Saturday’s UFC 286 ushered in a fascinating and highly anticipated matchup between two fearsome strikers known for their kicks and punches, Justin Gaethje vs. Raphael Fiziev (Rafael Fiziev) duel.
As always, Gaethje has his wrestling skills in his back pocket, though he seems to only use it on defense, preferring to break opponents with his feet.
As expected, Fiziyev kicked in early – but missed. However, Gaethje hit home with a leg kick which almost brought Fiziev to his feet. Justin Gaethje will be kicking there, but probably not as often as he’d like. Fiziev’s speed caused him problems throughout the first round; kicks and batters were lightning fast. Gaethje, meanwhile, hit a huge knee in the middle of the first half of the frame, but he played well.
In a chaotic second half, Gaethje finally exploded his wrestling and while he didn’t land, he shot. Fiziev, however, was content with the threat and in the last minute or so he suffered another knee injury. Undeterred again, Gaethje hit Fiziev with a punch just before the buzzer.
Fiziyev jumped to his knee to shoot at the opening of the second leg, but it wasn’t clean. Gaethje continued to attack and Fiziev started to hurt one of his eyes. Gaethje’s eye jab then landed, giving Fiziev some time to recover. Back in the game, Gaethje kicked upstairs and Fiziev blocked it. In the middle of the round, Gaethje kicked the leg and then landed every punch as Fiziev retreated.
Later in the round, Fiziev had to deal with more low kicks from Gaethje, and the Azerbaijani didn’t like them. However, he will kick home hard.
At the beginning of the third quarter, Fiziev hurt Gaethje because Fiziev turned up the volume. Gaethje recovered but Fiziev’s pace still served him well despite his injured leg. They hug after about 90 seconds, with Gaethje tearing his body apart and Fiziev on his knees, but it doesn’t last long. Gaethje then grabbed a leg but gave it up shortly after.
In the second half, Justin Gaethje started to take over. His jab hits the mark, and Fiziev’s eyes are increasingly bloodied. Gaethje also started to find a home for his uppercut, and Fiziev seemed tired. At the last minute, Gaethje took the lead and secured the best round for the former interim champion.
Victory YYYYYY #UFC286 pic.twitter.com/frGzG9Kmaw
— UFC (@ufc) March 18, 2023
Coming to the scorecards, two judges awarded Gaethje 29-28, while a third judge ruled the match a draw, allowing The Highlight to win by majority decision. He announced after his victory that he plans to try for another title.
Good news for fighting fans, because Justin Gaethje can’t do a boring fight.
Official result: Justin Gaethje def. Rafael Fiziev by majority vote (29-28, 28-29, 28-28)