Justin Gaethje Defeats Rafael Fiziev by Majority Decision at UFC 286

Alex BallentineMarch 18, 2023

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 7: Justin Gaethje after his loss to Charles Oliveira in their Lightweight bout during the UFC 274 event at Footprint Center on May 7, 2022, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Justin Gaethje picked up a massive win in the co-main event of UFC 286 from the O2 Arena in London, England, defeating Rafael Fiziev via majority decision.

The Highlight took the fight on two scorecards after a wild and chaotic match that will go down as an instant classic.

This one promised fireworks, and it didn't disappoint early. Fiziev showcased his speed in the first round, landing several good strikes on Gaethje, but The Highlight didn't shy away from the challenge, answering with kicks and punches of his own.

UFC @ufc

One round down. Heavy breathing. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UFC286?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UFC286</a> <a href="https://t.co/AMpjNiQjGW">pic.twitter.com/AMpjNiQjGW</a>

The breakneck pace didn't stop in the first round. Both fighters went to work implementing their own game plan. For Fiziev, that was highlighted by a series of body kicks that left a mark.

For Gaethje, it meant his signature volume and leg kicks. Every time Fiziev came forward, Gaethje would answer back with heavy hands. Fiziev's eye wore the evidence of his power:

ESPN MMA @espnmma

FIZIEV'S EYE 😨 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UFC286?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UFC286</a> <a href="https://t.co/W7IJROYg4W">pic.twitter.com/W7IJROYg4W</a>

It was a fun fight for everyone except for the judges, who had a difficult job to do:

Simon Head @simonhead

Second round was super-close. Gaethje more aggressive, Fiziev landing cleaner. Could go either way. Wish we had three more rounds of this. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UFC286?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UFC286</a>

Ultimately The Highlight earned the nod in a bout that most wouldn't mind seeing again.

It was a much-needed bounce-back performance for the 34-year-old. The last time we saw Gaethje in the cage, he was choked out by Charles Oliveira in the first round of their title fight at UFC 274 in May 2022.

That loss made it two out of the last three for the always-exciting Gaethje. He also lost a title fight to Khabib Nurmagomedov. The Eagles also submitted him, but it was in the second round.

This fight served as a good reminder that Gaethje is still a tough out for anyone that doesn't have suffocating wrestling or a slick submission game.

Still, Gaethje understands that his recent losses are going to keep him from a title shot in the immediate future. He's going to need some wins against lower-ranked opponents to set up the fights that he really wants.

"I think I'm sitting at number three right now, I'm going to fight down in the rankings as I think I should," Gaethje told media. "Then, after that, there is Poirier that is in front of me, Oliveira in front of me who's going to fight Dariush, and the winner of that fight is going to fight for the title. So, I either fight Poirier next, or if that's not the case, I fight for the title."

The Dustin Poirier rematch is one that should pique the interest of every MMA fan. The two fought in 2018 in an instant classic Fight of the Year. Now, The Diamond finds himself in a very similar situation.

He has a recent loss to Oliveira to his name but bounced back with a win over Michael Chandler. A fight between the two makes sense, and everyone would be a winner.