Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier and Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje delivered a fight of the year candidate as the main event Saturday night. The back and forth four-round brawl won Fight of the Night and was one of many thrillers at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. Dustin Poirier got the TKO victory 33 seconds into the fourth round after he battered Gaethje with a barrage of punches. It’s the biggest win of Poirier’s career and he definitely realized where he stands in the Lightweight Division when he hastily called out new champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
In his first two UFC fights, Justin Gaethje has been awarded two Fight of the Night’s because of his willingness to stand and trade with no regard for his own health. Gaethje was causing problems for Poirier with his willingness to stay in the pocket and take Poirier’s strikes on the chin while delivering his own brutal leg kicks. “The Highlight” puts enormous energy into his kicks and always looks to take out his opponent’s lead leg in every fight.
Poirier was forced to switch his stance in response to the beating his right leg took. Gaethje was trying all night to punish “The Diamond” with hooks and overhands but just couldn’t land them with the right power and timing to put Poirier on the mat. Gaethje reached deep into his bag of tricks, attempting this back spinning heel kick that I can safely say I have never seen before.
Dustin Poirier wasn’t fazed by Gaethje’s strikes and won the war of attrition, landing a whopping 174 significant strikes over four rounds. Poirier found success utilizing a similar blueprint to the one Eddie Alvarez used to beat Gaethje a few months ago. Justin prefers to defend strikes with a basic cover up stance instead of move and throw counters. Like Alvarez, Poirier found holes in his Justin’s defense with the uppercut. Tonight, he was the quicker fighter and he tagged Gaejthe with some exquisite combos throughout the fight.
Just 33 seconds into the fourth, Poirier threw with a right cross that connected right on the button. One of the toughest fighters the UFC has ever seen, Gaejthe was pretty much out on his feet, but he wasn’t going down easy. Dustin poured it on when he saw blood in the water, knocking Gaejthe down to the mat, which forced the ref to step in.
Elsewhere on the main card, Israel Adesanya took on Marvin Vettori at Middleweight. Adesanya is one of the hottest fighters in the UFC and “The Style Bender” was looking to knock out another foe. Instead, Israel labored to a split decision victory over Vettori. Marvin is a physically imposing 185’er, but surprisingly is quick on his feet too. His movement and feints didn’t allow Adesanya to smother him with strikes. “The Style Bender” couldn’t consistently find his length with punches and instead fought on the outside for most of the fight. While Vettori’s defense was strong, Adesanya still found openings, exemplified by this beautiful elbow to the temple in round 2.
A fighter you may have missed on the undercard is Gilbert “Durinho” Burns. He squared off against Dan Moret in a lightweight bout on the UFC Fight Pass Prelims. Burns looked comfortable and confident in the cage from the onset. To win, Moret knew he had to keep it standing because of Burns is a gold medalist from the 2010 World Cup of Jiu-Jitsu.
But “Durinho” quickly realized he had the power and speed advantage on the feet too. He stepped on the gas in the second round, connecting with a sharp right cross that sent Moret stumbling back. Burns pounced and delivered an absolutely devastating right uppercut that knocked Moret clean out. The replay is destined for memes with how Moret fell and almost bounced off his knee. The finish easily won Knockout of the Night and could win Knockout of the Year as well.
When the dust settled from the anarchy in the cage Saturday night, Dana White had to be gleaming. It was a spectacular card of fights that could potentially give us both the Fight and Knockout of the Year. Next Saturday, we’re right back at it with UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Lee from Atlantic City, New Jersey. Kevin Lee and Edson Barboza will square in the main event that will hold similar title implications to this fight between Gaejthe and Poirier.
For results from the full card, check out Sherdog