Dynamic all-action Lightweight strikers Justin Gaethje and Rafael Fiziev locked horns tonigiht (Sat., March 18, 2023) at UFC 286 inside The O2 in London, England.
Gaethje entered the bout following a disappointing first round submission loss to Charles Oliveira in May 2022 (watch highlights) — his second failed title bid — and opted to take some time off to rest and regroup. Fiziev, meanwhile, was on a six-fight tear, knocking out established Lightweights to prove that he is one of the brightest up-and-coming talents in the division.
On paper, the electric 155-pound showdown was easily the favorite to steal the show and come away with a post-fight bonus. And it stuck the landing come showtime, with Gaethje earning a majority decision win after a hectic back-and-forth war.
Gaethje, an accomplished amateur wrestler, hinted ahead of the bout that his gameplan was to “not get hit.” But, Fiz came out kicking, landing a hard low kick to get the action going. Gaethje responded with a kick of his own, which spun around “Ataman” and got the crowd chanting his name. Nice kick to the belly from Gaethje, with Fiz responding in kind moments later. Another body kick from Fiz, who missed with a huge right hook. He went back to the well and missed Gaethje with a wild haymaker, but the next one landed. Bit of a fire fight broke out and Fiz landed another hard shot upstairs, but Gaethje walked right through it. Nice one-two combination from Gaethje, with Fiz missing on a body kick. Fiz dug the body with punches, closed the combination with a Muay Thai kick. Nice, hard exchange from both fighters who are really bringing the heat with each strike. With less than one minute in the round, Gaethje attempted a takedown in the center of the Octagon, but Fiz shucked him off easily. Huge flying knee from Fiz landed on Gaethje’s chin down the stretch, but he ate it just fine. Big counter punch from Gaethje at the bell — fight was awesome early as advertised.
Round two began with Fiz on the hunt, while Gaethje whiffed on a low kick. Big kick from Fiz appeared to finally dent Gaethje a little bit, but he kept moving forward regardless. Flying knee from Fiz, with Gaethje landing a looping right hand on his exit. Fiz missed with a spinning backfist, and shortly thereafter, the referee stopped the action for an accidental eye poke. Fiz was fine, though, and the crazy action restarted with a hard elbow to Gaethje’s face. Low kick from Fiz, who appeared to have an issue seeing out of his left eye. Gaethje put together a hard combination, not sure if much got through, but Fiz was on his backfoot. Gaethje continued to pour it on, but Fiz was still there. Hard elbow upstairs from Gaethje, who was really starting to feel it. Front kick from Fiz, whose right eye was suddenly damaged like the left. The kicks from Gaethje appeared to have slowed Fiz midway through the fight, but he did land a nice gut shot down the stretch — strong round for Gaethje.
Third and final frame, with Fiz switching stances in the center of the cage, clipping Gaethje early with a hard right hand. Gaethje was finally hurt, with Fiz drilling him with a hard kick to the body as he tried to circle and catch his breath. Fiz missed on a wild right, while Gaethje countered with a short combination inside. Big knees from Fiz in the clinch as both figthers got tangled in the center of the cage. Gaethje attempted another surprise takedown, but Fiz was hip to it and remained upright. Nice jab from Gaethje, then another ... and another, keeping Fiz at distance and damaging those eyes. Uppercut from Gaethje, but Fiz was still right in front of him. Big overhand right from Gaethje, then an uppercut, with Fiz responding with a hard kick to the body. Sweet kick-punch combination from Fiz, with Gaethje just landing the hard jab at will. The uppercut from Gaethje is really working, but Fiz ate them all. He rocked him with it with 30 seconds on the clock, but Fiz continued to march forward — the crowd was going wild. He ended it with a takedown at the bell to secure his hold on victory.
Gaethje did indeed get hit, but as a result, he is now back in the title hunt. And with another big win in a few months, it could come sooner rather than later.
Final result: Justin Gaethje def. Rafael Fiziev to win majority decision
A ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR THESE WARRIORS #UFC286 pic.twitter.com/xPfcxAC85l— UFC (@ufc) March 18, 2023
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 286 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN2/ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 286: “Edwards vs. Usman 3” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.