To borrow a phrase from Dashboard Confessional, so long sweet summer. The seasons change this weekend and with it comes the end to the UFC’s seventeen week string of events. Before the week off, the UFC pits two of the lightweight division’s best against each other for UFC Fight Night: Fiziev vs. Gamrot.
Rafael Fiziev made waves in the UFC by winning six consecutive fights, including back-to-back knockouts over Brad Riddell and former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos. His streak came to an end in his last bout, losing a majority decision to BMF title winner and former interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje. He looks to get back on track against another rising star, Poland’s Mateusz Gamrot. Gamrot got back on track by defeating Jalin Turner in his last fight after coming up short against Beneil Dariush. He also holds a win over standout Arman Tsarukyan.
The co-main event features the featherweight division as Bryce Mitchell takes on Dan Ige. Mitchell is fighting for the first time since losing to Ilia Topuria which was his first professional setback. Ige, a perennial contender, will look to fully derail the Bryce Mitchell hype train by handing him his second straight loss.
UFC Fight Night: Fiziev vs. Gamrot airs live in its entirety on ESPN+ starting at 4 p.m. ET.. Combat Press writers Dan Kuhl and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.
Rafael Fiziev had a six-fight winning streak snapped in his last fight; can he thwart a fellow contender in the main event and turn back Mateusz Gamrot?
Kuhl: Sixth-ranked lightweight Rafael Fiziev had the hype train leave the tracks briefly when he lost an epic war with Justin Gaethje back in March by majority decision. However, the train is still rolling, as he enters a tough fight against Mateusz Gamrot on Saturday night. The Kazakhstani fighter is a problem for any opponent, including Gaethje. He was on a six-fight winning streak and earned his fifth bonus in a row. Between his training with Tiger Muay Thai and Kill Cliff FC, his striking is on point, and his grappling is ever improving.
The No. 7 lightweight Gamrot is also a problem for his opponents as well. He, like Fiziev, has only lost twice in the Octagon, and his most recent loss was to Beneil Dariush back in Oct. 2022. He bounced back with a split decision victory over Jailin Turner in March, so he, too, has not fought in six months. He is a two-time ADCC European champion in submission wrestling and holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. So, this is definitely a striker-versus-grappler affair, even though both men can take the fight anywhere.
Normally, I lean toward the grappler in this type of match-up, because when things get dicey on the feet, like can happen with Fiziev right out of the gate, they tend to get the fight to the ground where they can shine. The problem for Gamrot, though, is that fights start standing, Fiziev is a switch hitter who lands a high volume of strikes, and he also has some really great takedown defense. The last thing Gamrot needs is an unsuccessful takedown that ends with a lot of punishment, but that’s exactly what I see happening until Fiziev gets a TKO before the midpoint of Round 2.
Petela: Dan’s analysis started off so strong, but much like Fiziev’s hype train, he got derailed. The difference maker in this fight is going to be the overwhelming wrestling of Mateusz Gamrot.
Fiziev will have to make a choice, commit to long striking combinations or be more hesitant to try and avoid takedowns. He may swing with bad intentions early on, but, after Gamrot counters the big punches with a level change a time or two, it will make Fiziev a bit more careful not to put himself out of position. This fight won’t be as exciting for fans of wild brawls as the Fiziev vs. Gaethje fight, but there will be a lot of good scrambles between these two rising stars. Gamrot will win position after those scrambles and control Fiziev on the ground for the majority of this fight.
I expect each round to look similar in this one with Fiziev landing the better strikes early on in each round, before getting taken down. He will work his way back to his feet, but won’t be able to get enough separation to get back to range, and Gamrot will get him back down to the mat where Fiziev ends up accepting bottom position and playing a largely defensive game until the horn sounds. Lather, rinse, repeat. At the end of the fight the ground control and damage that Gamrot does will outweigh any striking damage done by Fiziev and he will win a clear-cut decision.
Bryce Mitchell suffered his first career loss the last time he fought and has had two fights canceled since then; can “Thug Nasty” get back in the win column this weekend?
Petela: Going into his fight with Ilia Topuria, I thought it was inevitable that Bryce Mitchell would wear UFC gold before too long. My opinion has definitely changed. Not simply because he lost that fight – Topuria is an incredible fighter and is next up to fight for the featherweight title – but, because of Mithcell’s reaction to the loss. He mentioned retiring from the sport and then claimed that he was sick going into the contest. It just didn’t seem like he had a championship mentality, and the setback really got to him in a negative way. Nothing since that loss has changed, he doesn’t seem like the same motivated young fighter he was entering the showdown with Topuria. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I think his confidence was shattered, and I don’t see him regaining it this weekend.
