Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev prediction | UFC 286
A fan favorite for his style, the number 3 ranked lightweight, Justin Gaethje (23-4; 6-4 in the UFC) will look to re-enter the win column after losing to the former champion, Charles Oliveira, in the first round last fight.
Winning will be no easy task given his opponent, number 6 ranked, Rafael Fiziev (12-1; 6-1 in the UFC), is one of the most electrifying prospects who combines elite striking with an impressive ability to keep the fight standing.
Knowing Fiziev is a striker through and through coupled with the fact Gaethje enjoys a brawl more than just about anyone, the conclusion is that this bout should be a standing affair for however long it lasts, consequently, is a leading candidate for FOTN.
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Rafael Fiziev, riding a 6-fight win streak, is priced as a -238 favorite over Justin Gaethje, who comes back as a +180 underdog.
The lightweight division is littered with dominant wrestlers. On paper, this fact would be of little concern for Justin Gaethje given his background as a 2-time high school state champion and D1 college wrestler. But, Gaethje has seemingly abandoned his wrestling credentials given his difficulty in this department against the elite of the elite. The consequence of doing so is obviously given he has lost championship-caliber fights to elite grapplers, but, the benefit is him turning into one of the most feared strikers to stand against given he is one of, if not the most, powerful punchers in the division.
Beyond having thunder in his fists, Gaethje uses a quick and snapping leg kick when at range, making him a complete striker given he can have success from distance, and if turned into an in-the-pocket fight, his elite power makes him a probable candidate to get the better of tight exchanges. This skill set makes him far more well-rounded in striking than his bar-like style gets credit for, and, when you add the fact he has KO’d a hyper-quick, kick-centric fighter in the recent past of Edson Barboza, his opponent here needs to recognize the threat that Gaethje is. If not, Gaethje can re-enter the winning circle, likely in fight-ending, thumping fashion.
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Rafael Fiziev is one of the most entertaining strikers in the entire UFC. His speed and precision with the variety of strikes thrown is a thing of beauty, and, he has had moments of matrix-like movements from a defensive perspective. This ability, to have a plethora of elite offensive strikes with a keen awareness to dodge damaging blows from a defensive perspective makes him one of the best strikers in the UFC.
Often, when a striker of Fiziev’s caliber enters the octagon, his opponent seeks to take him to the mat. The issue, for his opponents, is that he has a TD defense of 92% in the UFC, and, as shown in his last fight against the hyper-dangerous grappler of RDA, Fiziev can get up off the mat if somehow taken there. So, having the ability to stay on his feet gives him the advantage in his fights given the elite attributes he possesses in the striking department. The only concern Fiziev has mildly shown in his fights is lacking a significant positive gap in strike output for him compared to his opponent. While this is the case, particularly in a time of bad judging, he does win the striking battle from a visual perspective because he lands with clean, precise power, compared to his opponents landing mildly missed shots on him.
When there is a fight between two high-end opponents with similar styles, something unexpected typically happens with regard to how the fight plays out. For this fight, I have complete confidence this bout will indeed be a standing affair, and knowing each opponent has strengths with fighting at range and close in the pocket, I have further confidence this will be a highly entertaining fight from start to finish.
Under the presumption this will be a standing affair, I am electing to back the favorite, Rafael Fiziev, to secure his 7th straight win. While I would not be surprised whatsoever if Gaethje lands one of his massive power shots to secure a victory, I trust the probability of victory is in Fiziev’s favor, as he has the far faster kicks, demonstrated ability to avoid power shots, and, has a plethora of fight-ending attacks that are thrown from a variety of angles that are often not seen, thus lands cleanly. The implied odds state that he has a 69% chance of winning, and given this stylistic matchup is simply perfect for Fiziev, I believe his chances are closer to the 75% range, so, there is 75 cent value in the ML price, as such, I am perfectly okay laying the -225 price tag on him on the ML.
Pick: Fiziev to win (-225)