Oh boy, do we have one heck of a fight in the co-main event of UFC 286. The majority of MMA fans are firmly fixated on a fascinating, trilogy-defining main event between UFC welterweight champion Leon “Rocky” Edwards and challenger (still sounds strange, doesn't it?) Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman.
However, the co-main of this card holds strong potential to not only be fight of the night, but potentially a fight of the year contender. This is because this co main event features two of the most exciting, explosive and energetic contenders in the UFC lightweight division – Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje, and rising star Rafael “Ataman” Fiziev. Read on below to find out just why this fight is so damn brilliant.
UFC 286: Gaethje vs Fiziev Predictions: Co-Main Event Fight, Odds, Analysis
Justin Gaethje Preview
You don't earn a nickname like “The Highlight” unless it's for VERY good reason. This is exactly the case with Justin Gaethje. He's been in almost too many epic fights to even remember. Even when Gaethje loses, he wins the hearts and minds of fans everywhere.
Gaethje came into the UFC in the most violent and explosive way imaginable. Up against perennial tough guy Michael “The Menace” Johnson, he won a TKO in one of the best fights of 2017, as well as fight of the night honours. Following two losses to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier (along with two more FOTN honours), Gaethje rebounded to flatten James Vick, in a fashion not too dissimilar to that of Mark Hunt against Stefan Struve.
Recent fights have involved a demolition of Tony Ferguson, a barn burner against Michael Chandler, and competitive losses to Charles Oliveira and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Yeah, you probably get the picture at this point.
Rafael Fiziev Preview
Of course, that now brings us to the newcomer. The challenger. The man looking to make a monstrous statement. That man is Rafael Fiziev. The Azerbaijani is looking for (by far) the biggest scalp of his professional career. He is looking to make a huge statement of intent against a walking wall of steel. But if there's any fighter who could do it, Fiziev is right up there.
Fiziev's only professional loss to date was his debut (in April 2019). From then, he has amassed an 11 fight win streak, in one of the UFC's toughest and deepest divisions. Fiziev got his first UFC win in October of that year, finally being able to show off what has gotten him so far.
It should be noted that Fiziev's resumé is no joke either. Big wins include UFC veteran Marc Diakiese, Renato Moicano, Bobby Green, and, perhaps most notably, Rafael Dos Anjos.
Justin Gaethje vs Rafael Fiziev Preview: What Makes This Fight Such a Must-See?
Well, a few things.
First, Rafael Fiziev is far from a stranger to bonuses himself. In his last five fights, he has been the recipient of either a POTN or FOTN bonus. Add this to the bookshelf full of awards Gaethje already has, and you have yourself a Molotov cocktail of a matchup between two of the most exciting fighters in one of the most exciting divisions of the UFC.
These two fighters are bonus magnets, so it would make a lot of sense to bet that these two guys are going to put on performances for the ages.
Secondly, and arguably even more importantly – neither Fiziev nor Gaethje see the bell all that often. And even when they do, you can guarantee that it's only come after an absolute war. Both Justin Gaethje and Rafael Fiziev are big fans of finishing fights, not letting fights finish out their full duration.
Justin Gaethje currently boasts an 87% finish rate from his 23 wins, with 18 of those coming by knockout, 2 by submission and just 3 by decision (just 13%). For his part, Fiziev enjoys a 75% finish rate, with 8 of his 12 wins coming by knockout, 1 by submission, with 3 decisions as well (25%).
Gaethje vs Fiziev Prediction
What's so interesting about this is that the Gaethje vs Fiziev odds have changed quite a bit since the fight was announced. Days after the announcement, Fiziev opened as a -275 favourite, with Gaethje coming in at +235.
Since then, money has started to come in on Gaethje, with the odds now narrowing to around +190 for Gaethje, with Fiziev still being seen as the general betting favourite at -230. This would indicate that the closer we get to the fight, the more public opinion seems to be swaying towards Gaethje. That being said, from a fight standpoint, this is nearly impossible to predict. The only real guarantee that can be made is that this fight will be an absolute car crash.
Who will come out winning in that, who knows? But one thing that is for certain is that we are in for an absolutely mega fight come Saturday, one that may even outshine the main event of UFC London itself. London called, Justin Gaethje and Rafael Fiziev have answered.