We may have just seen 2018’s ‘Fight of the Year.’
Last night, Dustin Poirier defeated Justin Gaethje by fourth-round TKO at UFC on FOX 29 in Glendale, Arizona. Following a rusty couple of weeks for the UFC, tonight we received a plain and simple fight night with talent for days. To top it all off, we got to witness two of the most exciting fighters in one of the most exciting divisions step in a cage and charge at each other. Poirier stepped into the main event fight as a slight favorite over his hometown opponent. The crowd was firmly on Gaethje’s side but that did not deter Poirier from digging deep and eventually adjusting his game plan to secure a very important victory.
Hit and run
In his usual style, Gaethje came out swinging, walking his opponent down, but game Poirier wasn’t intimidated and started to counter Gaethje immediately with some rolling combinations. Coming on strong from the start, Poirier played Gaethje at his own game by walking forward and keeping his striking output high. However, even from the beginning of the bout, the one error of Poirier’s strategy was his inability to check the stinging leg kicks thrown by Arizona native, Gaethje. These kicks would play a huge part in the tension of the fight, giving Gaethje the opportunity to possibly end the bout at any second. However, Poirier’s resilience played a huge part in the fight, never backing down and showing off the boxing he had been training for this most recent camp
Not one scared to take a punch, Gaethje delayed the TKO by keeping his hands high and elbows in, blocking the flurry of shots by Poirier throughout the rounds. Although Poirier was visibly landing more and more and likely winning the bout, Gaethje never let him look completely dominant by swinging back wildly. As time went on, Poirier looked to fade when his footwork noticeably slowed down as a result of Justin Gaethje’s crippling blows to his leg. It was then we saw the best from Gaethje, he continued to swing powerfully, but it wasn’t enough to keep “The Diamond” down.
Tension peaked at the beginning of the fourth round. Gaethje’s cardio was holding steady and Poirier’s leg was showing more signs of damage. In just 33 seconds, Poirier pushed forward and managed to rock Gaethje with a clear strike to the head. While stumbling back, Gaethje motioned to Poirier to bring it on, a sure sign that the end was nigh! Poirier pressed his opponent against the cage and continued to rain down punches until Herb Dean eventually jumped in to put an end to the massacre. Dean held Poirier back as he shouted in celebration, emotions were high and Dustin Poirier picked up his third straight win in a year.
Shine bright like “The Diamond”
Poirier’s ended his post-fight speech with a very clear message to the UFC: “Dana, Sean, Khabib, let’s f**king go! It’s time!”.
With Khabib Nurmagomedov just crowned lightweight champion and Tony Ferguson and Conor McGregor probably out for a while, Poirier may be able to take advantage of the recent reshuffling of the division. Another option for “The Diamond” would be a rewind of his match with Eddie Alvarez which ended in a no contest due to some questionable knees. With both men securing a win over “most violent” Gaethje, another bout between these two would certainly draw a lot of attention.
Regardless of what’s next, with a perfect combination of skill and violence, these men fought with conviction and left their all in the Octagon for our entertainment. It’s fights like these that make you realize how stacked the lightweight division is. Rankings are changing and things are on the move again. Having been stale at the top for quite a while now, one of the best divisions in the UFC is experiencing a shake up and I for one can’t wait for the results.