The second half of 2022 rang in with UFC 276 last week, a card that delivered two KOs, three submissions, six decisions and a no contest. Favorites ruled the night, going 9-2-1, making them 146-75-5 on the year for 64.6%.
Israel Adesanya took nothing but criticism for his win over my release of Jared Cannonier. What I will say is the effort it took for Adesanya to make Cannonier look that pedestrian is Herculean in itself. Also, it was the threat Cannonier posed that forced Adesanya into a managed victory.
The + 415 odds on Cannonier at the close is not a release I’ll ever apologize for. That said, Adesanya is proving to be a transcendent talent.
2022 Insight the Octagon results: 15-8 (+ 4.59 units).
Rafael Fiziev (-200) vs. Rafael dos Anjos (+ 170)
Lightweight (155 pounds) | Main event
The name “Rafael” is about all these two assassins have in common.
Seventh-ranked lightweight dos Anjos, a Brazilian who is now 37, is the former champion and is a complete mixed martial artist who has faced the elite of the division for the past decade.
Grapple, strike, kick, spin, shin followed by elbow to the chin are all within his offensive arsenal, which is based in Muay Thai and BJJ. RDA has experience, craft, cardio and a durability factor that makes him a threat to any lightweight. There’s nothing an opponent can bring to the Octagon that RDA has not seen.
Tenth-ranked Fiziev is from Kyrgyzstan and trains in Phuket at Tiger Muay Thai and the former Sanford MMA (now Kill Cliff LC). He represents what’s new in the world of MMA in that he’s young, lightning quick, extremely skilled in striking, precise and packs explosive power in every damaging move he makes. Just ask his mentor and amigo Brad Riddell about the camouflage of Fiziev’s offensive attack. In this fight, it’s the youth and quickness of Fiziev that may provide him some advantage when on the feet.
The one blemish I can heap on Fiziev is he’s yet to be successfully grappled, groped or wrestled. In the one fight in which he faced a grappler, he was finished in the first round, so little knowledge was gained.
Expect RDA to try to force Fiziev to back up and compete in very close quarters. RDA must pressure the younger striker and force him to exert energy, which will take sting out of the striker’s shots as well as make a pending takedown attempt more possible.
Once and if RDA can get this fight to the floor, he’ll hold a substantial advantage. Fiziev would seem to benefit by keeping this bout standing where his footwork, speed and precision strike game — including heels, elbows and knees — is most effective.
RDA’s championship five-round experience, the level of competition faced, his durability and the fact he arrives healthy, well rested and toting momentum allows me to factor this advantage into his handicap despite his age.
I handicap Fiziev as a -145 to -170 favorite in this fight.
Play: Rafael dos Anjos but be patient as this price may increase as the week transpires.
Total for this fight: Unpublished as of Tuesday morning.
Caio Borralho (-185) vs. Armen Petrosyan (+ 160)
Middleweight (185 pounds) | Co-main event
Two supreme young talents converge in what I see as the best matchup on the card.
Petrosyan beat the monstrous Greg Rodrigues in his UFC debut and he comes into this fight as an underdog opening at + 120 but sitting at + 160 as of Tuesday morning. For Petrosyan to come in as an underdog then gain in price is surprising no matter who he fights in his sophomore UFC event.
Petrosyan is 5 inches taller, though he’ll be giving up reach and an age advantage to his foe. Petrosyan is not flashy; he’s pressing, diligent and busy. He’s not powerful but grinding, and he’s not overly quick but unrelenting, all of which is executed in stand-up delivery for his background is kickboxing, which sets up the intrigue for this fight.
On the other side of the cage is a young killer who in many ways is the opposite of Petrosyan. Borralho won his UFC debut but his opponent was a shell of what Rodrigues was against Petrosyan. However, Borralho displayed his world-class grappling acumen against a foe with developed sambo skill.
The fulcrum to this fight is whether Borralho can use his speed, footwork and cardio to pressure the taller, larger striker in order to negate his space, then hug him like it’s his wedding night. He must then force this bout against the fence and ultimately down to the mat, where he will hold a dynamic advantage.
Borralho is giving away many physical advantages yet he’s in possession of more refined dynamic mixed martial arts skills.
What a matchup!
Total for this fight: Unpublished as of Tuesday morning but I think it will be 2.5 rounds shaded to the Over.