April 2018 had no shortage of high-octane action in the world of MMA.
From bangers in the UFC to slugfests in Combate Americas, all around the world, some fantastic fights took place last month. Despite the quality, quality action, the Fight of the Month isn’t even in question.
MMASucka’s Fight of the Month for April 2018: Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje go to war in Arizona
Before reading any further, last month’s Fight of the Month didn’t receive a write-up, unfortunately. But the winner of that was an outstanding bantamweight title fight with massive implications under the ONE Championship banner; Bibiano Fernandes vs. Martin Nguyen.
Also, check out April’s Knockout of the Month courtesy of Dricus Du Plessis and Submission of the Month courtesy of Tatsuya So. Both of these happened on the same weekend as the Fight of the Month. From Arizona to Tokyo to Wroclaw… something must’ve been in the air.
On April 14, 2018, live from Glendale, Arizona, UFC on FOX 29 took place at the Gila River Arena.
In the main event was a lightweight barn-burner with near-impossible expectations as Dustin Poirier entered enemy territory to take on former WSOF title-holder; Justin Gaethje.
It was the #5 ranked lightweight vs. the #6 ranked lightweight. “The Diamond” vs. “The Highlight” in a fight that – believe it or not – somehow exceeded the stupidly high expectations people had for it on paper.
Immediately these two started going at each other. Gaethje attacking with some solid signature leg kicks, but Poirier had an answer every time in the form of solid, solid punches. Gaethje had a cut near his left eye within 65-seconds of the first round, but of course, that didn’t slow him down.
The excellent exchanges continued. Poirier was landing some beautiful combinations throughout, but Gaethje remained mostly unphased, throwing punches right back as well as constantly cracking Poirier’s lead-leg with heavy leg kicks.
One may see the above GIFs and assume that Poirier was having his way with Gaethje, but that is hardly the case. Gaethje landed a ton of leg kicks throughout round one, and as much as he is wearing damage on his face from Poirier’s barrages, Poirier is wearing the same amount of damage on his legs.
After an incredible round one, with never-ending exchanges, the action picked up where it left off in round two. Early in round two, the fight was briefly stopped after Gaethje landed an accidental eye poke on Poirier amidst all the chaos. They wasted no time getting back to it when the fight resumed, taking part in some absolutely insane strike exchanges.
Both men are starting to look a bit tired midway through round two, and it’s hard to blame them. It doesn’t noticeably slow either all that much, but it’s just a bit obvious that after every 97-strike combo, every leg kick, and every bomb, they breathe a bit heavier than they were in round one after the same action.
In the final two minutes of round two, Poirier attempted the first takedown of the fight. He was promptly shrugged off by the former NCAA wrestler. Upon getting back to their feet, Poirier attacked with a jab-heavy combo before landing a powerful hook and following it up with a leg kick of his own. I guess he noticed the damage Gaethje had done to his leg and wanted to pay it forward.
Round two ends with Poirier attempting another takedown which was, yet again, defended by Gaethje. This allowed Arizona’s own to turn Poirier into the fence and begin to do some work with the dominant position. All before the madman closed out the round with a freaking rolling thunder.
Finally, through two rounds, Poirier is starting to wear the damage on his face as well. Blood trickling from his right eye, Poirier looked a bit more defeated than Gaethje after round two as both went to their corner.
Early in round three, Poirier went for another takedown, this time completing it. Gaethje wouldn’t even allow him a moment to breathe a little from top position, as he stood back up almost immediately. That’s the thing about Justin Gaethje, for as wild as he is on the feet, for as much of a show-stealing knockout-artist as he has become, he is an incredibly legit wrestler. Very hard get down, let alone keep down.
Shortly after standing back up, Gaethje slipped a jab to clip Poirier with a solid straight punch. Sending Dustin Poirier reeling backward, really for the first time in the fight. This allowed Gaethje to clinch with a fading Poirier, controlling the position and landing solid strikes from the position for the better part of two minutes.
Towards the end of round three, Gaethje hit another unintentional eye poke on Poirier. This time referee Herb Dean took a point away.
As round three came to a close, Poirier accidentally glanced the eye of Gaethje. What followed was a fun exchange of words between the two.
JG: “These gloves suck d*ck. That’s what it is, man. That (round) was a good one!”
DP: “But not as good as the second (round)!”
Round four began, and the finish came quick. Both were worn down, but neither would slow down. They have maintained virtually the same insane pace throughout, despite both being visibly worn.
Just fifteen seconds into the ‘championship’ rounds, Poirier cracked Gaethje with a nice counter left-hand. Visibly hurting Gaethje, leading to the fight-ending barrage shortly after. Despite having an All-American background, Gaethje was so out of it on his feet to not even have the wherewithal to shoot in for a takedown out of desperation. Per usual, he went out on his shield. Despite the loss.
The stoppage comes at 33-seconds of round four. The #5 ranked Poirier improved to 23-5 with 1 No Contest. Gaethje, ranked #6, falls to 18-2. Just three fights into his UFC career, that is two main event billings for Gaethje and three-straight Fight of the Night honors. Surely with more to come.
Dustin Poirier took the mic with Jon Anik post-fight, showing nothing but respect for Justin Gaethje, and calling out a certain undefeated Russian.
“Hey guys, I know you guys booed me on the way out, Y’all booed me during the fight. But come on, cheer me and Justin, man. We left it all out here. Justin is a warrior, man. Arizona, you really have yourself a warrior. This guy would have died in here if Herb Dean wouldn’t have stopped it. This guy has no quit in him, and I respect it 100%.”
“But I gotta say one thing. This is my 20th fight in the UFC. I’ve been close to the mountaintop, I’ve been knocked down, and I’ve climbed back over and over again. In two different weight classes. I would never stand in here and ask for something I didn’t earn… Dana, Sean, Khabib. Let’s f*cking go! It’s time!”
There you have it. Another 2018 Fight of the Month, and a real contender for the eventual fight of the year. Check out the full fight here, as it is an absolute must-watch. Check out a list of honorable mention for April 2018 Fight of the Month contenders below! Particularly recommend you check out the slugfest at Combate Estrellas I between Estrada and Morales.
- UFC 223 | Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
- UFC 223 | Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Kyle Bochniak
- UFC 223 | Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Felice Herrig
- Bellator 196 | Ed Ruth vs. Ion Pascu
- CES 49 | Nate Andrews vs. Chris Padilla
- Titan FC 49 | Caio Uruguai vs. Juan Villaseca
- KSW 43 | David Zawada vs. Michal Michalski
- Combate Estrellas I | Jose Estrada vs. Rudy Morales
- Bellator 197 | Dominic Mazzotta vs. Josh Sampo
- Bellator 197 | AJ McKee vs. Justin Lawrence
- ONE: Heroes of Honor | Honorio Banario vs. Adrian Pang
- Brave CF 11 | Lucas Martins vs. Luan Santiago
- UFC FN 128 | Kevin Lee vs. Edson Barboza
- UFC FN 128 | Ricky Simon vs. Merab Dvalishvili
- Combate Estrellas II | Ricardo Arreola vs. Ivan Perez
- Cage Warriors 93 | Carlo Pedersoli Jr. vs. Nicolas Dalby