Dustin Poirier cemented his status as a lightweight contender on Saturday night, with a hard-fought TKO victory over Justin Gaethje at UFC on FOX 29 in what will surely be a contender for fight of the year so far.
Gaethje troubled “The Diamond” with leg kicks throughout the main event contest at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, but it would ultimately lead to his downfall in round four.
After a back-and-forth struggle, in which Poirier’s heavy hands went up against Gaethje’s educated feet, the former WSOF 155-pound champion threw an inside leg kick early in the fourth stanza that Poirier (23-5) met with a beautiful left jab that landed cleanly on his opponent’s chin.
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With “The Highlight” rocked, many would have expected the former NCAA All-American wrestler to shoot for a desperate takedown. However, the 29-year-old opted to stay on his feet and attempt to fight fire with fire, with Poirier’s power proving far too much to handle. A wobbled Gaethje ultimately succumbed to a right hand that dropped him to the canvas – prompting the wave-off from referee Herb Dean.
The victory means the American Top Team fighter has lost only once since his 2014 defeat to Conor McGregor, going 7-1 (1) in his last nine outings. Consequently, a lightweight title shot may soon beckon for Poirier, while Gaethje (18-2) must pick up the pieces after dropping consecutive bouts – the first two losses on his otherwise unblemished record.
Meanwhile, in the co-main event of the evening, late-notice welterweight Alex Oliveira scored a huge victory over veteran contender Carlos Condit, forcing the 33-year-old to tap from a guillotine choke midway through the second round.
Despite this being his fourth defeat in a row, Condit (30-12) looked impressive on the ground at times, threatening a couple of chokes of his own in the first round before ultimately coming up short.
The win moves “Cowboy” to 19-4-1 (2) overall, and while he’s a long way off from being considered a title contender, he did justifiably earn a Performance of the Night bonus for his efforts.