Poirier beats Gaethje by TKO at light­weight

West Hawaii Today - - Sports - BY JOHN MAR­SHALL

GLEN­DALE, Ariz. — Dustin Poirier hob­bled in on crutches af­ter way-toomany kicks made it tough to bend his right leg. He had stitches in his face, may have bro­ken his left hand.

Poirier knew his fight

with Justin Gaethje would be like this. He sur­vived and won with a big left hand, mov­ing a step closer to his ti­tle shot.

Poirier stunned Gaethje with a hard left hand in the fourth round and won by tech­ni­cal knock­out in bru­tal a UFC light­weight fight among top con­tenders Satur­day night.

The fifth-ranked light­weight, Poirier (23-5) blood­ied Gaethje in the first round and fin­ished him off with a flurry early in the fourth, yelling “I’m go­ing to get that ti­tle fight this year!” as he left the oc­tagon.

“As I thought about the pos­si­bil­i­ties this fight could take, I knew I would have to dig down deep, I knew trou­ble would present it­self,” Poirier said. “I just stayed tough and be­lieved in my­self, got it done.

Gaethje (18-2), from Saf­ford, Ari­zona, had the crowd sup­port and landed a se­ries of punches in the sec­ond round af­ter a shaky first. He won the third round on all three scorer’s cards de­spite a point de­duc­tion, but couldn’t avoid Poirier’s left hand in the fourth to lose his sec­ond straight fight af­ter open­ing 18-0.

“I’m con­tent with what just hap­pened, as crazy and as stupid as that sounds,” said Gaethje, the No. 6 light­weight. “I don’t fight to win or lose. I fight to en­ter­tain peo­ple. This is en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness and I fight for money.”

Alex Oliveira filled in as a re­place­ment against Car­los Con­dit in the co-main event af­ter Matt Brown tore his ACL. The 30-year-old Brazil­ian earned the big­gest win of his ca­reer in the desert on two weeks’ no­tice, forc­ing the for­mer in­terim wel­ter­weight champ to sub­mit with a sec­ond-round guil­lo­tine choke hold in a fight that blood­ied both fight­ers.

“I fought on short no­tice and gave a show,” Oliveira said through a trans­la­tor. “I was train­ing, I knew I could be called at short no­tice. I’m a UFC em­ployee and I know I have to be ready when it comes.”

Gaethje earned the nick­name “The High­light” for his hy­per ag­gres­sive style, but Poirier took the fight to him. Poirier hit Gaethje with a cou­ple of com­bi­na­tions, blood­y­ing the left side of his face mid­way through the first round while dodg­ing most of Gaethje’s counter at­tempts.

Gaethje started land­ing punches in the sec­ond round and wore Poirier down with a se­ries of hard leg kicks, revving up chants of “Gaethje!” from the crowd.

Gaethje stag­gered Poirier with a hard right early in the third round, but was de­ducted a point late by ref­eree Herb Dean for hit­ting with an open hand the sec­ond time in the fight.

“I didn’t see the shot — I think it hit me some­where on the left side — and I backed my­self up against the cage, which is some­thing I don’t want to do with a guy like that, es­pe­cially when they hurt you,” Poirier said. “But I felt like I got my wheels un­der me pretty quick.”

Poirier was still ahead on all three cards and left no doubt in the fourth round, stun­ning Gaethje with the left hand and bury­ing him in a flurry of punches un­til Dean stepped in to stop it.

Up and comer mid­dleweight Is­rael Ade­sanya of New Zealand won a split de­ci­sion over Ital­ian Marvin Vet­tori. Michelle Water­son opened the main card with a split-de­ci­sion vic­tory over Cort­ney Casey in a tech­ni­cal straw weight fight.

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