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In April 2018, Dustin Poirier was well into his climb up the lightweight rankings. Since he moved up to 155 pounds from featherweight, Poirier had put together a 6-1-0-1 record and was coming off a TKO win over former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. His reward for that victory was a matchup against the hard-hitting and powerful kicking ex-World Series of Fighting lightweight champ Justin Gaethje. Gaethje was coming off the first loss of his career, a third-round knockout setback to former UFC lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez.
The matchup between the two exciting lightweights headlined the UFC on FOX 29 event from Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. At the time of the fight, Poirier was ranked No. 5 in the lightweight division, while Gaethje was No. 6. Poirier was a -135 favorite, while Gaethje entered the contest as the +105 underdog.
As expected, these two started fast. Gaethje looked to slow Poirier with powerful kicks to his lead leg, while Poirier tried to work through those kicks while keeping at distance so he could utilize his strong boxing. By the halfway mark of the first round, Poirier seemed to be bothered by the leg kicks, but to his credit, those blows did not slow his pace. Over the first five minutes, Poirier attempted 132 significant strikes and landed 63 of them. The majority of those blows, 49, landed to Gaethje’s head. Gaethje landed 34 of his 64 significant strike attempts, 20 of those landed blows were to Poirier’s legs.
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The second round was more of the same for Poirier, but Gaethje focused more on landing to the head of Poirier in the second five minutes.
The third round was much slower for Poirier, whose output went from 122 significant strike attempts in the second round to 73 in the third. As for Gaethje, his production remained relatively consistent. Gaethje also went back to throwing more leg kicks in the hopes of hobbling Poirier. The third round saw referee Herb Dean take a point from Gaethje after he poked Poirier in the eye for the second time in the fight.
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Fifteen seconds into the fourth stanza, Poirier tagged Gaethje with a right jab. He followed that with a hard left that put Gaethje on his heels. Poirier, knowing he had his opponent hurt, swarmed Gaethje with powerful hooks. The onslaught of strikes never gave Gaethje the opportunity to recover and the fight came to an end 33 seconds into the fourth round.
Poirier went on to defeat Alvarez by knockout in July 2018. He then captured the interim lightweight title in April of this year with a unanimous decision win over Max Holloway.
On Saturday, Poirier looks to keep his winning streak alive when he faces the unbeaten Khabib Nurmagomedov in the main event of UFC 242. Nurmagomedov puts his UFC lightweight crown on the line in the title unification match.
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