Former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez squared off against former World Series of Fighting lightweight titleholder Justin Gaethje on the UFC 218 main card on Saturday. The two coached opposite each other on The Ultimate Fighter 26 and met inside the Octagon at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan.
Gaethje entered the fight undefeated with 18 consecutive wins but left with his first loss. The two promised an all-out war and delivered.
Alvarez employed a high output offense. He was mixing up his strikes and moving in and out of the pocket. Gaethje did damage with leg kicks and returned fire with heavy shots. The leg kicks were taking their toll on Alvarez by the end of the opening round.
Alvarez began landing body shots and they proved effective. Alvarez would throw a combination and end with a body shot. He began clinching and landing uppercuts on the on the inside. While Alvarez outworked Gaethje through the first two rounds, Gaethje’s leg kicks hampered Alvarez’ movement and zapped some of the power out of his punches.
Heading into the third and final round, Alvarez’ face as badly swollen. His left leg as giving out on him and Gaethje had a cut under his eye and was exhausted. Alvarez was forced to switch stances to avoid absorbing more damage to his left leg. He started pressuring Gaethje and looking to keep the fight in close quarters. It was the right decision.
The end came midway though the third round when Alvarez clinched and delivered uppercuts. He fired off a knee that landed flush on the face of Gaethje. Gaethje crumbled to the canvas and Alvarez raised his arms in celebration but the fight wasn’t over. Alvarez delivered two hammer fists and the referee stepped in to stop the action. Gaethje struggled to get back to his feet after the fight was stopped.
“There’s interim titles. There are other titles that aren’t being defended. All the fans want to see is who’s the most violent guy in here. That’s all you guys want to see,” said Alvarez after the win.
The former champion admitted that his leg was badly damaged and he wasn’t sure how much longer he was going to be able to continue had he not finished Gaethje.
“If this was a five-rounder, I would have needed to finish that in the third because four and five would have been tough for me. I trained with a lot of my training partners going southpaw so I was able to resort to that,” he said.
The win was Alvarez’ first since losing the belt to Conor McGregor in November 2016.