The Co-Main Event of the UFC 286 Main Card is set to be a possible ‘Fight of the Year’ contender and will have huge implications for the Lightweight (155 lb) Division as two of the most exciting fighters in the UFC square off. No. 3-ranked Justin Gaethje will do battle with the surging talent that is No. 6-ranked Rafael Fiziev. Both men have agreed to put on a show for the ages, so you won’t want to miss a second of the action as Edwards vs. Usman 3 follows immediately after! Check out our UFC odds series for our Gaethje-Fiziev prediction and pick.
Justin Gaethje is 23-4 as a mixed martial artist and has gone 6-4 in the UFC. He’s a former World Series of Fighting champion at 10-0 and has made a name for himself as the most violent and exciting man in the UFC. He has 10 total performance bonuses and has been involved in multiple “fight of the year” bouts. He’s been on a destructive path challenging for a title twice in the last few years and will be looking to make another run by stopping Fiziev and stealing his thunder. Justin Gaethje stands 5’11” with a 70-inch reach.
Rafael Fiziev is 12-1 in his fighting career and has gone 6-1 since joining the UFC. Since losing his very first debut fight, Fiziev never looked back, winning his last six bouts in a row and making a rapid ascent to the top of the lightweight rankings. After a complete domination of Rafael Dos Anjos, Fiziev will be tasked with taking down the No. 3 contender in Gaethje. Given a win, Fiziev will move into title contention and can look to call his title shot if he desires. Rafael Fiziev stands 5’8″ with a 71.5-inch reach.
Here are the UFC Odds, courtesy of FanDuel.
UFC 286 Odds: Justin Gaethje-Rafael Fiziev Odds
Justin Gaethje: +186
Rafael Fiziev: -245
Over (1.5) rounds: -176
Under (1.5) rounds: +138
How to Watch Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev
TV: UFC PPV
Stream: ESPN+ UFC PPV
Time: 5:00 p.m. ET/ 2:00 p.m. PT (Main Card)
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Why Justin Gaethje Will Win
Justin Gaethje is arguably the most exciting fighter to watch on the UFC roster as a fan. He is extremely violent, but does so in a controlled manner. While it may look like Gaethje is swinging wildly, he’s actually applying the perfect amount of pressure to break his opponents and weather down their chin throughout the fight. Gaethje will always welcome a car-crash collision and can usually come out on the other side as the fighter landing the more damage. Many will argue that his biggest strength is his striking, but it actually takes back seat to his wrestling abilities. He’s a former D-1 wrestler at Northern Colorado University with a 191-9 record and often has a huge wrestling advantage over his opponents. However, Gaethje only uses his wrestling to get up and further threaten his striking. His last few fights haven’t seen him do so, but look for Gaethje to work an exciting takedown into this one.
Gaethje’s biggest strength will be his heart and his ability to push forward under any circumstances. He’ll have an advantage the longer this fight goes with his training at elevation. If Gaethje can get in Fiziev’s face and pressure with quick boxing, he’ll have an opportunity to open up the takedown. He’ll have to keep his guard high as Fiziev is a vicious counter-puncher. Look for Gaethje to be more methodical in this one, but not any less violent than he’s been in the past. He’s seen this type of fight before so he’ll be confident in getting the job done.
Why Rafael Fiziev Will Win
Rafael Fiziev is a world-class Muay Thai kickboxer and does his training at the renowned Tiger Muay Thai Academy in Thailand. He’s one of the most vicious strikers in the division and many will argue that he has the most technical striking in the UFC. He’s certainly the perfect dance partner for Gaethje as Fiziev also welcomes huge exchanges in the pocket. He has lightning fast hands and can snap a high head kick in the blink of an eye. If he’s given the room to stand and strike, Fiziev will slowly pick his opponents apart with kicks to the legs and body. He also has a very underrated jiu-jitsu game and is a problem to bring down to the mat with a 92% takedown defense.
For Fiziev to win this fight, he’ll have to be the more damaging striker in the exchanges. If he doesn’t land hard enough on Gaethje to stun him, he can expect his opponent to continue walking him down and throwing haymakers. Look for Fiziev to utilize his kicking game as a way to keep Gaethje at distance. If he’s able to stay unharmed and not give up too many shots, Fiziev should be the cleaner striker in this one en route to a victory.
Final Justin Gaethje-Rafael Fiziev Prediction & Pick
Without a doubt, this is the most exciting fight of this card. Both fighters have agreed that this has the makings of “Fight of the Year” and all MMA fans are in for a treat. I expect Fiziev to come out very strong with leg kicks and challenge the chin of Gaethje to earn respect early. It’ll be interesting to see how Gaethje responds, especially as the underdog, but look for him to come right back at Fiziev and pressure him like he’s never been before. This fight is too close to call and not picking a side would make it that much more fun to watch. Let’s take the over as we sit back and enjoy this instant classic.
Final Justin Gaethje-Rafael Fiziev Prediction & Pick: OVER 1.5 Rounds (-176)