‘More Damage’ Promised by Justin Gaethje Against Rafael Fiziev

Justin Gaethje

Getty Justin Gaethje promises to bring the action against Rafael Fiziev at UFC 286

On March 18, 2023, the UFC plays host to one of the most electrifying matchups yet. Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje, known for his action-packed fights and impressive record of six fight of the night bonuses, four performance of the night bonuses, and two fights of the year, is about to lock horns with the talented and accomplished Muay Thai striker Rafael “Ataman” Fiziev.

Fiziev has been dominating the competition with his exceptional striking skills, and with an impressive kickboxing record of 39-8-0, many fans consider him the superior striker in this matchup. But Gaethje isn’t backing down from the challenge. In fact, he’s ready to prove that he’s the better striker in this matchup, as per his comments at the UFC 286 pre-fight press conference.

Justin Gaethje: ‘I’m Going to be Better on The Feet’ Vs. Rafael Fiziev

“A big difference this camp, is I really have been studying my opponent, you know, his fights, and trying to learn patterns I can take advantage of,” a reporter prompted Gaethje to reveal some of the patterns he mentioned. “I’ll show you on Saturday,” Gaethje remarked.

“In mixed martial arts you have to be confident in every single area, you know. Just because he’s a Muay Thai fighter doesn’t mean he won’t try to take me down to the ground,” Gaethje continued. “I’ve been working on getting up, working on a few submissions from the top. Yeah, you can’t ever look past someone’s ability to take it to the ground, because we all, in this sport, have that ability.”

In a discussion on who’s leg kicks are better, Gaethje explained, “They’re faster, but not quite as heavy, so we’ll see how it works….I do think he [bring] more striking, I think it will be mostly [Fiziev’s] game plan. But any of us, as soon as we face adversity in something that we thought we would [find success], we are going to move to a different option. I think I’m going to be better on the feet, I think I’m going to create more damage, take more angles, control more space. And yeah, I think [Fiziev will] find a position where he thinks [it might be advantageous].”

A History of Justin Gaethje’s ‘Damage’

Gaethje burst into the UFC with unprecedented levels of hype, headlining an event in just his debut. His first fight was against Michael Johnson, and both fighters put it all on the line and earned themselves 2017’s fight of the year. Gaethje, the victor, moved on to have two back-to-back losses against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, both fights were bloody wars of attrition.

After this losing streak, Gaethje improved stylistically, maintaining his patented pressure but becoming more defensively sound. This improved Gaethje would dispatch of James Vick, Edson Barboza, and Donald Cerrone all in the first round of each fight. With a three-fight win streak, Gaethje earned himself an interim lightweight title bout with Tony Ferguson, a fighter riding a 12 fight win streak who was renowned for unwavering determination, grit, and most of all, damage. Gaethje defied all expectations and put Ferguson through the meat grinder for the better part of five rounds, winning by TKO in the closing minutes of the final round.

Now holding the interim lightweight championship, Gaethje challenged the then lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Round one was competitive, with Gaethje visually hurting the undefeated champion with some chopping low kicks and looping overhand punches. Nurmagomedov snuffed Gaethje’s title aspirations in round two with a mounted triangle choke.

Gaethje returned nearly a year later to prove his mettle against Michael Chandler. Gaethje earned fight of the year 2021 with a dominant unanimous decision victory. This earned Gaethje his second title shot for the vacant lightweight belt against Charles Oliveira. Gaethje would repeatedly drop Oliveira, before being dropped and submitted himself.

Gaethje now fights Fiziev as the co-main event of UFC 286.

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