Rafael Fiziev tore his ACL at UFC Vegas 79; Vows to come back stronger

Mar 18, 2023; London, UNITED KINGDOM; Rafael Fiziev reacts after fighting Justin Gaethje (not pictured) during UFC 286 at O2 Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

This past Saturday, UFC Vegas 79 was supposed to be a step back in the right direction for Rafael Fiziev (12-3). Entering this year, Fiziev was knocking on the door of a title shot. He had a fight with Justin Gaethje back in March and just fell short by decision in a very close fight.

Then, he got this headliner against Mateusz Gamrot (23-2). Gamrot is one of the premier grapplers in the division, but Fiziev has elite takedown defense. The thought was that if Fiziev could keep the fight on the feet, he would be able to inflict a lot of damage and secure the victory.

Through one round, Gamrot really wasn’t able to get the fight to the ground and Fiziev was getting the better of the striking. Now, to be fair, Gamrot was doing better on the feet than I thought he would. Nevertheless, most people scored the first round for Fiziev.

In round two, Fiziev still felt like he was in control. Then, he stepped forward to throw a power right body kick and he crumbled to the mat. He confirmed this week that he tore his left ACL while throwing the kick and as a result, he suffered an injury TKO loss at UFC Vegas 79.

Fiziev’s future after UFC Vegas 79

This is a really tough setback for Rafael Fiziev. With any athlete, you’re looking at close to a year or more off whenever you tear your ACL. Then, you think about the fact that Fiziev throws so much power into his kicks and he puts so much pressure and torque on his plant knee. It might be some time before he’s ready to go 100%.

Fiziev will have surgery to repair the knee then it’s off to rehab before a UFC return. My guess is that late summer early fall of 2024 is when we will see Fiziev get back in there. Upon his return, I think he should immediately get right back in the mix with a top ten opponent. Who knows what the landscape will look like upon his return, but Fiziev still figures to be a fixture in the top ten whenever he’s back late next year.

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