LAS VEGAS — Rafael Fiziev has earned a deserved reputation as perhaps Justin Gaethje Lite, one of the most exciting fighters in mixed martial arts. His bout Saturday against Mateusz Gamrot in the main event of UFC Vegas 79 figured to be outstanding, considering the stakes and the styles of the fighters.
Ultimately, though, it turned out to be a dud when Fiziev injured his left knee when throwing a kick in the second round and the bout was stopped. It went into the record books as a TKO for Gamrot.
Fiziev entered the bout ranked sixth at lightweight, a spot ahead of Gamrot. Given how deep the division is, this bout carried significant stakes. But after an exciting first round that Fiziev won on all three cards, it came to a premature and disappointing ending.
Fiziev was taken to a local hospital for examination and there was no word on his condition. He was helped out of the Octagon and walked to his locker room with his arms draped over the shoulders of his cornermen, putting no weight on his left leg.
Gamrot was pleased with the win but disappointed in the manner it occurred. He said he knew Fiziev would kick him a lot and was happy with his defense.
"I am not super happy because this is an unfortunate situation," Gamrot said at the post-fight news conference.
He said, "First thing first, a win is a win. We are sportsmen, but we are competitors, as well. If you go through camp and you prepare attacks and you prefer to [throw] punches. But I also prepared my defense because I knew Rafa likes to kick a lot. His punches are really strong and in my camp, I prepared a really good defense and maybe this was the [reason] he got his injury."
He didn't seem thrilled by the notion of a rematch with Fiziev. He said he expected Islam Makhachev to defeat Charles Oliveira next month when they rematch for the lightweight title on Oct. 22 in Abu Dhabi. If that comes through, he said he wanted to fight Oliveira because he believed Oliveira would be willing to go to the ground and grapple with him.
He said he has elite grappling skills that he wants to show off.
Bryce Mitchell's grappling leads him to win over Dan Ige
Bryce Mitchell had an interesting week. He declared himself the UFC's cash cow after being submitted by Ilia Topuria in December, and then he suffered a cut bad enough in his fight with Dan Ige that referee Mark Smith brought in the doctor to check on it.
Ige showed fantastic takedown defense, but Mitchell was relentless. He hit five of his 15 takedown attempts and was able to out-grapple Ige on the ground. He took Ige's back in the third and had a body triangle locked in, making it difficult for Ige to get the fight to the feet.
Mitchell never really came close to a submission, as Ige defended superbly, but he controlled the action and clearly took the final two rounds. He won by unanimous decision, by scores of 29-28 twice and 30-27. Yahoo Sports gave Ige the first round and had it 29-28 for Mitchell.
Mitchell, who said he would donate $5,000 to victims of the wildfires in Maui, Hawaii, was impressed by Ige.
"He's the hardest hitter I ever fought," Mitchell said of Ige. "I wasn't expecting him to be so fast and move so well. His grappling defense is so good, too. I fought for survival in here tonight."
Mitchell then said he'd make a donation to the victim's fund in Maui in honor of Ige, a native Hawaiian.
"I know he lost friends and they lost their homes, they lost their children, and I love these people with all my heart," Mitchell said. "We have to show Satan he can't do nothing through the power of Christ."
Mitchell then began to throw out a conspiracy theory regarding the origin of the wildfires, saying he felt they were man-made. UFC television analyst Michael Bisping had no time for that and quickly ended the interview.
Marina Rodriguez dominates Michelle Waterson-Gomez
Marina Rodriguez absolutely brutalized Michelle Waterson-Gomez, opening a huge cut on her face in the first with a knee and leaving it filled with welts, bruises and lumps. Rodriguez finished the bout in the second when referee Kerry Hatley essentially called a mercy stoppage at 2:42. Rodriguez dragged Waterson-Gomez to the mat and was opening up on her when Hatley wisely stopped it.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) September 24, 2023
It makes one wonder about Waterson-Gomez's future. Known as "The Karate Hottie," she's lost four in a row and six of her last seven. She'll be 38 in January and it doesn't seem like she is going to be a factor at 115 pounds. This fight could have been it for her.
