If one fighter stood out from the pack at UFC 286 on March 18, it was Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje. Prior to his bout with Rafael Fiziev, Gaethje dismissed his critics and remarked on the amount of damage he’d deliver to Fiziev. By all accounts, Gaethje did deliver.
Gaethje, who is currently ranked third in the UFC’s Lightweight division, expressed his desire for a rematch with Charles Oliveira in a post-fight interview. However, Oliveira is scheduled to face Beneil Dariush at UFC 288 on May 7. This left one other name, a fighter with whom Gaethje has unfinished business, Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier.
In an interview with BT Sport prior to UFC 286, Gaethje expressed interest in fighting Poirier, “I have a gold belt hanging at my house, but it’s an interim title. I’m sitting at No. 3, very close. A big win over Fiziev puts me right back [in title contention]. You’ve got Dariush and Oliveira fighting, they’ve got to figure that out, and then the winner’s going to fight the champion. If I need to fight Poirier in between that, I will. If not, someone’s going to fight [the winner of Oliveira vs Dariush] and that’ll be me.”
Gaethje delivered on his words and defeated Fiziev with a convincing points victory. Since Dariush and Oliveira are scheduled to fight, the only opponent above Gaethje is the No.2 ranked Poirier. The matchmaking couldn’t be any easier.
Dustin Poirier Verbally Agrees to Rematch Justin Gaethje
“5 rounds with [Dustin Poirier], winner fights [Islam Makhachev] in Abu Dhabi,” one Twitter user replied to the UFC asking fans what they want next for Gaethje. “The Diamond” replied, “Let’s go,” seemingly rising to the challenge of the Gaethje rematch.
Poirier’s tweet quickly caught traction, with many fans pouring in to express their interest in a Gaethje Poirier rematch. Poirier soon followed up with another message, this time an image of Marvin Hagler donning his iconic “WAR II” cap, implying that there will be a second war between Poirier and Gaethje.
An Ode to Violence: Gaethje vs. Poirier I
Gaethje and Poirier first came to odds on April 14, 2018, headlining UFC on Fox 29. The two went through four rounds of adversity to deliver one of the best fights of the year.
In round one, Gaethje worked Poirier’s legs by throwing chopping low kicks, whilst Poirier looked to establish his boxing on the feet. Both men land some hard shots, with Gaethje’s face weathering the most damage, whilst his leg kicks start to hinder Poirier’s advances.
In round two, Poirier gives Gaethje something to think about by attempting a takedown. The two box each other on the feet, both landing hard shots, but Poirier finds more success. Gaethje still finds the mark with his patented low kicks. Gaethje’s high guard and looping counters are no issue for Poirier, who shoves Gaethje around the cage and steers clear with effective head movement and footwork. Poirier’s precision is unparalleled as he winds his punches in between and around Gaethje’s tight guard. Gaethje finishes the round strong by working Poirier in the clinch, before landing a head kick and attempting a rolling thunder. This is a war of attrition and the fighter with the biggest heart will succeed.
Poirier takes the fight to the ground just a minute into round three, but Gaethje pops right back up. Gaethje cracks Poirier with a crisp right hand, sending Poirier back to the fence where they engage in clinch fighting. Gaethje takes this round, but both fighters are visibly exhausted.
Just a few seconds into round four, Poirier counters a lazy leg kick with a superbly timed left hand, wobbling Gaethje and sending him reeling backward. Poirier stays reserved and works Gaethje with patient boxing combinations, he’s not willing to let Gaethje get the upper hand again. The two fighters become entangled, and Poirier comes over the top with a wild right hand, his forearm knocks Gaethje off balance and the latter goes careening into the cage side. Poirier jumps on his prey and finishes the fight with a flurry of accurate punches.
Poirier vs. Gaethje I was an all-you-can-eat buffet of violence, and it was a testament to both fighters’ grit and toughness. With both men having improved by leaps and bounds, a rematch would undoubtedly live up to the hype.