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WITH boxing finally delivering a fight for the ages this weekend, UFC couldn’t just sit in the corner and allow the ring to take centre stage. No, they had to muscle in on the party with a rematch destined to be a Fight of the Year contender.

Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje are two of the most balling and enthralling stars in mixed martial arts, and at UFC 291 in Salt Lake City they will contest the symbolic BMF belt.

Six years on from their first meeting, which Poirier won via fourth round TKO, they meet again having trod similar paths in recent years, for a crossroads fight to determine number one contender status in the lightweight division.


Poirier, 34, has been competing in the UFC since New Year’s Day 2011. He’s made the walk to the Octagon 28 times, running up a 29-7 (1 NC) career record that includes being tied first with eight Fight of the Night bonuses.

He’s fought twice for the lightweight title, losing via submission to Khabib Nurmagomedov and Charles Oliveira via submission, but sandwiched in between he became a global star with back-to-back TKO’s over Conor McGregor.

Combining slick counter strike boxing with a high fight IQ and a complimentary ground game, 21 of Poirier’s wins have come inside the distance – 14 by knockout and eight by submission.


Gaethje, also 34, was just three fights into his UFC tenure when he met Poirier in Glendale, Arizona in 2018. A former WSOF champion, he arrived unbeaten in 18 fights and dubbed “the human highlight reel” – a reputation he’s only enhanced inside the Octagon.

In 11 UFC fights, Gaethje has bagged 11 performance bonuses, eight for Fight of the Night and four for knockouts, while his four career defeats arrived against former champ Eddie Alvarez, Poirier and more recently – just like Dustin – in title fights against Khabib and Oliveira.

Despite being a Division-1 All-American college wrestler, Gaethje loves to stand and bang and using his impenetrable gas tank to unload intelligent pressure through high level kickboxing.


Poirier’s TKO finish in their first fight came after a gruelling first three rounds for both men.

Gaethje, targeting leg kicks, smashed away at Poirier’s base, while Dustin used his boxing to target the rushing pressure of his rival to the point where he could take no more.

Both men have improved dramatically since. Gatheje boasts far more intelligent pressure, moving his head off the centre line and throwing with far less reckless abandon.

Poirer’s boxing too has never looked better, while the leg kick gameplan utilised by Gaethje worked perfectly for him in his two fights against McGregor.

Poirer is coming off a Fight of the Night (obviously) third round submission victory over Michael Chandler in New York in November – Gaethje has one of them too, from 2021.

While Justin looked as good as he’s ever looked when outscoring the exciting threat posed by striker Rafael Fiziev in London in March.

It’s pressure versus precision in Salt Lake City and choosing a winner is as tough as it gets. But Poirier got it done once before and the accuracy of his strikes should just get him over the line in a fight where both men will once more prove their mettle.

Fight of the Year candidate? You better believe it.

TIP: Poirier on Points (7/2)

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