(All stats according to UFC’s Record Book and Fight Metric as of March 15, 2023, and only include active athletes in their respective division unless noted otherwise)
Main Event: Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman
Key Stats: 2.28 strikes absorbed per minute (4th), 50% striking accuracy, 68% takedown defense
What It Means: “Rocky” is a sharp kickboxer who really rounded out his game nicely to make him a lethal puzzle to solve. On the feet, Edwards is technically clean from his southpaw stance. He does a good job of maintaining distance and catching his opponents on the end of his punches and kicks, and he remains patient behind those attacks. In close, he has a really strong clinch game where he can land a variety of knees and elbows to slice up his foe before breaking and pivoting out. He has sound takedown defense and a tricky-enough jiu jitsu game to keep people honest.
Key Stats: +1.99 striking differential (4th all-time among WW), 55 takedowns landed (5th all-time among WW), 47% control time percentage (2nd)
What It Means: Usman is a marauding powerhouse of a fighter who uses an exhaustive brand of wrestling to wear opponents down before landing bombs with his hands. On the feet, he is a sharp boxer and presents good footwork when pressuring his opponent against the fence. His jab is a particularly strong weapon out of both stances. He likes to also mix in teep kicks to the body when the opportunity is presented. His bread-and-butter is his wrestling, though. Usman is supremely strong and unrelenting when putting his opponents down to the canvas. His ground-and-pound is lethal, as well.
What to Look For in the Fight: For the better part of their first two fights, Usman has controlled Edwards, although Edwards has put up more resistance than some of Usman’s past opponents. How Edwards’ head kick knockout plays a factor is something to watch for as Usman’s habit to slip heavily to his right was exploited. That said, look for Usman to rely on his wrestling even more and suck the life out of Edwards and the London crowd. On the feet, Edwards will have even more confidence in his ability to not only knock Usman out, but to thwart his takedowns and get back to his feet. That could mean Edwards is more keen on using his clinch game, which is regularly impactful.
Co-Main Event: Justin Gaethje vs Rafael Fiziev
Key Stats: 7.46 strikes landed per minute (4th all-time), 60.2% significant strike accuracy (tied-1st all-time among LW), 0.78 knockdowns averaged per 15 minutes (7th)
What It Means: Gaethje is your favorite fighter’s favorite fighter, and that’s because of his inability to get into boring fights. He has great cardio and keeps a high pace, and while he has become slightly more measured in recent years, he generally stays in the pocket longer than anyone. He has debilitating leg kicks, which he throws with frequency, and his left hook is especially potent. He has gone a little bit away from the high guard and into a more measured defensive posture where he parries and counters with great accuracy. He also likes to sneak in an uppercut once he has established his left hook and right cross.
Key Stats: 4.81 strikes landed per minute, 50% striking accuracy, 4.86 strikes absorbed per minute
What It Means: Fiziev is a Muay Thai-based striker who throws thudding punches with freaky speed. He also blasts front-leg body kicks out of both stances, and he can string together a variety of strikes to a variety of targets with a real explosiveness. He catches opponents at the end of combos and extends his combinations well after throwing a big action, like a step-in knee or high kick.
What to Look For in the Fight: This has the makings of an absolute barnburner. At distance, watch for Fiziev to blast body kicks and punches early and often while Gaethje starts what will be a steady diet of low leg kicks. The exchanges should be very quick in the pocket, as well. Fiziev tends to wing wide punches a little more, but he maintains great speed within those strikes. Watch for Gaethje to counter with tighter shots to beat Fiziev to the punch. Gaethje has a bit more experience in these high-paced fights in the Octagon, but Fiziev is the type to relish those dogfights.
Other Fights to Watch (Jennifer Maia vs Casey O’Neill, Marvin Vettori vs Roman Dolidze)
Key Stats: 14:57 average fight time (5th longest), 55% takedown defense, 3.98 strikes landed per minute
What It Means: Maia is a steady fighter with good fundamental boxing and a strong grappling game that keeps opponents balanced. She can keep a high pace and change tempos and targets, and she has shown a great durability in fights. She can adjust to opponent’s attacks and take the fight where she believes she has the best path to victory.
Key Stats: 8.65 strikes landed per minute, 2.59 takedowns per 15 minutes, 44% takedown accuracy
What It Means: “King” is an aggressive, well-rounded fighter who continues to improve at a rapid rate. The undefeated 25-year-old is physically very strong, and it shows in her grappling. Against the fence and in scrambles, O’Neill has a good knack for maintaining a dominant position and imposing her will. On the feet, she continues to improve and shows a consistent willingness to stand, trade and win exchanges on the feet. Her ability to flow from striking to grappling is another strength of hers.
What to Look For in the Fight: How aggressive O'Neill comes out after an extended period of time off due to injury is something to watch. If she looks herself, she'll be pressing Maia up to the cage and pressuring her early. The striking exchanges will be interesting as both have decent technique and power, but this should be a complete mixed martial arts contest. On the balance, the scrambles and exchanges along the fence will be key.
Marvin Vettori Fight Week Interview | UFC 286
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Marvin Vettori Fight Week Interview | UFC 286
Key Stats: 63% significant strike defense (2nd), 46.4% takedown accuracy (5th), 4.2 strikes landed per minute
What It Means: Vettori seems to always be in forward motion, and his blend of mindful aggression makes a lot of his opponents melt. Perhaps Vettori’s most underrated aspect is his striking defense. In the pocket, he possesses smart head movement and counter ability, and if things aren’t going his way in the striking department, he can utilize his great strength to take his opponent down and keep him there.
Key Stats: 1.01 knockdowns per 15 minutes (4th), 2.2 strikes absorbed per minute (3rd), 33.7% control time percentage (9th)
What It Means: At 6-foot-3, Dolidze is long for the middleweight division and does a pretty good job of utilizing that length offensively on the feet. He is a creative fighter as whole, expressing as much on the feet as well as with his tricky guard.
What to Look For in the Fight: Vettori is going to push forward no matter what, so how Dolidze manages to slow Vettori down is a key factor. “The Italian Dream” can swarm opponents and keep them from ever finding a good rhythm offensively, but Dolidze has enough power and unpredictability to give Vettori some pause.