The series is officially tied (1-1) between top Lightweight contenders, Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje.
UFC 291 was a night full of finishes and the head kick knockout has seemingly become a staple of Salt Lake City, Utah, events. First, it was the former Welterweight kingpin, Kamaru Usman, falling to Leon Edwards in Aug. 2022 (watch highlights), and now we have Usman’s teammate, Gaethje, delivering one of his own to Poirier this past weekend (July 29, 2023).
Gaethje thumped Poirier upside the head with a baseball bat-like kick one minute into round two (watch highlights) to become the new “Baddest Motherf—ker (BMF)” champion. Along with the prize, Gaethje scored redemption after losing to Poirier in April 2018.
“I’m just heartbroken,” Poirier said on The MMA Hour. “It sucks. I worked hard, was in incredible shape, and I got beat. But that’s fighting. I said that in the post-fight. It sucks, man. It f—king sucks. Especially because — not taking anything away from Justin, he’s a warrior and [did] an incredible job, having to sit on a loss for five years. I had to do it with Conor [McGregor]. I sat on a loss for seven, eight years, until I had an opportunity to finally get it back. So he sat on that loss for five years, and boy he got it back. But, it just sucks because I still feel like I’m better than him.
“I feel like I’m the better fighter,” he added. “I got hit with a great shot — not by luck or chance, he set it up beautifully and I was just a victim to great technique. I was in the wrong place and I didn’t guard myself properly. But I felt very aware the whole fight. I feel like I’m better than him and I lost. That hurts. But, that’s fighting and it is what it is. What can I do?”
With the win, Gaethje is expected to await the winner of the upcoming undisputed title rematch between the champion, Islam Makhachev, and former titleholder, Charles Oliveira, at UFC 294 on Oct. 21, 2023. Meanwhile, Poirier goes back to the drawing board, hoping he can at some point square off with Gaethje for a third and final time.
“Yeah, but then I’ll look like I’m chasing s—t, and obviously he’s moving onto bigger and better things now, he doesn’t have to fight me,” Poirier said when asked if he wants to fight Gaethje again. “I don’t know. Of course, that would be my No. 1 pick, if I could choose anybody to fight right away.”
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