The main event in Glendale, Arizona was expected to be a slugfest and one of the best fights of the year. It exceeded even those lofty expectations. The card also featured some rising stars, top contenders, and UFC veterans. It is always exciting when the UFC comes to a mainstream spotlight like it does on FOX and Saturday night did not disappoint.
1 Dustin Poirier outlasts Hurricane Gaethje
Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier gave fans exactly what they wanted. These two men put everything on the line for our entertainment. The fight opened with some harsh exchanges on the feet. Poirier landed tons of punches to a covered up Justin Gaethje in the first round but we have seen Gaethje attempt to tire his opponents out this way in the past. The UFC veteran, Poirier, recognized this and got Gaethje to cover his head so he could rip shots to the body. He also took a page out of Eddie Alvarez's book and found success with his uppercut between the arms of Gaethje to find his chin.
While Poirier was having tons of success landing strikes, his legs were getting pummeled by the kicks of Justin Gaethje. He throws a back leg kick that is loaded with power, putting Poirier on crutches by the end of the night. Dustin Poirier had no success checking these kicks and was clearly wobbled, allowing Gaethje to land his strikes more effectively. By the end of the second and third rounds, Gaethje had effectively come back and hurt Poirier. It looked like Dustin Poirier was close to being out of the fight.
Early in the fourth, however, Dustin Poirier clipped Justin Gaethje and turned his legs into those of a baby giraffe. While Gaethje refused to go down, he was obviously out on his feet. A few follow up punches dropped Gaethje who popped back up but not before Herb Dean stopped the fight. Justin Gaethje, who could barely walk was ready to keep fighting, but it was definitely a good stoppage. After the fight, Poirier asked for a title shot. It seems reasonable that he should be the next in line for the belt unless Tony Ferguson is back in time. Poirier also showed respect to his opponent, saying that Gaethje would have died in that octagon if he had to. This was an easy decision for Fight of the Night and left fans on their feet.
2 Alex Oliveira submits Carlos Condit on short notice
Carlos Condit vs. Matt Brown was one of the most anticipated fights scheduled in April. Unfortunately, when Brown tore his ACL, the fight was scrapped. Alex "Cowboy" Oliveira took a risk by stepping in on short notice to take on "The Natural Born Killer" in Arizona. Condit started out strong in the first round. He secured a takedown and took the back of Oliveira with plenty of time left in the round. Fortunately for "Cowboy" he was able to fight off all of Condit's submission attempts to make it back to his corner.
Condit started out strong in the second round as well, landing combinations to the body of Oliveira. After Oliveira caught a kick and took Condit down, "The Natural Born Killer" got back to his feet while "Cowboy" stayed on the ground. Oliveira landed a brutal up-kick on the chin of Condit, wobbling him. This induced a scramble that allowed Oliveira to sink in the guillotine that ended the fight. This high profile victory was just what Oliveira needed to make a case for a ranking after losing to Yancy Medeiros in one of the craziest battles in recent memory. Condit has now lost four straight inside the octagon.
3 Israel Adesanya remains undefeated
Israel "The Last Stylebender" Adesanya is possibly the most exciting new middleweight prospect in the UFC. The former kickboxing champion has some of the flashiest and effective striking in the sport. Before Saturday night, he was 12-0 in his MMA career with 12 knockouts. Saturday was a bit different. He faced fellow prospect, Marvin Vettori in his second UFC bout. Adesanya did not dominate as expected but he did outclass Vettori on the feet. Vettori displayed an amazing chin, eating some hard shots and throwing back. The Italian secured two takedowns in the fight and exposed the lack of experience that Adesanya has on the ground.
Adesanya showed off amazing defensive boxing during this bout. Vettori swung and hit air more often than not as Adesanya ducked out of the line of fire. Vettori did all he could on the ground and despite his lack of ability on the mat, Adesanya was able to get to his feel relatively quickly and light the Italian up with punches, kicks, elbows, and knees. This earned him a split decision victory that the vast majority of the MMA community feels was deserved. It will be exciting to see who the UFC challenges one of their most exciting prospects with next.
The undercard fights were just as entertaining as the main card. Highlights included Adam Wieczorek pulling off the second omoplata in UFC history to defeat undefeated heavyweight, Arjan Bhullar. Wieczorek earned a Performance of the Night bonus and moved to 2-0 in the UFC. He is now 12-1 in his career, losing only to Marcin Tybura in his second ever professional bout.
Brad Tavares earned an impressive knockout win over Krzysztof Jotko in their middleweight bout as did Muslim Salikhov over Ricky Rainey in a welterweight fight. Antonio Carlos Junior submitted UFC veteran Tim Boetsch for his fifth straight win as well. Other highlights included Michelle Waterson getting back on track with a split decision win over Cortney Casey and Gilbert Burns spoiling the debut of Dan Moret by knocking him out in devistating fashion. Yushin Okami was a rare bright spot for the long-time UFC veterans on Saturday, earning a decision win over Dhiego Lima.
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