Justin Gaethje found himself being outstruck in the first fives minutes of his fight with Rafael Fiziev tonight at UFC 286, but as the rounds progressed he gradually began to get into his groove and landed damaging blows and a late takedown that helped him on his way to a majority decision victory.
Fiziev with a leg kick straight away. Now a higher kick attempted without success. Gaethje lands a leg kick and that knocked Fiziev off-balance for a split-second.
Gaethje misses with another low kick attempt. Body kick lands for Gaethje. Fiziev aborts one kicks attempt, but lands a body kick instead.
Another body kick scores for Fiziev. Calf kick from Gaethje and a one-two lands for Fiziev.
Gaethje looks for a big hook. Fiziev lands a body kick. Gaethje clinches up and Fiziev makes him pay for it with a knee to the chin before they break away.
Fiziev steps into a punch but misses as Gaethje ducks underneath. Fast body kick for Fiziev. Low kick for Gaethje as Fiziev tries to land to teh body.
Quick flurry of hooks from Fiziev at close range. Another fast flurry from Fiziev who has the speed advantage.
Leg kick for Fiziev and a couple of big punches unleashed by Gaethje. Gaethje checks a leg kick attempt.
Body kick for Fiziev. Gaethje tries to go in for a takedown and Fiziev stuffs it.
Fiziev steps into a hard knee to the body. They clinch up and then as they break apart Gaethje swings for the fences, but doesn’t find the target.
Missed low kick from Gaethje. Hard body kick for Fiziev. Another body kick for him. Fiziev launches into another well-placed knee to the body. Gaethje struggling with his speed and not able to get his own offense going.
Accidental eyepoke from Gaethje forces a brief stoppage, but Fiziev is ok.
They get back to it and Gaethje throws out a head kick attempt. Solid calf kick for Fiziev. Fiziev still wiping at his eye that was poked.
Gaethje with low kicks. He misses on another. Body kick for Fiziev and Gaethje fires back with a short flurry of punches that backs up his opponent for a moment.
Heavy body punch and a knee from Fiziev. Body kick for Fiziev and punches from Gaethje in return. Gaethje swings and misses, while Fiziev lands.
Both men firing off hooks. Fiziev wearing damage below both eyes at this stage in the fight. Low kicks exchanged. Another lands for Gaethje.
Front kick attempt from Fiziev looked threatening. Body kick for Fiziev and Gaethje lunges into a big punch at the bell that just misses.
Fiziev being mobile and then lands a big punch. In close Fiziev lands a knee and another strike and Gaethje looked hurt there for a split-second.
They clinch momentarily then back to striking range. Fiziev steps into a punch and misses, enabling Gaethje to counter with a couple of punches of his own.
Body kick for Fiziev. They go into the clinch and from the muay thai clinch Fizie lands a couple of knees and then backs out.
Body punch from Gaethje. Gaethje goes for a takedown. He has the single leg but Fiziev defends and so he gives up on it.
Leg kick for Fiziev. Gaethje pumps out the jab solidly three times. It lands again. Missed body kick from Fiziev.
Punch for Fiziev lands nicely now. Body kick from him. Uppercut for Gaethje. He lands his jab again. Front kick to the body from Fiziev.
Overhand for Gaethje. Now an uppercut from him. Body kick for Fiziev. Jab lands for Gaethje. Body kick for Fiziev and punches behind it.
Grazing right hand from Fiziev. Jab for Gaethje. That’s become a key weapon for him late in the fight. Solid uppercut in close from Gaethje. Another lands. Fiziev bleeding more now.
Back to the jab from Gaethje. Gaethje lands another big punch. Fiziev lands a knee to the body. Gaethje with the jab. Fiziev misses with a couple of big hook and that enables Gaethje to swoop in on a takedown and lands it in the final few seconds. Gaethje thinks he’s stolen the fight with that big final round and does a summersault off the cage to celebrate, but let’s see if the judges agree.
A great fight as expected then, with Fiziev starting strongly, but it was much closer in the second round as Gaethje started to find his mark, and then had his best round in the third to emerge with what turns out to a majority decision victory (29-28 x2, 28-28).