DUSTIN Poirier hobbled into crutches gradually – too many kicks made it difficult to bend his right leg. He had a sting in his face, perhaps breaking his left hand.
Poirier knew his match with Justin Gaethje would be like this. He survived and won with a big left hand, moving one step closer to his title shot. Poirier stunned Gaethje with a hard left hand in fourth round and won by technical knockout in brutal a UFC lightweight match among top contenders Saturday night.
The fifth ranked lightweight, Poirier (23-5) blew Gaethje in the first round and finished him with a flurry early in the fourth and shouted: "I'll get that title fight this year!" when he left the octagon. "
" When I thought of the possibilities that this battle could take, I knew I would have to dig deep down, I knew problems would present themselves, "said Poirier." I was just hard and thought on myself, got it done.
Gaethje (18-2), from Safford, Arizona, had public support and landed a number of strokes in the second round after a shake first. He won third round on all three points short despite a point deduction but could not escape Poirier's left hand in fourth to lose his second match after opening 18-0. "I'm pleased with what just happened, as wild and as stupid as it sounds," said Gaethje, No. 6 light. "I'm not fighting to win or lose. I'm struggling to entertain people. This is an entertainment company and I'm fighting for money."
Gaethje got the nickname "The Highlight" for his hyper aggressive style, but Poirier took the fight for him . Poirier hit Gaethje with a few combinations, bleeding on the left side of the face midway through the first round while pulling most of Gaethje's counter tests.
Gaethje began to beat in second round and carried Poirier down with a series of hard legs kicking, revving up chants of "Gaethje!" from the crowd. Gaethje blasted Poirier hard right early in the third round, but was pulled a point late by referee Herb Dean to beat an open hand second time in the match.
"I did not see the shot – I think it hit me somewhere on the left side – and I leaned against the cage, which I do not want to do with a guy like that, especially when they hurt you," said Poirier. "But I felt I got my wheels underneath me quite quickly." Poirier was still forward on all three cards and left no doubt in the fourth round, stunning Gaethje with his left hand and burying him in a flurry of stroke until the dean stepped in to stop it.
Alex Oliveira completed replacing Carlos Condit in the co-main event after Matt Brown tore his ACL. The 30-year-old Brazilian earned the biggest winner of his career in the desert with two weeks notice, forcing the former intermediate welterweight fight to submit with another round of guillotine-choke teams in a battle that blew both fighters.
"I struggled with short notice and gave a show," Oliveira said through a translator. "I was training, I knew I could be called on short notice. I'm an UFC employee and I know I have to be ready when it comes."
Up and coming middleweight Israel Adesanya from New Zealand won a split decision over Italian Marvin Vettori. Michelle Waterson opened the motherboard with a split decision victory over Cortney Casey in a technical stray weight match.