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Gaethje returns to win column with thrilling upset of Fiziev

Jeff Bottari / UFC / Getty

Justin Gaethje reminded MMA fans on Saturday that he's still one of the best lightweights in the world.

Gaethje defeated Rafael Fiziev via majority decision (28-28, 29-28, 29-28) in the UFC 286 co-main event in London. One judge gave Gaethje a 10-8 in the third round and Fiziev the first two rounds by a 10-9 margin, resulting in the draw scorecard.

"I'm taking one more run at the title," Gaethje said in his postfight interview. "But I ain't going to be around much longer."

The highly anticipated fight delivered in the Octagon - Gaethje and Fiziev threw haymakers at each other for the better part of 15 minutes. Fiziev had a strong start, landing more punches than Gaethje. His speed seemed to be the difference-maker.

However, Rounds 2 and 3 were much better for Gaethje. He had success landing shots in the clinch and appeared to badly damage the area around Fiziev's eye. Fiziev hurt Gaethje early in the third, but the American opened up with his jab a lot more as his opponent slowed down, and he landed several hard uppercuts and right hands to secure the narrow decision nod. Gaethje also took Fiziev down in the waning seconds of the fight.

"Perfect dance partner," Gaethje said of Fiziev. "There's no way this fight's not exciting."

With the victory, "The Highlight" returned to the win column after losing to Charles Oliveira in a lightweight title bout last May. The former interim champion is 2-2 in his past four outings.

Fiziev suffered his first setback in a long time. He was riding a six-fight winning streak and was one of the rising contenders in the loaded 155-pound weight class. This was Fiziev's first loss since his UFC debut in April 2019 and just the second defeat of his professional career.

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