Just about everybody expected Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje to deliver a “Fight of the Night” in their lightweight main event at UFC on FOX 29.
Despite those lofty expectations, they may have actually over-delivered as Poirier earned a fourth-round TKO to finish Gaethje in arguably one of the best fights in UFC history.
It didn’t take long for the fighters to get warmed up in the opening round with Poirier gauging his distance and then unleashing his punching combinations that continuously tagged Gaethje without the former World Series of Fighting champion offering much defense.
Gaethje did return fire with an effective counter attack, however, as he began battering Poirier’s lead leg with inside kicks. The thudding sound of shin connecting with the meat of Poirier’s leg echoed throughout the arena as Gaethje was on the attack with ruthless aggression.
Still, Poirier was a relentless head hunter as his shots continuously snapped Gaethje’s head backwards. Before long, he opened up a cut that started to bother the Arizona native.
The barrage of punches from Poirier to the head with an occasional shot to the body punished Gaethje repeatedly, but like he was an extra on “The Walking Dead,” he refused to show any signs of slowing down.
The same couldn’t be said for Poirier, who was definitely beginning to favor his lead leg, but he somehow gutted through the pain with his corner icing down his thigh between rounds. Each time it looked like Poirier might start to limp, he instead uncorked a lightning fast punching combination that cracked Gaethje in the head over and over again.
For all the shots that Poirier landed, Gaethje began to swing the momentum in his favor in the third round when he connected with a big punch that left “The Diamond” on wobbly legs. Gaethje attempted to follow up, but Poirier did a good job to avoid taking too much more damage and then he ended up catching a break after he received a finger in the eye for the second time in the fight.
Referee Herb Dean paused the fight and took a point away from Gaethje for the repeated fouls, although that ultimately didn’t play a part as the fourth round barely got started before the hammer got dropped to end the fight.
With a burst of energy from the brief break in the action, Poirier came out light on his feet again and that’s when he blasted Gaethje with another powerful punch. This time, Gaethje wasn’t able to eat the shot and move forward, but rather he stumbled backwards with Poirier going for the kill.
Poirier unloaded with a barrage of shots, while Gaethje could only try to remain standing until the punishment mounted and he crumbled to the canvas. The referee finally saw enough and stopped the contest at 33 seconds into the fourth round, as Poirier celebrated his victory.
— UFC (@ufc) April 15, 2018
“This guy would have died in here if Herb Dean wouldn’t have stopped it,” Poirier said about Gaethje after his TKO win. “This guy has no quit in him and I respect that 100-percent.”
All told, Poirier landed 174 significant strikes in just over three rounds with 142 of those landing to Gaethe’s head.
Prior to the fight, Poirier said that after Saturday night he didn’t want to scream about how he deserved a title shot, but rather prove that he earned it by finishing Gaethje in impressive fashion.
Poirier definitely got the job done and now he’s asking for the chance to face new lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in his next fight.
“This is my 20th fight in the UFC. I’ve been close to the mountain top, I’ve been knocked down and I’ve climbed back up over and over again, two different weight classes. I would never stand right here and ask for something I didn’t earn,” Poirier shouted.
“Dana [White], Sean [Shelby], Khabib — it’s f—ing time. Let’s go.”