Gaethje is currently the No. 3-ranked lightweight in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings and could cement his status as the division’s next title challenger if he defeats No. 5-ranked Michael Chandler on Nov. 6 at UFC 268. And after losing to Poirier in 2018’s Fight of the Year, Gaethje expects his former foe to capture the UFC gold that has eluded him thus far.
“It’s a very interesting matchup. I’ve got to favor Poirier, most certainly,” Gaethje said on a recent appearance on UFC Unfiltered.
“[Oliveira] is a great grappler — he’s a great grappler — but again he doesn’t have great ability to take you down to the ground. Poirier being a southpaw, it’s always funky when you face southpaws. It’s a little bit different, you don’t see them too often. [Poirier] does a great job at controlling range. Oliveira is not Khabib [Nurmagomedov] — he doesn’t march forward and march through things to close that distance. He really needs you to either choose to take him down or he needs you to buy into the grappling with him and go into the clinch. He has some good takedowns from the clinch and I think that’s the only time he takes people down, is from the clinch. So I don’t see Poirier being in the clinch a lot.”
As much as Gaethje believes in Poirier’s ability, his prediction is also a nod toward what Gaethje thinks about the UFC’s current lightweight champion.
After a mostly up-and-down UFC career, Oliveira seemingly leveled up from out of nowhere to run through nine consecutive wins since the start of 2018 and capture the title vacated by Khabib Nurmagomedov. Oliveira’s last three victories — over Kevin Lee, Tony Ferguson, and Chandler — proved to many of his doubters within the MMA community that the Brazilian had become a genuine force to be reckoned within the lightweight division.
Gaethje, though, can’t say that he’s sold.
“I’m not high on Oliveira yet, and I get a lot of sh*t for it,” Gaethje said. “He fought eight [wins] in a row, but at the end of the day, Tony Ferguson was the best win on that streak by far, and it was after I put him through 24 minutes and 15 seconds of f*cking straight hell. And I didn’t break [Ferguson], he’s not done — that dude is special kind of dude so he’ll never be broken — but there’s a certain way to fight that man, and I showed you how to do it. So that win isn’t as great as it was — and it wasn’t as great as when I beat him, when he was on his 12-fight win streak. After that, it’s not as great, and that’s just what I think.”
“Great fights but not championship caliber contender fights,” Gaethje said. “That just is what it is. Hey, he’s got the belt, he can tell me to shove it. That’s what I would be saying, exactly what he said — I would tell me to shove it up my ass and go win eight in a row.
“I’m in a great position, I don’t have to win eight in a row. I’ve got to win one in a row. So if he wins, I would love to fight Charles Oliveira, because I will show you what I’m saying. He’s a quitter. He is a quitter. He showed it to you in the Michael Chandler fight. At the end of the first round, he was not looking good, he didn’t want to be there. He doesn’t want to be there when it gets nasty. That’s just what I think, that’s my opinion. And Poirier is going to beat him up.”