On Saturday night, Leon Edwards will continue to celebrate his return to his hometown. In a trilogy match at UFC 286, the British fighter will defend his new title against Kamaru Usman at home. Expectations are that Rafael Fiziev and Justin Gaethje will raise the O2 Arena in London, England to new heights before the adversaries resume their previous exchanges.
On Saturday night, the red corner is occupied by Edwards and Gaethje, the 2022 Knockout of the Year and 2021 Fight of the Year winners, respectively. Although UFC 286 may not have the most competitive card of the year, the one-two punch of a local hero and a worldwide fan favorite will undoubtedly create an electrifying atmosphere in London.
Every part of UFC 286 exhibits the trend of European competitors and exciting finishes, from the early prelims to the pay-per-view main card.
Beyond Edwards vs. Usman 3, here are the top three fights to watch.
Rafael Fiziev vs Justin Gaethje
Every battle involving Gaethje is exciting to watch, and this one is no exception. The bonus checks to back up his claim that he is the best action fighter in mixed martial arts belong to Gaethje. In as many UFC appearances, Gaethje has collected 10 post-fight bonuses, including six for Fight of the Nights and four for Performance of the Nights. With five bonuses in seven UFC fights, Fiziev is a dependable bonus hunter in his own right. Gaethje has to turn things around after losing to Khabib and Charles Oliveira in his attempts to win the UFC lightweight championship.
In two of his previous three battles, Nurmagomedov. Fiziev, a fellow KO specialist, has won six straight matches, ending Brad Riddell with a spinning wheel kick and Rafael dos Anjos with punches. Although Gaethje has refined his brawling technique to become a more technical terminator, the defensive weaknesses still exist when facing the toughest competition. Although Fiziev is technically proficient, Gaethje is by far the most difficult match of his career. Expect a lot of violence.
Roman Doldize vs Marvin Vettori
There could be an interesting top contender in the middleweight division. Dolidze entered MMA later than others and has since outperformed expectations practically in every way. Dolidze began learning MMA at age 28 after engaging in a lot of grappling and making his heavyweight professional debut. Dolidze, a middleweight with a 6-1 UFC record, has discovered consistent power in his strikes. Dolidze defeated Kyle Daukus, Phil Hawes, and Jack Hermansson in his last three contests to receive performance incentives. After losing to previous middleweight champions Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker, Vettori is in a limbo. But, he may begin his comeback on Saturday with a solid performance. If Dolidze defeats Vettori, he can start challenging the greatest players at 185.
Makwan Amirkhani versus Jack Shore
Fans of grappling better get comfortable for this one. One of the more intriguing up-and-comers in the bantamweight division was Shore. All of that changed when Ricky Simon forced his head to submit. Wales native Shore is barely clinging on to a spot in the UFC’s top 15 bantamweights, but a strong showing against 25-fight veteran Amirkhani might change his luck. Amirkhani is old and has dropped four of his last five matches, but the UFC has yet to witness Shore’s KO prowess. Although Amirkhani might keep things interesting on the ground, Shore should prevail in this battle.
Muhammad Mokaev vs. Jafel Filho, Jai Herbert vs. L’udovit Klein, and Gunnar Nelson vs. Bryan Barberena are three matches that deserve recognition.