It felt like Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje left pieces of themselves strewn across the Octagon. No one expected anything less.
Poirier made a significant move in the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight division, as he put away the former World Series of Fighting titleholder with punches in the fourth round of their UFC on Fox 29 main event on Saturday at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. Gaethje succumbed to blows 33 seconds into Round 4.
It was a beautifully brutal encounter. Gaethje targeted the inside of the American Top Team rep’s lead leg with repeated kicks and zeroed in on his head with clubbing power punches. Poirier returned fire, withstood his counterpart’s breakneck pace and capitalized when the opportunity to finish presented itself. The FightMetric figures were startling: Poirier and Gaethje combined to land 295 total strikes, 289 of them significant.
In the aftermath of UFC on Fox 29, here are five matches that ought to be made:
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Dustin Poirier vs. Edson Barboza-Kevin Lee winner: Poirier has gone 3-0 with one no-contest in four appearances since his knockout loss to Michael Johnson in September 2016, re-establishing himself as one of the sport’s premier lightweights. He leaned on his toughness, guile and resolve against Gaethje before a knifing left hook turned the tide permanently in the opening moments of the fourth round. Poirier made his desires known during the post-fight afterglow but likely has work left to do at 155 pounds before challenging for the lightweight crown. Barboza and Lee will duke it out in the UFC Fight Night 128 headliner on April 21.
Alex Oliveira vs. Max Griffin: A short-notice fill-in for the injured Matt Brown, Oliveira rebounded from a Dec. 2 defeat to Yancy Medeiros by submitting former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Carlos Condit with a second-round guillotine choke in the welterweight co-headliner. The Brazilian “Cowboy” has quietly compiled an 8-3 mark since joining the UFC roster in 2015, losing only to Medeiros, Donald Cerrone and Gilbert Burns. Griffin last fought at UFC on Fox 28 in February, when he claimed a three-round unanimous decision over Mike Perry.
Israel Adesanya vs. Cezar Ferreira-Karl Roberson winner: Adesanya kept his perfect professional record intact, as he moved to 13-0 with a split decision over Marvin Vettori in their middleweight showcase. All three judges scored it 29-28: Derek Cleary and Chris Hayes for the victorious Nigerian, Chris Lee for Vettori. Adesanya outlanded the former Venator Fighting Championship titleholder by small margins in the first and second rounds, built a lead and weathered a pair of takedowns in the third. Ferreira and Roberson will collide at UFC 224 on May 12 in Rio de Janeiro.
Michelle Waterson vs. Angela Hill: Waterson was the beneficiary of a contentious split verdict, as she slipped past Cortney Casey-Sanchez in their three-round battle at 115 pounds. “The Karate Hottie” landed 25 more significant strikes than Casey-Sanchez and executed takedowns in all three rounds. Waterson’s attacks were met with an active submission game from a determined opponent, as she was forced to defend against armbars, triangle chokes, heel hooks and rear-naked chokes. Hill last appeared on Feb. 24, when she walked a way with a unanimous decision over Maryna Moroz at UFC on Fox 28.
Alejandro Perez vs. Sean O'Malley: Perez left nothing to chance, moved to 6-1-1 under the UFC flag and disposed of Matthew Lopez with a second-round knee strike and follow-up punches. The end came 3:42 into the middle stanza. Lopez had “The Ultimate Fighter Latin America” winner reeling in the first round, where he stunned him with a searing left hand and twice advanced to the back. However, his inability to finish proved costly. Unbeaten in his last six outings, Perez has rattled off three straight victories since his September 2016 majority draw with Albert Morales. O’Malley, 11-0, last competed at UFC 222 on March 3, when he pocketed a unanimous decision against Andre Soukhamthath.