Kuhl: I don’t think I’m quite as down on Bryce Mitchell as Matt is. Ilia Topuria is a badass fighter and future title contender. And, losing that fight is nothing to scoff at. He may have come back making excuses, because he was supposed to be the big submission guy, but he also has some unique takes, so that’s not entirely out of character. His opponent Dan Ige, however, is a guy who has been near the top of the division, but a three-fight losing streak and a 3-4 record in the last few years is not super impressive. In addition, he goes the distance a lot, and that’s a problem against a guy like Mitchell.
While Ige is a former collegiate wrestler, a black belt in BJJ, and a brown belt in Judo, Mitchell is one of those guys that always finds a way to win, outside of the sole submission loss to Topuria. I see Ige coming out, trying to push the pressure on the feet, Mitchell getting the fight to the ground, and Ige being comfortable because of his background. However, I think he’s going to find out that Mitchell is one of those weird guys that he should be able to dominate on the ground, but can’t. I don’t think Mitchell gets the submission, but his ground control gets him the decision win.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Kuhl: This one is easy. If Cody Brundage loses to Jacob Malkoun, which is highly likely, he is done for sure. That would make four losses in a row and put his UFC record at 2-5. He should probably go back to the LFA for a while to level up.
Petela: Michelle Waterson-Gomez. If she loses a fourth straight fight it’s probably time for the former Invicta FC atomweight champion to hang up the gloves. She’s got a tough draw this weekend taking on Marina Rodriguez. See below for how I think that one plays out.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Petela: Tim Means vs. Andre Fialho. For better or worse, Fialho is going to turn this fight into a brawl if he can. Means is the more well rounded mixed martial artist but he won’t shy away from a dogfight. Just the thought of the nasty “Dirty Bird” elbows landing and Fialho retaliating with heavy strikes of his own have me excited for this clash. Definitely be sure to tune in early on so you don’t miss out on this one. I see Means scoring a second round TKO finish in a Fight of the Night showing from both men.
Kuhl: I’m pretty excited for Miles Johns vs. Dan Argueta. Both of these guys are LFA veterans who have been in the UFC for multiple bouts now, and they both won their last fight, after losing the previous one. Any fighter worth his salt is going to show up to put two wins together, and this fight should be a fun one.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Kuhl: Rafael Fiziev. He has earned a performance bonus in every fight in recent history. With six in a row already, he will keep the streak alive.
Petela: Marina Rodriguez. While Michelle Waterson-Gomez has been an important figure in women’s mixed martial arts, her time as an elite competitor has come and gone. Rodriguez will stay at range and pick apart “The Karate Hottie” until landing a devastating right hand that leads to a second round TKO victory.
Pair this card with…
Petela: I don’t normally struggle to think of an answer for this question, there’s normally something that sounds obvious to me but I did for this one because I’m so excited about this main event and the way it helps shape the future of the lightweight division. So let’s go with pepperoni pizza and mozzarella sticks. Just like the main event it’s a can’t miss! Don’t stress about preparing a lavish meal for this fight card just sit back, relax, and enjoy.
Kuhl: Dealer’s choice on this one. Something quick and easy, because this is going to be a fun card, and you’re not going to want to look away. I don’t mean to be crass, but frozen pizza, or any other food you can stick in the oven without too high of a risk to burn the house down, sounds appropriate. Trader’s Joe’s, and Costco sometimes, has a killer Cuisine Adventures frozen French onion soup that takes 40 minutes to bake and about 15 minutes to cool, and it is nothing short of amazing.
Main Card (ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
LW: Rafael Fiziev vs. Mateusz Gamrot
FW: Bryce Mitchell vs. Dan Ige
Women’s StrawW: Marina Rodriguez vs. Michelle Waterson-Gomez
WW: Bryan Battle vs. AJ Fletcher
FW: Charles Jourdain vs. Ricardo Ramos
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 4 p.m. ET)
BW: Miles Johns vs. Dan Argueta
WW: Tim Means vs. Andre Fialho
MW: Jacob Malkoun vs. Cody Brundage
HW: Jake Collier vs. Mohammed Usman
Women’s StrawW: Mizuki Inoue vs. Hannah Goldy
Women’s BW: Montserrat Rendon vs. Tamires Vidal
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