The champ may be stuck on the sidelines for awhile, but that doesn’t mean the Ultimate Fight Championship (UFC) bantamweight division is staying still. Two of its most fearsome strikers will do battle this Sat. night (Dec. 4, 2021) when power-punching Rob Font and mixed martial arts (MMA) legend Jose Aldo headline UFC Vegas 44 at the promotion’s APEX facility in Las Vegas.
Speaking of elite standup artists, lightweight kickboxing aces Brad Riddell and Rafael Fiziev are set to duke it out in a co-main event for the ages.
Our usual main card guy lost a knife fight over a PS5 on Black Friday, so this sacred duty falls to me once again. As usual, we’ve got UFC Vegas 44 “Prelims” breakdowns here and here, a look at the latest odds and betting lines over here, and Andrew Richardson’s professional fight analysis for the rest of the UFC Vegas 44 main card right here.
Let’s get cracking.
135 lbs.: Rob Font vs. Jose Aldo
Record: 19-4 | Age: 34 | Betting line: -150
Wins: 8 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 7 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 5’8” | Reach: 71.5” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.58 | Striking accuracy: 43%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.57 | Striking Defense: 61%
Takedown Average: 1.20 (40% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 53%
Current Ranking: No. 4 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Cody Garbrandt
Jose “Junior” Aldo
Record: 30-7 | Age: 35 | Betting line: +130
Wins: 16 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 12 DEC | Losses: 4 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 5’7” | Reach: 70” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.63 | Striking accuracy: 45%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.59 | Striking Defense: 61%
Takedown Average: 0.55 (56% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 91%
Current Ranking: No. 5 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Pedro Munhoz
I won’t lie, this was one of the fights I was glad I didn’t have to predict. Puzzling out an extremely close matchup is fun, but not so much when you have to slap your answer onto the Internet for the whole world to see.
It would be exponentially easier if this was a three-rounder, where Aldo’s more versatile striking attack and underutilized grappling game figured to reign supreme. The big question, as it seemingly always is when the “King of Rio” steps in to the cage, is where his cardio’s at. He’s definitely given some conflicting evidence lately; he faded down the stretch against Petr Yan, won a fairly sedate decision over Marlon Vera, then landed a career-high 114 significant strikes in three rounds against Munhoz without ever slowing down.
Call it nostalgia for the monster I admired when I first began watching this sport, but I’ll be an optimist and put my stock in the most recent fight.
Font is without question a terrific boxer with the skill and output to give Aldo fits. Between Font’s inconsistent takedown defense, Aldo’s excellent body attack, and the omnipresent threat of Aldo’s kicks, however, the former champ looks to have what it takes to slow things down and take over. I won’t deny that it’s more a heart pick than a head pick, but give me a 3-2 Aldo decision.
Prediction: Aldo by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Brad Riddell vs. Rafael Fiziev
Brad “Quake” Riddell
Record: 10-1 | Age: 30 | Betting line: +105
Wins: 5 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 5’7” | Reach: 71” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.75 | Striking accuracy: 53%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.18 | Striking Defense: 62%
Takedown Average: 2.00 (42% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 62%
Current Ranking: No. 12 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Drew Dober
Rafael “Ataman” Fiziev
Record: 10-1 | Age: 35 | Betting line: -125
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 5’8” | Reach: 71” | Stance: Switch
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.34 | Striking accuracy: 52%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 5.76 | Striking Defense: 50%
Takedown Average: 0.59 (50% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 100%
Current Ranking: No. 14 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Bobby Green
Speaking as a longtime fan of Fiziev’s, he had a lot more trouble with Bobby Green than I expected. He’d gone three rounds without issue against Alex White and Marc Diakiese, but he cowed the both of them early and was able to cruise at a moderate pace. Green, by contrast, stayed on him all night and found a ton of success in the last round as Fiziev’s dynamism waned.
That looks like the kicker here. Riddell and Fiziev are extraordinarily closely matched; both boast extensive striking pedigrees and excel in the pocket. It’s undoubtedly going to be a firefight, and I trust Riddell’s ability to maintain a furious tempo more than I do Fiziev’s. Riddell also showed off some sneaky wrestling chops in his win over Drew Dober, which could serve to break the striking deadlock and wear Fiziev out even more efficiently.
Riddell has his own red flag, however, and that’s his tendency to start slow. He’s lost the first round on all three scorecards in each of his last three fights before getting his act together and taking over down the stretch. Even if Fiziev can’t exploit that for an early finish, that’s still an ostensibly guaranteed round in what’s surely going to be a nip-and-tuck battle.
Against a striker this seasoned and versatile, there’s a very real chance that Riddell fails to make the download in time to claw his way out of an early hole. As we saw against Green, Fiziev has the footwork and savvy to play keep-away even with an emptying gas tank. Still, I like Riddell to seize the initiative and pour on the hurt in time to grind out a win.
Prediction: Riddell def. Fiziev by unanimous decision
Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 44 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.
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.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 44: “Aldo vs. Font” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.