careers beyond that bout. There’s still time for him to develop, but the competition in the UFC is going to be a lot stronger than what he’s seen thus far. With his current skillset he could soundly out-grapple some opponents, but struggle against anyone than can deny his takedowns.
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A Mainstay Through the Years
Zviad Lazishvili has had a somewhat unusual path to his upcoming UFC appearance, but in my eyes he’s one of the top prospects the promotion has signed all year. He was previously scheduled for another short-notice bout back in September against Jack Shore but had to pull out with an injury, and its good to see that he’s getting another shot against Jonathan Martinez.
Lazishvili’s 12-0 record is strongly inflated by the 10 straight 0-0 opponents that he took out in Georgia (the country) to start his career. He showed off his grappling ability by submitting 8 of those 10 with a mix of chokes and limb attacks. However, it’s hard to judge too much of his skill from that period between 2011-2015.
A much better indicator of his talent are the two fights he had with LFA in 2019-2020 after a 4-year layoff. His American debut was a co-main slot against quality regional gatekeeper Josh Huber and he dominated with his grappling on his way to a unanimous decision. That earned him a chance at the vacant bantamweight title against 6-0 Ricky Steele, who had won fights on both the Ultimate Fighter and the Contender Series but didn’t manage to earn a UFC contract. This performance was even more impressive, as Lazishvili controlled the fight from the start and got it to the ground quickly, where he was able to get the finish by rear naked choke in the first round.
It’s been slightly more than a year since his last fight, and at 29 his time for a UFC run is now. My biggest concern with his game is that we haven’t seen much of his stand-up striking, but a dominant wrestler at his level is able to cover up any deficiencies there by quickly turning things into a grappling match. I think Lazishvili has a good chance of getting the win against Martinez, likely by decision as he’s tough to finish. He has great potential, as many Russian and Caucasian fighters have already proven how effective their wrestling style can be in the UFC
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A Mainstay Through the Years