Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight kickboxers Brad Riddell and Rafael Fiziev will throw down this weekend (Sat., Dec. 4, 2021) at UFC Vegas 44 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Sometimes, a match up just has to happen. Riddell and Fiziev are former training partners, and both expressed interest in facing each other only in the event of a title fight. However, the two strikers are also among the most exciting newer faces at 155 pounds, skilled knockout artists happy to take home a “Fight of the Night” bonus or two. With both men having earned their way into the Top 15, it makes sense from a rankings perspective, too.
Their personal feelings aside, the booking was just too electric to be denied. Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Drew Dober (UFC 263), Magomed Mustafaev (UFC Fight Night 168), Jamie Mullarkey (UFC 243), Alex da Silva (UFC 253)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Representing City Kickboxing and Tiger Muay Thai — where the two have crossed paths — Riddell is one Lightweight’s finest strikers. “Quake” has nearly 70 professional kickboxing matches all around the world, and inside the Octagon, he’s proven an excellent combination striker with real power.
This is a match up of expert strikers with similar builds and styles who understand each other’s games intimately already. I’d love to profess to have found some secret opening for one man or the other to exploit ruthlessly, but more likely, we’re in for a highly competitive battle as both men adjust on the fly.
For Riddell, I’d like to see him really make an effort to take away Fiziev’s kicks. “Ataman” loves nothing more than ripping into his opponent’s mid-section with full power kicks, but there is opportunity in all that explosion. If Riddell can chop the base leg mid-kick or immediately answer with strikes, he may begin to nullify one of Fiziev’s best weapons. Worst case, he should at least try to raise his knee and block the power kicks bone-on-bone.
If one man is going to wrestle, Riddell seems the more likely man to succeed. Even if takedowns are not the core of his strategy, the occasional shot could help keep Fiziev honest or turn a round to his favor.
Key Wins: Bobby Green (UFC 265), Renato Moicano (UFC 256). Marc Diakiese (UFC Fight Night 172), Alex White (UFC Fight Night 162)
Key Losses: Magomed Mustafaev (UFC Fight Night 149)
Keys to Victory: Fiziev is majorly explosive. When the Sanford MMA-trained fighter releases a powerful left kick or steps deep into an overhand, his opponents are forced to respect it, because Fiziev can end the fight in an instant.
A fast start would seemingly benefit Fiziev. Between the two, he’s shown more one punch power inside the Octagon, and in general, Riddell has struggled more so earlier in fights than later. He’s not impossible to hit early, and given Fizier’s speed and explosiveness, that could be all the opening required for an early stoppage.
If not, Fiziev has to pick and choose when to exchange. As the recent Green fight showed, Fiziev can overexert himself throwing everything with such dynamic movement, and Riddell has proven himself very capable of taking over fights as the rounds wear on. To avoid such a fate, Fiziev would be wise to occasionally disengage and recover momentarily in hopes of ensuring a pace that he can maintain.
Lightweight match ups don’t get much better outside of the Top 10.
Both of these men are on the fast track to the Lightweight division’s elite ranks. It’s not hard to see why: each fighter has quality credentials, has won four straight inside the Octagon, and pick up performance bonuses with regularity. They’re all-action prospects, and they have the skill to back it up.
Likely, the winner of this match up receives a Top 10 foe next. Progress is not always guaranteed at 155 pounds — ask Islam Makhachev — but an opponent along the likes of Gregor Gillespie or Carlos Diego Ferreira next would make sense. Alternatively, the losing man will be forced to build a new win streak to earn such an opportunity, likely by fighting an unranked opponent next.
At UFC Vegas 44, Brad Riddell and Rafael Fiziev will go to war in the co-main event. Which striker remains standing when the dust settles?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 44 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN at 10 p.m. ET.
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