LAS VEGAS – The list of contenders in the lightweight division continues to grow. Rafael Fisiev is the latest to establish himself as a legitimate contender, knocking out former champion Rafael dos Anjos in 18 seconds in Saturday’s final round at Apex in the main event of UFC Vegas 58.
Fiziv said the next step for him is to decide who is the best Rafael. So, of course, when asked in the octagon who he wanted next, he named tennis superstar Rafael Nadal.
Seeing as Nadal fought Dos Anjos, he’d be wise to stay away from physio as much as possible. Fisiev is a decorated Muay Thai kickboxer, but he showed his full game on Saturday.
Dos Anjos racked up an astonishing 16 takedowns in four-plus rounds, finishing two. If a guy who strikes like Fizey can defend takedowns and sustain a fight, he’s a problem.
Yes, Fiziev is a problem for the other lightweights.
He has fast hands, accurate punches and plenty of power in both hands, as he showed when he finished the fight. He caught dos Anjos with a crushing left, ending the fight for all intents and purposes.
Fisiev followed him to the floor and landed a couple of flush shots, forcing referee Mark Smith to jump in and stop him.
“I was very tired in the fight, but I finished in the 5th round,” said Fisiev, who called out No. 3-ranked Justin Kathje. “That means something. [It proves] I can fight for five rounds.
Fisiev largely neutralized dos Anjos’ offense throughout the fight. Dos Anjos tried to slow down the bout, grappling with Fisiev in the cage and going down. But Fiziev’s takedown defense was fantastic and he frustrated dos Anjos time and time again.
When they were in space, Fiziev’s striking was on point and he picked Dos Anjos apart with sharp and clean shots.
Fisio never allowed dos Anjos to gain momentum and piled on the points with his striking.
Fisiev noted that it’s important to be patient and not try to get ahead of him as dos Anjos fights for takedowns.
“My head, my brain is crazy sometimes, I start fighting when I’m drunk,” Fisiev said of the need to be patient. “I thought a lot and fought smart. I didn’t try to get too crazy.
The win was Fiziev’s 12th in 13 pro fights and his sixth in the UFC since a first-round TKO loss to Magomed Mustafa in his promotional debut in 2019 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
But he’s now defeated Dos Anjos, Brad Riddell, Bobby Green, Renato Moicano, Mark Tiakis and Alex White — a solid group of opponents — on his way to victory.
He finished 10th in the division at Saturday’s tournament, but the division is full of killers and it may be difficult for Fisiev to advance much. Dos Anjos finished seventh, Mateusz Kamrod eighth and Tony Ferguson ninth ahead of Fiszew.
Kamrod is coming off an impressive win over Arman Sarukyan, and UFC president Dana White told Yahoo Sports that Kamrod is the no. 6 Peneil said he wanted to fight Dariush.
Fisyev called for the first five opponents, but it will be tough given the lineup there: Charles Oliveira, Dustin Poirier, Cathje, Islam Makhachev and Michael Chandler.
Oliveira is fighting No. 12 Conor McGregor, although the UFC wants him to compete against Makache for the vacant title. Poirier and Chandler seem headed for a confrontation, especially after that Their clash at UFC 276 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
So Fisyev will have to settle for a fight with Ferguson or a match with Sarukyan, either of which would be more fun. Given the loaded nature of the division, he should continue to win — and win impressively.
But that’s what he’s been doing. He has now finished three of his last four fights, with only his bout against Green going on the cards. He was brilliant at it, outboxing Green big time.
Gamrot also called Gaethje, but with White’s intention to pair him with Dariush, that could give Fiziev the matchup he wanted. He knew it would be fun.
“I think he’ll do my face like this, maybe [worse]Fisiev said he broke his nose early in the fight. “He’s dangerous. He’s a big challenge for me as well. He has a chance to knock me out, but I have a chance to knock him out. It’s a good fight, I think, for the fans as well.