Justin Gaethje produced a moment of magic to knock out Dustin Poirier and capture the BMF title in the main event of UFC 291 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The two former interim lightweight champions went head to head in a rematch of their first meeting back in 2018 that Poirier won via fourth-round TKO, but it was Gaethje who claimed the victory in the second meeting, with the win coming in the most spectacular fashion possible.
In a remarkable case of history repeating itself, Gaethje knocked out Poirier with a head kick that was a near mirror-image of the kick used by Leon Edwards to knock out Gaethje’s teammate Kamaru Usman in the very same arena at UFC 278 in August 2022. But, while Edwards’ win came in the dying seconds of the fifth round, Gaethje’s came one minute into the second round, as “The Highlight” lived up to his moniker in stunning style.
After his victory, Gaethje said that he had his sights set on the biggest prize in the sport, the undisputed UFC title.
“You know what I want to do next. I want to fight for the world championship,” he said.
“These guys are fighting in October, and I want to prove I’m the best in the world.”
Pereira edges Blachowicz in grueling light heavyweight clash
In the night’s co-main event, former middleweight champion Alex Pereira showed his evolution as a mixed martial artist as he defeated former light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz by split decision.
Blachowicz clearly took the opening round of the fight, using his wrestling to push “Poatan” against the cage before eventually taking the Brazilian to the mat. Blachowicz then took Pereira’s back and tried to lock up a rear-naked choke, but Pereira held on, avoided the finish, and survived the round.
After a dominant opening round for Blachowicz, things looked very different in Round 2. The big Pole was clearly struggling with the thin altitude air of Salt Lake City after such a grapple-heavy start, and Pereira started to take control on the feet. The Brazilian landed some solid shots and, while he wasn’t able to seriously hurt the notoriously tough Blachowicz, the former light heavyweight champion did start to wilt late in the round as Pereira landed big shots to the body.
With both fighters seemingly taking a round apiece, it set up a tense final round, but Pereira’s smart, controlled kickboxing kept a tiring Blachowicz at bay and, even though the Pole was able to find a home for his leaping left hook on multiple occasions, the pop had disappeared from his shots as the grueling nature of the matchup took its toll. The final action of the fight was a late takedown from Blachowicz, but he was too tired to do anything significant with the position before time ran out and Pereira was awarded the split-decision win with scores of 29-28, 28-29, 29-28.
After the verdict, “Poatan” made clear that he had moved up to 205 pounds with one goal in mind, to win the UFC light heavyweight title, and called for a title shot in his next fight.
“The Black Beast” claims record 14th finish, announces free agency
Derrick Lewis arrived in Salt Lake City looking like a new man, but on fight night he proved that “The Black Beast” is every bit as dangerous as he’s ever been.
During fight week Lewis spoke of his improved diet and fitness regime, and promised to step onto the weigh-in scale with a six pack. He duly delivered as he arrived at the weigh-ins in the best shape of his career. Then, against Marcos Rogerio de Lima, he produced one of the most spectacular performances of his UFC career.
Lewis opened up with a massive flying knee right from the start as he connected clean on the Brazilian’s chin. Remarkably de Lima survived that strike, but was left with no option but to cover up as Lewis rained down a non-stop barrage of punches to his grounded opponent that only ceased when referee Dan Miragliotta intervened after 33 seconds.
The stoppage win gave Lewis his 14th UFC victory by KO/TKO – a new record – as he made a huge statement in the final fight of his current UFC deal as he revealed to Joe Rogan in his post-fight interview that he was now a free agent.
After a performance like that, and a reception like the one he received from the Salt Lake City crowd, a fresh new UFC contract offer will surely follow.
Green chokes out Ferguson with buzzer-beating submission
Bobby “King” Green submitted Tony Ferguson in the closing seconds of their lightweight main card bout to put the seal on a dominant performance against the former interim lightweight champion.
Green looked sharper, faster and slicker than Ferguson throughout their three-round matchup, as he used his fast hands to land consistently on Ferguson, who walked into boxing range, rather than punching his way in. It meant that Green comprehensively outstruck “El Cucuy” on the feet. But Green put the perfect exclamation point on his performance when he went to the mat with Ferguson late in Round 3 and locked up an arm-triangle choke.
To his credit, Ferguson did his best to survive and make it to the final horn, but Green kept the pressure on and rendered his man unconscious with just six seconds left in the bout. The victory put Green back in the win column after a run of three fights (one no contest, two defeats) without a win, while Ferguson will be left to consider his next move after falling to his sixth successive defeat.
Holland dominates returning Chiesa
In the night’s opening main card matchup, Kevin Holland produced an impressive display to finish Michael Chiesa via first-round D’Arce choke.
Chiesa was making his competitive return after almost two years away, and “Maverick” found the going tough against a slick, sharp and on-form Holland, who delivered one of his most impressive performances as a welterweight.
As many expected, Holland had the edge in the stand-up exchanges, but Holland made a real statement by claiming the finish on the mat as he locked up a D’Arce choke to force the tap from noted submission specialist Chiesa.
After his victory, Holland suggested that he’d be moving back up to middleweight. But, after such an impressive display at 170, where his height and reach can be a bigger threat, his team may well try to convince him to stay at welterweight for the time being.
Preliminary card roundup
The two preliminary cards served up a feast of finishes, with just one of the six undercard bouts requiring the services of the cageside judges. That bout saw CJ Vergara claim a unanimous decision victory, and a degree of justice, after his opponent Vinicius Salvador failed to make weight at Friday’s weigh-ins. The Brazilian came in 2.5 pounds over the non-title flyweight limit, but Vergara accepted the fight at a catchweight and, after a tricky opening stanza, made the necessary adjustments to run out the winner, with scores of 29-28 on all three cards.
The other bouts produced an array of crowd-pleasing finishes. On the early prelims, Miranda Maverick kicked off the night with a dominant performance, and a third-round armbar finish of Priscila Cachoeira, while Uros Medic landed a spectacular spinning backfist en route to a third-round finish of the teak-tough Matthew Semelsberger.
The preliminary card saw Australia’s Jake Matthews claim a second-round rear-naked choke finish of Darrius Flowers, while Roman Kopylov had the Salt Lake City fans out of their seats with a spectacular head-kick KO of Claudio Ribeiro. The featured preliminary card bout of the night saw Brazilian welterweight Gabriel Bonfim extend his perfect professional record to 14-0 with a hugely-impressive guillotine-choke finish of Trevin Giles, who he finished in just 73 seconds.
UFC 291: Official results
- Justin Gaethje def. Dustin Poirier via knockout (head kick) – Round 2, 1:00 – for BMF title
- Alex Pereira def. Jan Blachowicz via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Derrick Lewis def. Marcos Rogerio de Lima via TKO (flying knee and punches) – Round 1, 0:33
- Bobby Green def. Tony Ferguson via technical submission (arm-triangle choke) – Round 3, 4:54
- Kevin Holland def. Michael Chiesa via submission (D’Arce choke) – Round 1, 2:39
- Gabriel Bonfim def. Trevin Giles via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 1, 1:13
- CJ Vergara def. Vinicius Salvador via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Roman Kopylov def. Claudio Ribeiro via knockout (head kick) – Round 2, 0:33
- Jake Matthews def. Darrius Flowers via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 2:37
- Uros Medic def. Matthew Semelsberger via TKO (spinning backfist and punches) – Round 3, 2:36
- Miranda Maverick def. Priscila Cachoeira via submission (armbar) – Round 3, 2:11