After a hiatus for the Thanksgiving holiday inside the United States, the UFC is back in action for the next three Saturday nights, beginning this Saturday with UFC Vegas 44 inside the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Barring any further adjustments to the card after Matt Brown was forced to withdraw in the run-up to the show amid his positive COVID-19 test last week, this event will feature 14 MMA fights all told, including the UFC Vegas 44 co-main event in the lightweight divisions.
In the UFC Vegas 44 main event this Saturday night, No. 12 contender Brad Riddell (10-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) will battle No. 14 contender Rafael Fiziev (10-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) in a three-round fight at five minutes per round.
UFC Vegas 44 Co-Main Event Fighter Comparison
Heading into the UFC Vegas 44 co-main event this Saturday night, Rafael Fiziev is the taller combatant, standing 5-foot-8, compared to Brad Riddell’s 5-foot-7 frame.
In addition, Rafael Fiziev owns a 1/2-inch reach advantage (71 1/2 inches to 71 inches even) and a two-inch leg reach advantage (40 inches to 38 inches) over Brad Riddell ahead of the UFC Vegas 44 co-main event on Saturday evening.
Ex-Sparring Partners Do Battle
A universal storyline for Brad Riddell and Rafael Fiziev going into the UFC Vegas 44 co-main event this Saturday is the familiarity that both men have with one another as they used to spar together.
Brad Riddell has posted a record of 5-0 in his last five MMA appearances as part of an ongoing seven-fight unbeaten streak, most recently winning via unanimous decision versus Drew Dober during UFC 263 back in June in Phoenix.
Now, both men must put their friendship aside for the heat of battle this weekend in the UFC Vegas 44 co-main event.
During a recent episode of the Australian MMA podcast Submission Radio, Brad Riddell mentioned that the fact that he’s fighting the man who used to be his sparring partner doesn’t bother him.
“It was like four or five years ago,” Riddell said. “He’s (Fiziev) changed a lot since then, and I’ve changed a lot. I barely did MMA back then, so a whole heap’s changed for me. But I definitely don’t think I’ll rely on those sparring sessions too much. You change in six months, three months in this sport. Like, it evolves so quickly, you can’t rely on some (expletive deleted) from four years ago.”
Rafael Fiziev Looks To Build Off Win vs. Bobby Green
In the other corner, Rafael Fiziev enters the UFC Vegas 44 co-main event on Saturday night having gone 4-1 so far in his young UFC career as part of his current four-fight winning streak, extended last time out via unanimous decision against Bobby Green during UFC 265 back in August.
“Bro, big pressure, big respect for this gangster,” Fiziev said. “This is real gangster. Do you see him? He’s real gangster.”
During his last fight against Green, Fiziev absorbed a number of punches to the face, so a key question will be has he done enough in training camp ahead of the UFC Vegas 44 co-main event to avoid those types of hits?
Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction
Stylistically, the UFC Vegas 44 co-main event looks to favor Brad Riddell, a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, compared to Rafael Fiziev’s blue belt in BJJ.
Look For Brad Riddell to Try and Land Takedowns
In looking at the tape of Brad Riddell’s June fight vs, Drew Dober, Dober had him reeling early on in round one, to the point where Riddell had to get to the clinch to avoid getting finished.
His defense created offense as he attempted to land a takedown as the first round progressed, eventually recovering to throw and land heavy right-handed shots later on in the round.
All told, Brad Riddell scored five takedowns over the 15 minutes he and Drew Dober fought on June 12.
If Rafael Fiziev comes out aggressively on the offensive end against Brad Riddell early in the UFC Vegas 44 co-main event on Saturday night as Drew Dober did in June, expect Riddell to try and temper his opponent’s gameplan with takedowns.
Rafael Fiziev Must Avoid Getting Caught
In the other corner, the tape of Rafael Fiziev’s August fight against Bobby Green shows one cause for concern heading into the UFC Vegas 44 co-main event:
During the contest, Fiziev absorbed 93 of 137 strikes to the head by Green– and it was the output of the significant strikes by Green in the third round, including a late flurry of punches to the face that nearly turned the tide for him.
Despite Green’s output in the third and final round against Fiziev, it was too little, too late for him, as Fiziev walked away with the win by unanimous decision.
Fiziev’s key in the UFC Vegas 44 co-main event is to come out swinging early and avoid getting tagged with strikes to the face, because if Brad Riddell establishes control of the fight from the early going, Rafael Fiziev may not have a chance to come from behind.
In closing, the UFC Vegas 44 co-main event could have the fight of the night potential written all over it.
It’s strength versus strength matchup that has a chance at getting explosive right from the command to fight this Saturday, so don’t sleep on this one and be sure to tune in.
Prediction: Brad Riddell by Unanimous Decision.