Her one-time teammate, UFC Hall of Famer Rashad Evans, rose from his seat at ringside and applauded as Waterson-Gomez left the Octagon. She stopped when he passed him and they embraced. She spoke to him briefly with tears in her eyes.
She was 17-6 after defeating Karolina Kowalkiewicz on March 30, 2019, her third win in a row. She had legitimate championship aspirations. But the 2020s haven't been kind to her and she's struggling to compete at the highest level.
Bryan Battle, 'The King of Apex,' chokes out A.J. Fletcher
Welterweight Bryan Battle, the middleweight winner of 'The Ultimate Fighter' in 2021, continued his hot streak with a rear naked choke submission victory over A.J. Fletcher at 4:32 of the second round.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) September 23, 2023
He declined to make a call-out when it was over, saying fighters in the rankings are too worried about protecting their position to risk it by fighting him.
"When you consider TUF, nobody has won here more than me," Battle said. "I'm the King of Apex."
Coming off of a 14-second KO victory of Gabe Green in May, Battle got off to a bit of a slow start. But he shook it off and looked good in finishing Fletcher.
Mizuki returns after a three-year absence to edge Goldy
Mizuki Inoue last fought in the UFC on Aug. 22, 2020, when she dropped a decision to Amanda Lemos. She was sidelined ever since by a series of injuries until Saturday, when she met Hannah Goldy. Despite the layoff, Mizuki used her striking to pull out a unanimous decision, winning 29-28 on all cards. Yahoo Sports had it 29-28 for Goldy, who has now lost four of her last five and has to be concerned about her job security.
"That was my first fight in three years, so it took me a while to get back in the rhythm," Mizuki said. "Actually, I couldn't get into my rhythm until the end of the fight. Halfway through the fight, I thought I was losing it so I really had to get myself into it."
There was a lot of clinching, and that was where Goldy seemingly had the edge. She scored well with knees in those situations. But Mizuki was picking her apart at range and that led to the long-awaited victory. She hadn't won since Aug. 31, 2019, when she defeated Wu Yanan by split decision in Shenzhen, China.
Usman rallies to defeat Jake Collier
Mohammed Usman didn't have a great opening round against Jake Collier in their heavyweight bout on the preliminary card, and it looked as if it could get much worse early in the second. Usman inadvertently poked Collier in the right eye and Collier went down in pain.
He used the entire five minutes allotted for an accidental foul. At one point, after the ringside physician examined his eye, he pounded his fist on the mat, making it seem as if the bout was over. But Collier insisted he was OK and referee Dan Miragliotta opted to let the bout continue.
Usman picked up his game considerably after that, using a thumping jab to break open Collier's face, and he took a unanimous decision. The win, his fifth in a row, came by scores of 29-28 twice and 30-27. Yahoo Sports had it 29-28 for Usman, the brother of former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.
Usman said he was staying awake at night thinking of Collier because he had so much respect for his skills. Collier showed why in a strong first, but he wasn't the same after Usman made an adjustment. After the first, his coaches urged him to move his feet and when he did, he took total control.
"There is no question that I'm here to stay and I'm going to be here for a long time," Usman said. "I can do everything in the Octagon."
Jacob Malkoun gave up a victory with an ill-timed illegal strike
Australian Jacob Malkoun was dominating Cody Brundage in their middleweight fight and seemed on the verge of a first-round finish when he made what was perhaps the worst decision of the night. He had been battering Brundage and was on his back. Brundage was on all fours and Malkoun was looking directly at his back.
That's one time he knows he couldn't throw a strike. But inexplicably, he apparently lost his composure and threw an elbow. It hit Brundage on the back of the head, an illegal blow. Brundage looked in no condition to continue, and appeared not to want to continue.
When it was determined he was unfit to continue, referee Mark Smith halted the bout and disqualified Malkoun. He was completely dominant and was destroying Brundage, but it was Brundage who won for the third time in a row — and collected a win bonus — after getting the nod by DQ.
Malkoun had only himself to blame. Brundage never moved his head and Malkoun was looking directly at the target when he threw the illegal blow.