Rafael Fiziev drew the attention of lightweights to a technical knockout in the 5th round of ex-champion Rafael dos Anjos

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Rafael Fiziev scored his sixth straight win in Saturday’s UFC tournament by knocking out Rafael dos Anjos at UFC Vegas 58 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

LAS VEGAS — The list of lightweight contenders continues to grow. The latest to establish himself as a bona fide contender is Rafael Fiziev, who knocked out ex-champ Rafael dos Anjos 18 seconds before the final round on Saturday at the Apex in the main event of UFC Vegas 58.

The next step for him, according to Fiziev, is to determine which of the Rafaels is the best. So when asked in the octagon who he wants next, he named tennis superstar Rafael Nadal.

If Nadal saw his fight with dos Anjos, it would be wiser for him to stay as far away from Fiziev as possible. Fiziev is a titled Muay Thai kickboxer, but showed the whole game on Saturday.

Dos Anjos made an astonishing number of attempts to land 16 takedowns in four-plus rounds, completing two. When a guy who punches as well as Fiziev can also defend against takedowns and fight on the stand, that’s a problem.

And yes, Fiziev is a problem for other lightweights.

He has quick hands, accurate punches and, as he showed at the end of the fight, a lot of power in both hands. He caught dos Anjos with a devastating left hand that effectively ended the fight.

Fiziev followed him on the ground and landed a couple of accurate shots, forcing referee Mark Smith to jump up to stop him.

“I was very tired in the fight, but I finished in the 5th round,” said Fiziev, who called out Justin Gaethje, who took 3rd place. “It means something. [It proves] I can fight five rounds.”

Fiziev largely neutralized the attack of Anjos’s souls throughout the fight. Dos Anjos tried to slow down the fight by grappling with Fiziev in the cage and going for takedowns. But Fiziev’s takedown defense was brilliant, and he repeatedly took down Dos Anjos.

When they were in space, Fiziev’s punches were accurate, and he blew Dos Anjos apart with sharp, accurate punches.

Fiziev never allowed dos Anjos to gain momentum and scored points with his shot.

Fiziev noted that it was important to be patient as Dos Anjos fought for takedowns and not try to get ahead of himself.

“My head, my brain sometimes goes blank and I start to fight like a drunk,” Fiziev said of the need to remain patient. “I thought a lot and fought smart. I didn’t try too hard to be crazy.”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 9: (LR) Rafael Fiziev of Kazakhstan knocks out Rafael Dos Anjos of Brazil at Lightweight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 9, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Rafael dos Anjos landed on the ground with a brutal left hand strike, where Rafael Fiziev quickly ended the fight. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

The win was Fiziev’s 12th in 13 professional fights and sixth in a row in the UFC after losing a first-round TKO in his 2019 promotional debut to Magomed Mustafaev in St. Petersburg, Russia.

But now he’s beaten dos Anjos, Brad Riddell, Bobby Green, Renato Moicano, Mark Diaquise and Alex White – a solid group of opponents – on his winning streak.

He entered Saturday’s fight finishing 10th in the division, but the division is overflowing with killers and it can be difficult for Fiziev to move up. Dos Anjos was seventh, Mateusz Gamroth was eighth and Tony Ferguson was ninth ahead of Fiziev, who entered the fight.

Gamrot scored an impressive victory over Arman Tsarukyan and UFC president Dana White told Yahoo Sports he was interested in taking on No. 6 Gamrot Beneil Dariush.

Fiziev named an opponent from the top five, but it will be difficult, given the composition: Charles Oliveira, Dustin Poirier, Gaethje, Islam Makhachev and Michael Chandler.

Oliveira is gearing up to fight No. 12 Conor McGregor even though the UFC is interested in taking him against Makhachev for the vacant title. Poirier and Chandler seem ready for the showdown, especially after their showdown at UFC 276 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

So Fiziev may have to settle for either a Ferguson fight or a Tsarukyan match, either of which would be very interesting. He will have to keep winning – and winning spectacularly – given the workload in the division.

But he did just that. He has now completed three of his last four fights, with only his fight against Green nearing its end. He was great at this, outboxing Green heavily.

Gamrot also summoned Gaethje, but with White’s intent to pair him up with Dariush, this could give Fiziev the fight he wants. And he knows it will be fun.

“I think he would make my face look like this, maybe [worse],” said Fiziev, who said he broke his nose early in the fight. “He is dangerous. It is also a big test for me. He has a chance to knock me out, but I will have a chance to knock him out. I think it’s a good fight, and for the fans too.”

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