UFC 291

UFC 291 – Gaethje vs. Poirier: War Ready

UFC 291 is this Saturday, July 29th on Pay-Per-View. The card is stacked from top to bottom with the likes of Kevin Holland and Michael Chiesa opening up the main card, all the way up to Alex Pereira making his Light Heavyweight debut against Jan Blachowicz in the co-main event. But, it’s the main event that has fans already on the edge of their seat. 

UFC 291 Main Event

Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier will step into the octagon against each other for the second time in what is sure to be a rematch for the ages this weekend at UFC 291. Their first encounter took place on April 14, 2018 in the main event of UFC on Fox 29. Coming into the bout, this was only Gaethje’s third UFC fight with a record of 1-1. Despite coming in on a loss, fans were still excited about Justin due to his “all action” type style that earned him bonuses in all of his fights. And when you put a all action fighter like Gaethje, against another all action fighter like Dustin Poirier, who at that point, was a veteran in the game stepping into his 20th UFC fight, it was sure to be fireworks. 

Both men were looking to get into title contention. Gaethje started off working the legs of Dustin with kicks, while Poirier was using his boxing to beat up Justin. As the rounds went on, both men were visibly exhausted from continuously walking toward, even to the point where Gaethje just threw it all on the line at the end of the round and tried a front flip kick on Poirier that just missed. Then, in round four, Dustin was waiting for those signature Justin Gaethje leg kicks, and he countered with a perfect shot to the head that wobbled Gaethje and eventually dropped him to get the TKO stoppage. On that night, Dustin Poirier was the better man in what was considered one of the fights of the year in 2018.

Fast forward five years later, and Dustin Poirier has ran through a who’s who of UFC fighters such as Max Holloway, Conor McGregor, Eddie Alvarez, Dan Hooker and Michael Chandler. Since 2018, Dustin has lost to two men; Khabib Nurmagomedov and Charles Oliveira, both former champions. On the flip side, since 2018, Justin Gaethje has also ran through a who’s who of names such as Edson Barboza, Tony Ferguson, Donald Cerrone, Michael Chandler and Rafael Fiziev and has only lost to two men; Khabib Nurmagomedov and Charles Oliveira. 

Dustin and Justin’s career trajectories since their first encounter have nearly mirrored each other. Both dominating the division aside from the same two men, one in Khabib who retired undefeated, and another in Charles who is once again fighting for the divisions championship in October. Aside from the champion and challenger, these are the next top two guys in the division. But don’t worry, gold is on the line. 

At UFC 244 in November of 2019, UFC introduced the BMF Championship, signifying a belt for those who are “bad motherf*ckers” and are willing to fight any and everyone and go to war for a win. The first fight for that brand new title was between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz. Jorge ended up picking up the victory in round 3 via doctors stoppage after busting up Nate’s face too bad to continue. 

Now, Nate Diaz has moved on to the boxing world and stepped away from the UFC, while Jorge Masvidal has retired from the sport and has taken on a promoter role in his own Gamebred promotion. With both being gone, UFC once again had a vacant BMF Championship. So, Dana White made the call for a rematch between Gaethje and Poirier, but this time, put the vacant BMF Title on the line. 

Some fans love the idea of the BMF title, and some fans hate the idea of the BMF title, calling it nothing more than a fake championship, or a consolation prize. But, whether you love it or hate it, it’s hard to deny that what that belt signifies fits perfectly into what this rematch is. Just two bad motherf*ckers going to war! 

Both Dustin and Justin have proved they’re willing to turn any fight they have into a bloodbath if they have to, doing anything to get the win. Both men proved that in their first encounter. But, there’s much more to this story than ever before. As mentioned, Justin Gaethje was only on his third fight in the UFC when the original fight took place. At the time, he was a wild man, recklessly throwing shots and really willing to take one in order to give one when it came to his fighting style. 

Since then, Gaethje has become a more composed fighter with a style that’s still all action, but doing it in a much smarter way. He’s learned to mix his leg kicks in with combination boxing and mixing in takedowns if need be, and not just keeping his chin up, opened for a counter shot. Justin has improved leaps and bounds since their first encounter and it’s very possible we see an even more polished Justin Gaethje come Saturday night. 

But, there’s always that one person that has your number. Could Dustin Poirier be that man for Justin? Dustin has proved he can beat Gaethje, as we saw in their first fight. And since then, Gaethje has gotten better, but so has Dustin Poirier. Poirier’s boxing has become one of the cleanest in the division and his head movement and defense has held up big time against heavy hitters like Chandler and McGregor. Plus, if Gaethje were to take this fight to the ground, Dustin is no slouch in the wrestling department either. 

I believe this fight will be much closer than anyone is willing to admit and somehow way more competitive than their first fight. But, don’t take their cleaner techniques and better fight IQ for being more boring. No, there’s a reason the BMF title is on the line, because these two will still go out there and walk each other down, looking for a finish as early as possible. We had a fight of the year on our hands in 2018, and I think they’re about to do it again in 2023 this Saturday at UFC 291.

Who’s going to win? It’s hard to say. But, the excitement going into this fight has me ready to jump out of my seat three days before the fight even happens. It can’t come soon enough. Though I can’t call who’s going to win and walk out as the baddest in the UFC at UFC 291, one thing is for certain; It’s War Time! 

By: Brady Alexander

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