For three rounds on Saturday night, the lightweights threw down with ferocity and reckless abandon, thrilling the crowd at Gila River Arena in Gaethje’s backyard of Glendale, Ariz.
But in the fourth, Poirier, his legs chopped up by leg kicks and the victim of two eye pokes, came out and finished the job. Poirier earned the TKO victory in the early clubhouse leader for Fight of the Year at the 33-second mark of the fourth round.
“Justin is a warrior,” Poirier (23-5, 1 NC) said. “This guy would have died in there if Herb Dean didn’t stop the fight.”
The tone was set in the opening round. Geathje peppered Poirier with leg kick after leg kick, then covered up as Poirier closed the distance and scored with crisply thrown combos.
By the second round, Poirier was already switching stances due to the accumulated kicks. But Geathje picked up the volume and it was on, as the duo threw down in a tornado of action.
Things went Geathje’s way in the third round, his best of the fight, as the whirlwind of violence continued unabated. But he was ultimately docked a point by Dean due to his second obvious eye poke of the fight.
While the arena braced for the final rounds, Poirier as having other thoughts. Showing a depth of character as he shrugged off all the accumulated damage, the American Top Team competitor charged forward, landed big shots which wobbled Geathje, and poured it on until Dean had no choice but to wave things off.
Minus a no-contest, Poirier has now won seven of his past eight fights. He put his bid in for a shot at lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in an interview partially bleeped out by FOX.
Gaethje, the former World Series of Fighting champion, is now 18-2. All three of his fights in the UFC -- a win over Michael Johnson and losses to Poirier and Eddie Alvarez -- have been Fight of the Year contenders.