A high-stakes lightweight fight between former interim division champion, the #3 ranked contender, Justin Gaethje, and surging challenger, the #6 rated, Rafael Fiziev is close to being finalized for UFC 286 on March 18. from The O2 Arena in London, England.

Gaethje, a former interim 155lbs champion under the banner of the UFC, headlined UFC 274 most recently back in May of last year in Phoenix, Arizona – suffering a first round rear-naked choke loss to former undisputed champion, Charles Oliveira.

For Fiziev, the streaking Tiger Muay Thai staple recorded his sixth consecutive victory under the UFC banner back in July of last year in a main event slot against former undisputed champion, Rafael dos Anjos, securing a fifth round KO win.

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ESPN MMA reporter, Brett Okamoto confirmed the bout between Justin Gaethje and Rafael Fiziev was expected for UFC 286 on March 18 tonight.

London. Justin Gaethje (@Justin_Gaethje) vs. Rafael Fiziev (@RafaelFiziev) is nearly finalized for UFC 286 on March 18. Nos. 3 and 6 at lightweight to meet. What a fight.” 

Justin Gaethje defeated Tony Ferguson in 2020 to win interim lightweight gold

Clinching the interim UFC lightweight title back in 2020, Gaethje snapped the division-best winning spree of fellow former interim gold holder, Tony Ferguson at 12 straight fights – courtesy of a fifth round TKO win.

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Failing to successfully unify the lightweight titles against the now-retired, Khabib Nurmagomedov in September of that year in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Gaethje returned to defeat Michael Chandler at UFC 268 in November 2021 before his title challenge loss to Oliveira last May.

Prior to his UFC debut back in 2017, Gaethje was a former WSOF (now PFL) lightweight champion, and has landed other Octagon wins over the likes of Donald Cerrone, and Edson Barboza to boot.

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Embarking on an impressive winning spree since dropping his UFC debut loss to Magomed Mustafaev, Fiziev has landed victories over the quarter of Renato Moicano, Bobby Green, Brad Riddell, and the aforenoted, dos Anjos in the last two years. 

UFC 286 takes place on March 18. from The O2 Arena in London, England – with an official main event bout for the card yet to be determined by the organization. 

Aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Follow along at @Ross_Markey on Twitter for all the latest news, fight announcements, opinion, and feature pieces.