Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight strikers Renato Moicano and Rafael Fiziev will duel this weekend (Sat., Dec. 12, 2020) at UFC 256 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Consecutive knockout losses ejected Moicano from the Featherweight title picture and entire division, but a 44-second submission win in his Lightweight debut proved the perfect rebound. Though Moicano may still be a far way off from reclaiming his former position in the Top 5, building a win streak is the best way to climb the ranks. Fiziev entered UFC with some hype behind him, but a quick knockout loss in his debut definitely slowed him down. Fortunately, the Kyrgyz athlete returned in style, showcasing Matrix-like defense and thudding kicks in his sophomore performance to reignite his momentum.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 14-3 (1)
Key Wins: Jeremy Stephens (UFC on FOX 24), Cub Swanson (UFC 227), Calvin Kattar (UFC 223), Zubair Tukhugov (UFC 198), Damir Hadzovic (UFC Fight Night 170)
Key Losses: Chan Sung Jung (UFC Fight Night 154), Jose Aldo (UFC Fight Night 144), Brian Ortega (UFC 214)
Keys to Victory: Moicano is a pretty nasty Muay Thai striker with an ultra slick grappling game. Well-rounded and capable of fighting at a high pace for three full rounds, there’s a reason Moicano was able to climb the ranks at 145 pounds.
Moicano’s kickboxing style is very Muay Thai. He has a stiff jab, but otherwise, the bulk of his offense is made up of heavy kicks and returns, in which he fires back a hook-cross-kick or cross-hook-kick combination immediately after his opponent attacks. This may prove an issue, as Fiziev has a ton of experience competing in Muay Thai fights, and he’s likely the better striker in that style. If Moicano tries to have a Thai boxing match, it’s unlikely to go well.
Fortunately, Moicano definitely has a big advantage on the mat if he can get it there. All seven of his finish victories come via submission, so changing levels into a double-leg after baiting his opponent into a firefight seems like a smart move.
Key Wins: Marc Diakiese (UFC Fight Night 172), Alex White (UFC Fight Night 162)
Key Losses: Magomed Mustafaev (UFC Fight Night 149)
Keys to Victory: Fiziev has more than 30 bouts in professional Muay Thai, and he’s a striking coach at Tiger Muay Thai, the gym that has helped produce champions like Petr Yan and Alexander Volkanovski. He very much seems like the real deal just three fights into his UFC career, though this will likely prove the biggest test of his defensive grappling yet.
Moicano’s best weapon is the jab. When he’s able to establish the strike, he blinds his opponents then digs low kicks. Fiziev may be better than most at avoiding and checking kicks, but if his nose is broken and his heads snapped back by the jab, kicks are likely to still get through.
Therefore, taking away the jab if a priority. In his last bout, Fiziev did an excellent job of sneaking kicks beneath his opponent’s punches, often ripping the ribs. Due to the risk of the takedown, he’d probably be safer attacking the legs, but still, timing Moicano’s jab with power kicks could really limit the strike’s effectiveness.
Otherwise, Fiziev has to be ready to wrestle. Ideally, he’ll keep his back off the fence entirely, but if Moicano does close distance, Fiziev must look to off-balance, trip, and escape back to center.
Both talented Lightweights are trying to climb the very crowded Lightweight ladder.
Moicano’s weight cut must have been hell, because he gave up a good position at 145 lbs. The road the the Lightweight top 15 is long and difficult, because there are many seriously talented up-and-comers trying to accomplish the same thing, and they don’t care much for the Brazilian’s Featherweight accomplishments.
A win here would not break the ranks, but it could likely set him up with a ranked foe next.
Fiziev is in a similar position in terms of being multiple victories away from a ranking, but he does have the advantage of being a newer, more exciting face. Should he pick up his third-straight win in style (i.e. by picking apart Moicano and looking slick), the odds of a high-profile match up next are fairly good.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 256 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN 2/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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At UFC 256, Renato Moicano and Rafael Fiziev will throw down. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?