2018 Fight of the Year: Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje
2018 had its fair share of razor-close fights and come-from-behind wins. There were brawls, technical battles and crowd silencing upsets. Out of the hundreds of fights, one kept the audience captivated a little bit more than the rest.
On April 14, in Glendale, Arizona, lightweights Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje headlined UFC on FOX 29 and captivated the audience inside Gila River Arena and the millions watching on network television. Gaethje entered the bout ranked No. 6 in the 155-pound division while Poirier stepped into the cage ranked No. 5.
The matchup had all the ingredients to deliver excitement and more than lived up to expectations. 15 of Geathje’s 18 wins at the time came by way of knockout. Poirier, an accomplished striker, welcomed the possibility to standing toe-to-toe with the former World Series of Fighting lightweight champion.
Poirier kept a high pace in the opening round landing combinations. He opened up a cut beneath Gaethje’s right eye with his jab while Gaethje chopped away at Poirier’s lead leg with powerful leg kicks.
With the leg kicks adding up, Gaethje pressured Poirier in the second frame. Poirier continued to implement a high volume attack but Gaethje inflicted damage in the clinch along the cage. At the end of the round the momentum had changed and Poireir was bleeding from a cut over his right eye.
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In the third round, Gaethje began to take over the fight. Poirier’s was slowed by the leg kicks and his movement compromised. Gaethje began landing more frequently and he was able to close the distance to land uppercuts on the inside.
Heading into the fourth frame, both fighters were damaged and fatigued. Poirier connected with a straight left hand early in the round staggering Gaethje. Gaethje motioned for Poirier to come forward and Poirier obliged. He looked for the finish while Gaethje struggled to find his balance. Gaethje fired back but was absorbing shots. A right hand dropped Gaethje and referee Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight.
The action-packed fight earned Fight of the Night honors and the distinction of being MMAWeekly’s 2018 Fight of the Year.