UFC 286 fight card: Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev among top undercard fights to watch from London

UFC 286 fight card: Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev among top undercard fights to watch from London

The homecoming celebration of UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards will continue on Saturday night. The Brit will defend his new title on home soil in a trilogy fight against Kamaru Usman at UFC 286. Before the rivals pick up where they left off, expectations are that Justin Gaethje and Rafael Fiziev will blow the roof off the O2 Arena in London, England.

Edwards and Gaethje — CBS Sports’ 2022 Knockout of the Year and 2021 Fight of the Year recipients, respectively — occupy the red corner on Saturday night. UFC 286 may not be the deepest card of the year, but the one-two combination of hometown hero and global fan-favorite will certainly make for an electric scene in London. 

The trend of European fighters and dynamic finishers runs through every section of UFC 286, from the pay-per-view main card to the early prelims.

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Let’s take a look at the three best fights to watch beyond Edwards vs. Usman 3.

Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev

Every Gaethje fight is a fight to watch and this one is no different. Gaethje is arguably the greatest action fighter in mixed martial arts and he has the bonus checks to prove it. Gaethje has cashed 10 post-fight bonuses — six Fight of the Nights and four Performance of the Nights — in as many UFC appearances. Fiziev is a reliable bonus hunter himself with five bonuses in seven UFC fights. Gaethje needs to get back on track after falling short in UFC lightweight title bids against Charles Oliveira and Khabib Nurmagomedov in two of his last three fights. Fellow KO artist Fiziev is on a stellar six-fight winning streak, stopping Rafael dos Anjos with punches and Brad Riddell with a spinning wheel kick. Gaethje has cleaned up his brawling style to become a more technical terminator, but the defensive gaps persist against the highest levels of opposition. Fiziev is technically sound, but Gaethje is by far the toughest fight of his career. Expect violence, lots of it.

Marvin Vettori vs. Roman Doldize

The middleweight division might have an intriguing top contender on their hands. Dolidze got a late start in MMA and has exceeded expectations at almost every turn. Dolidze started training MMA at 28 after grappling extensively and made his professional debut at heavyweight. Now a middleweight with a 6-1 UFC record, Dolidze has found reliable power with his strikes. Dolidze earned performance bonuses in his last three fights by stopping Jack Hermansson, Phil Hawes and Kyle Daukus. Vettori finds himself in limbo after losing to former middleweight champions Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker but can start rebuilding with a strong showing on Saturday. Should Dolidze beat Vettori, he can begin calling out the very best at 185.

Jack Shore vs. Makwan Amirkhani

Grappling fans should sit down for this one. Shore was shaping up as one of the most exciting up-and-comers in the bantamweight division. That all changed when his head got squeezed into submission by Ricky Simon. Shore, the native of Wales, is hanging on for dear life at the edge of the UFC’s bantamweight top 15, but he change his fortunes with a great performance against 25-fight veteran Amirkhani. Amirkhani is long in the tooth and has lost four of his last five fights, but Shore’s KO power has yet to materialize in the UFC. Shore should win this fight, but Amirkhani can make things interesting on the ground.

Honorable mentions: Muhammad Mokaev vs. Jafel Filho, Jai Herbert vs. L’udovit Klein, Gunnar Nelson vs. Bryan Barberena

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