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Dustin Poirier’s advice to Justin Gaethje: Start using ‘the skill that you’re not showing’

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Dustin Poirier bested Justin Gaethje at UFC on FOX 29.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Dustin Poirier understands and respects Justin Gaethje the way only two top-level fighters who engage in a memorable battle together can fully appreciate.

Poirier found a second wind in the fourth round of their sensational brawl at UFC on FOX 29 last Saturday to finish the ultra-tough Gaethje in front of the latter’s hometown fans in Glendale, Ariz.

“It was as I expected,” Poirier said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “Maybe a little tougher. I hit him big shots and he just kept coming forward. He took some serious shots in that fight man, and kept it together for most part. The dude’s a warrior. We knew that going into it.”

After competing against Gaethje in a matchup that is the early frontrunner for Fight of the Year, Poirier believes the general consensus on his opponent is true: He fights in an exciting, crowd-pleasing style, but one which is going to come up just short against the highest-level lightweight fighters.

Which is why, respectfully, Poirier believes it’s not too late for Geathje to make adjustments to his game.

“You just need to have a different mindset,” Poirier said. “You need a bit of that for sure. You have to be tough. All these guys are tough. But at some point, you have to outsmart and outhink and outplan these top fighters. You can’t just go in and say, ‘I’m going to be tougher that you,’ you know? Heavy bags are tough, but I’ve never been beat by one.”

Notably, Gaethje, an All-American wrestler at the University of Northern Colorado, never seems to rely on his wrestling game. If Poirier was in Gaethje’s corner, he’d encourage Saturday’s foe to use more tools from the box.

“Unless you’re committed to fighting the four or five fights that you said you want to retire after, you’re going to take too much damage,” Poirier said. “You have a lot of skill that you’re not showing. And I think you should. He’s an All-America wrestler and I’m sure he has some jiu-jitsu. He wants to entertain the fans.”

In the meantime, Poirier is wearing the results of Gaethje’s go-for-broke style, the one which has produced three straight Fight of the Year contenders. And while the American Top Team competitor has been showing off the bruises on his legs over the Internet, he’d rather not engage in such battles if he doesn’t have to.

“I would prefer to get in and get out without limping around or getting stitched up or anything like that. But that’s just not how fighting works for the most part at this level. Fights like this, especially for an opponent like Justin, you know, mentally I was prepared. And I could have fought another two rounds like that. I was prepared for a violent fight.”