Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight bruisers Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje went to war last night (Dec. 2, 2017) at UFC 218 inside the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan.
This bout carried a lot of divisional circumstances, but all of that was secondary to the all-but-guaranteed violence of this match up. It had the intrigue of a pure spectacle but actually was a match up of top five Lightweights looking to earn a title shot. Alvarez was a little further back from that goal considering his loss to McGregor and controversy with Dustin Poirier, whereas Gaethje was very potentially fighting for a match opposite Tony Ferguson.
Gaethje opened the bout by targeting his opponent’s lead leg. Over and over, he kicked his foe in the leg a half dozen times in the opening minute. Alvarez moved his head well and looked to counter, landing a few low kicks of his own. 90 seconds in, a low kick buckled Alvarez’s knee, and the former champion responded with an uptick in volume.
Gaethje, as usual, was undeterred by everything Alvarez threw at him. His punches weren’t yet landing consistently, but the low kicks could not miss. Alvarez hung in there game as hell, but it was clear that the low kicks were hurting him. In response, Alvarez began targeting the body, and those punches landed very well. Those body shots hurt Gaethje late in the round, allowing Alvarez to set up some clean punches to the skull as well.
Five minutes in showed that Alvarez was the sharper boxer, but his lead leg absorbed a ton of damage.
Gaethje began jabbing more in the second, still hunting for low kicks, while Alvarez moved well and looked for looping counters. Alvarez was the fresher man, throwing more volume and doing his best to avoid the clubbing punches of his opponent.
Alvarez hit a big flurry of body shots that hurt his opponent at about the two-minute mark, and he swarmed. Gaethje hung in there, firing back and landing a couple hard low kicks in reponse. Alvarez definitely got hit, but overall he was the far slicker striker in the second round.
Things were very much up in the air with five minutes remaining, as both men were fatigued and sore from their brawl. However, the momentum was in Alvarez’s corner.
A couple hard low kicks from Gaethje wounded his opponent at the start of the round. Alvarez tried to pull guard, a surefire sign that his leg was destroyed. When Gaethje didn’t follow, Alvarez switched into Southpaw.
Moments later, Alvarez was back in Orthodox looking to scrap. Gaethje just kept going back at the leg, ignoring punches and takedowns to kick the leg. Alvarez began pressuring into the clinch/takedown attempts, which seemed like a bad decision at first, as he eat some hard uppercuts. Instead, Alvarez capitalized on the lack of footing from his foe, jamming a knee into his opponent’s jaw.
Gaethje fell hard, and he didn’t get back up.
This was an absolute war, and Alvarez’s boxing craft came through. Low kicks aside, Alvarez really did approach this bout like a veteran boxer taking on an up-and-coming knockout artist. He didn’t meet him head-to-head, but he also didn’t avoid the exchanges.
More than that, Alvarez’s body shots won him the fight. Until those strikes, Alvarez had a really hard time of earning his opponent’s respect. However, the body shots hurt Gaethje, drew the hands down, and slowed Gaethje’s relentless assault.
Up next for Alvarez is likely a rematch with Dustin Poirier, which could very likely be a title eliminator depending on how the division shakes out. Before you think about that rematch, take a second to appreciate this one once more.
Gaethje promised this would happen. He’s well-aware of the risks of his offense first style, and this time the shot the stunned him completely took out his senses.
Otherwise, it was a great performance from Gaethje. He received the brawl he asked for, and the momentum was on his side in the third even if the decision was entirely up for grabs. For the record, Gaethje should only be set up for five round fights in the future, as his attrition style really thrives with an extra 10 minutes.
It wouldn’t have mattered last night, but Gaethje is a championship-level fighter who deserves Fight Night headliner positions.
Last night, Eddie Alvarez scored a brutal knockout at the end of a wild brawl. Can Alvarez recapture the strap?
For complete UFC 218 “Holloway vs. Aldo 2” results and play-by-play, click HERE!