As Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje locked eyes in the Octagon for the main event of UFC on Fox 29 in Glendale, Arizona, no one knew exactly what we were going to get.
The only thing fans knew was that it was going to be a war for the ages, and that it was. At the opening bell, Poirier and Gaethje went to war for four rounds in a back and forth slobber knocker that resulted in a TKO win for Poirier and a possible claim to a title shot against newly-crowned undisputed lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The fight began typical of any Gaethje brawl, with the former World Series of Fighting champion coming forward winging wild punches and thudding leg kicks in an attempt to break his opponent down. Poirier remained steadfast in his gameplan and never wavered, landing a picture-perfect left hand. Smelling blood in the water, Poirier pressed forward on his teetering foe, firing off a barrage of punches to finish the job.
The win for Poirier marked his second straight and brought him to 7-1-1 overall since his move up to the lightweight division in late 2015. While talking to Daniel Cormier in his post-fight Octagon interview, Poirier made it clear he believes the time is now to challenge Nurmagomedov for the title. Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White affirmed the fighter’s title aspirations, stating in the post-fight media scrum that Poirier was “absolutely in the running” for a shot at the lightweight crown.
Cowboy’s Short Notice Rodeo
Alex Oliveira stepped in to face Carlos Condit on a mere two weeks’ notice following the injury fallout of Matt Brown. When it was announced that “Cowboy” would be filling in, it was the overwhelming sentiment that the new co-main event would be just as good as the originally scheduled action, given the crowd-pleasing style both fighters bring to the Octagon. Just as predicted, both came out like bats out of hell and put on a performance for the ages. Oliveira got his most notable win to date inside of the UFC and “The Natural Born Killer” dropped his fourth straight, leaving the mixed martial arts community wondering where he goes from here.
After generating lots of buzz following a successful Octagon debut, Israel Adesanya returned for his second UFC bout, this time on the main card in Glendale where he was able to display his world-class striking arsenal enroute to a split decision victory over Italian middleweight Marvin Vettori. Adesanya remained patient throughout all three rounds looking to land crisp, clean strikes on his opponent and avoiding the ground game for as long as he could. In the third frame, Adesanya was met with a bit of adversity, being planted on the ground for a good portion of the stage and putting his undefeated record in jeopardy. In the end, Adesanya won the fight via split decision, stating he wasn’t happy with his performance but was pleased to come out with a victory.
Michelle Waterson and Cortney Casey fought to a split decision in a Strawweight bout that became a battle of attrition. Waterson was dominant with her wrestling game, planting Casey onto her back throughout, but Casey was more than willing to grapple, throwing up multiple submission attempts that had the Jackson-Wink MMA product in trouble on several occasions throughout the fight. In the final seconds of the third round, Casey locked in a tight armbar but time was not on her side and the fight ended without a tap.
Antonio Carlos Jr. won his fifth straight and his third in a row via submission as he finished Tim Boetsch in the prelim headliner. Carlos Jr. began the fight with chopping leg kicks and counter punches off of Boetsch’s aggressiveness. By mid-round, “Shoeface” had Boetsch against the fence, where he was successful with a power double-leg takedown. After a flurry of punches, Carlos Jr. locked in a body triangle from the back and applied a rear-naked choke in lightning and putting the Brazilian submission artist in the running for a top-15 opponent for his next outing.