UFC Vegas 85: Roman Dolidze, brutish knockout artist and jiu-jitsu savant
Dolidze is a man who contains multitudes. He’s a very macho fighter, an athlete who responds to getting punched by flexing and daring his foe to brawl. He also held the rear waist lock on Laureano Staropoli for about 15 straight minutes in an all-time bad fight. His kickboxing comprises mostly winging his power hand, yet his bottom grappling game could be considered downright revolutionary — nobody else is playing k-guard in the cage.
In short, his skill set and strategy are at times baffling, but let’s take a closer look at the Middleweight contender’s abilities anyway:
Dolidze is a fairly straightforward kickboxer, but that doesn’t mean he’s ineffective.
The Georgian athlete is a switch-stance fighter. Unlike T.J. Dillashaw or Dominick Cruz, however, he’s not usually switching mid-combination. Instead, he shifts while well outside his opponent’s range, allowing him to come forward with power from an entirely new stance. Against Khadis Ibragimov, for example, Dolidze took a step back from Orthodox into Southpaw and immediately blasted a left high kick, ending the fight in an instant.
In general, Dolidze likes to stand in the opposite stance of his opponent when possible, which can help set up power kicks and big overhand swings. Interestingly, Dolidze hasn’t kicked nearly as often since dropping to Middleweight, but he lands with good form and power when he does kick.
As of late, Dolidze is fighting more like a marauder. He marches toward his opponent and slings right hands. It’s often that simple, and Dolidze is happy to follow up his right hand swing with alternating hooks if his opponent stands in place or crashes into the fence. Dolidze will also help set up the overhand by showing the strike, stepping forward, then actually committing to his punch.
Dolidze’s clinch has grown increasingly violent in his recent fights, and perhaps that growth was spurred by the awful Staropoli fight. Lately, he’s been breaking the clinch with nasty left hooks, one of which sent Kyle Daukaus to the floor. When Daukaus returned to his feet, an unexpectedly high knee from the outside angle crashed into the mush of his face, ending the contest immediately (GIF).
That about sums up Dolidze as a kickboxer. He’s aggressive, durable and has power, but it’s hard to say that he has a consistent strategy on the feet to win individual minutes of a fight. He’s fairly hittable as he presses forward, and once his opponent picks up the timing on his overhand, he doesn’t rely have more ideas.
Dolidze doesn’t have a notable wrestling background, but he’s been effective in the Octagon.
Dolidze has an athletic double leg that he tends to time quite well. Usually, he looks to duck under a punch and blast his opponent off their feet. He’s also demonstrated the ability to instead finish by cutting an angle towards the back. This is how he repeatedly wound up behind Staropoli so often.
Speaking of the back clinch, Dolidze has a few good options from that position. Landing knees is definitely viable, especially since he’s now aiming them at the head rather than thigh. Aside from trying to clamp down on the rear waist lock and force his opponent to the floor, Dolidze transitions well back into the double leg as his opponents looks to turn and face him.
Defensively, Dolidze’s wrestling is pretty bad, but this can partially be blamed on his willingness to play bottom. Let’s talk about that …
A jiu-jitsu black belt accomplished in competition, Dolidze is a leg lock specialist who actually knows how to use his leg attacks in mixed martial arts (MMA). Indeed, Dolidze’s last two victories saw him use leg attacks to debilitate his opponents and leave them vulnerable to strikes.
Dolidze’s exchanges on the floor against Jack Hermansson and Phil Hawes played out similarly. First, Dolidze attacked his opponent by framing and landing hard elbows from bottom. When his opponent began to pull away because of the elbows, Dolidze used that space to begin underhooking a leg and attacking with a pendulum sweep. Using the underhooked leg, Dolidze swings his hips to build momentum and then tries to extend his leg into his opponent to knock them over. He actually managed to complete the pendulum sweep in the first round against Jack Hermansson, but the Swede scrambled to his feet before top control could be established.
From the pendulum sweep attempt, the two finishing sequences diverge. Against Hawes, he used the angle to attack an armbar, a classic pairing with the pendulum sweep. When Hawes yanked his arm free and created more space, Dolidze rolled up onto Hawes and attacked the leg. Inverting over his own shoulder, Dolidze knocked over Hawes with a knee reap.
From a belly down position, Dolidze ended up halfway between a kneebar and a heel hook. When he hipped in and applied pressure, he ripped something in Hawes knee, leaving him barely able to stand.
Back to Hermansson, who also pulled away to avoid the armbar. As Hermansson hooked under the leg, he instead used his inversion to threaten a reverse triangle choke — funky! Hermansson managed to pop his head free … right into a knee reap situation! At this point, Hermansson tried to spin away to free his knee and escape, but Dolidze followed him by sitting up and lining his shin behind the knee. Hermansson was fully trapped in a calf slicer, which Dolidze used to pin him belly down and land free punches.
This sequence of transitions is top-notch MMA jiu-jitsu. It’s also a considerable improvement from Dolidze’s early showings against the likes of John Allan and Trevin Giles, as he repeatedly gave up top position by attempting to dive roll into failed kneebars.
Dolidze is a unique challenge at 185 pounds. His power punching demands to be taken seriously, and his jiu-jitsu is lethal … but only in specific circumstances. Against another inconsistent (but super talented) Middleweight in Imavov, it’s anyone’s guess who’s going to take home the victory.
LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 85 On ESPN+
TOP-RANKED MIDDLEWEIGHT MASHER! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) continues its 2024 mixed martial arts (MMA) campaign on Sat., Feb. 3, 2024, in Las Vegas, Nevada, with No. 8-ranked Middleweight contender, Roman Dolidze, taking on No. 11-seeded, Nassourdine Imavov, in the ESPN+-streamed main event. In UFC Vegas 85’s co-feature, all-action Lightweight veterans, Drew Dober and Renato Moicano, will throw down in an early “Fight of the Year” contender.
Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 85 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
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