Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje won the ‘BMF’ belt by scoring a second-round knockout win over Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier in Saturday’s UFC 291 headliner at Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Gaethje landed a head kick that dropped Poirier and it only took one follow-up punch before referee Herb Dean intervened to stop the fight.
Gaethje won as a +125 to +135 underdog, hooking up his backers on prop bets to win in Round 2 for a +1000 (or 10/1) payout. He also hit props to win by TKO/KO for a +245 return at BetRivers and to win inside the distance (+215 at DraftKings).
Wagers on ‘under’ 1.5 rounds won a +185 return at BetRivers and ‘under’ 2.5 rounds netted a +112 payout.
The 34-year-old Gaethje improved to 25-4 overall and 8-4 in the UFC. He’s won back-to-back fights and owns a 7-2 record in his last nine Octagon appearance. Gaethje bagged the 12th fight-night bonus of his career by garnering Performance of the Night honors for an extra $50,000.
At his post-fight presser, Gaethje was asked if he would be interested in being the back-up for Islam Makhachev’s next title defense vs. Charles Oliveira at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi.
Gaethje said, “I’d like to go to it, but I’m not interested in being the back-up unless they just want to pay me a shit ton of money.”
When asked about a possible future fight with Conor McGregor, Gaethje said, “I think that guy has turned down a fight with me six times.” Although Gaethje didn’t rule out the possibility, he did mention that “he didn’t want to fight anybody that’s on steroids.”
The thinking now is that Gaethje is likely going to be next against the Oliveira-Makhachev winner, but an Oliveira win in the rematch could trigger a potential trilogy bout. There’s also the possibility of Alexander Volkanovski, the featherweight champion who lost a narrow decision to Makhachev earlier this year, getting a rematch vs. Makhachev.
Whatever the case, SportsBetting.ag has released fresh odds for two potential bouts for Gaethje, who is a -330 ‘chalk’ vs. McGregor, who is +255 on the comeback. The betting shop has Makhachev installed as a -600 favorite vs. Gaethje (+425).
As for Poirier, he showed up at the post-fight presser even in defeat. He said, “It hurts, but if I’m going to win like a man, I’ve got to lose like a man, too.”
When asked about potential fights on the horizon, Poirier said, “We’ll just have to see.” He expressed that his family was set financially and that he didn’t “want to fight just to fight anymore. I’ve had to do that my whole life.”
With that said, Poirier was asked last week if a Nate Diaz fight would still interest him if Diaz eventually returns to the UFC, and he acknowledged that it would.”
Diaz fights Jake Paul in a boxing match on Saturday in Dallas, but has said in recent interviews that he’s interested in returning to the UFC next.
When asked if a trilogy bout with Gaethje in the future would interest him, Poirier said, “Possibly.”
When Gaethje was asked about a third fight with Poirier, he said, “I said to him in the Octagon, ‘Let’s agree not to fight each other again.’ But if he needed it, I would never not give it to him. He had already beaten me, but he still gave me the rematch. But that’s definitely not what I want for my next fight. We’ll see.”
In the co-main event, former UFC middleweight champion Alex Pereira enjoyed a successful debut in the light heavyweight division, winning a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) over Jan Blachowicz, the UFC’s former 205-pound champ, in a pick ’em affair (-110 either way).
According to MMADecisions, 22 of 26 media members scored the contest 29-28 in favor of Pereira, who had +655 odds to win by decision at Circa.
Derrick Lewis ended a three-fight losing streak with a first-round knockout of Marcos Rogerio de Lima in only 33 seconds. Lewis hooked up his betting supporters as a +175 underdog.
‘The Black Beast’ caught Rogerio de Lima with a flying switch knee that dropped him immediately. From there, Lewis hammered Rogerio de Lima with a barrage of punches to end it.
Circa had Lewis with +255 odds to win via TKO/KO and the prop for him to win in Round cashed +350 tickets.
After scoring the KO victory, Lewis put on a show like only he can, dropping his shorts while dancing in his boxers.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) July 30, 2023
It was the last fight on Lewis’s contract, but he clearly stated that he wants to return to the UFC on a new deal. He now owns the promotion’s all-time record for most career KOs with 14, one more than welterweight legend Matt Brown.
In a lightweight showdown, Bobby ‘King’ Green handed Tony Ferguson his sixth straight loss by capturing a submission win (arm-triangle choke) with only six seconds remaining in the third and final round.
Green won as a -350 favorite, but his props to win in Round 3 (+1045 at Circa) and via submission (+1125) had monster payouts.
In the pay-per-view opener, Kevin Holland knocked off Michael Chiesa with a brabo-choke submission at the 2:39 mark of the opening frame. Holland won as a -145 favorite. He cashed +550 tickets to win by submission and +250 to win in Round 1.
Chiesa, who was returning from a 20-month layoff, has lost three in a row.
Gaethje, Lewis, Green and Holland won an extra $50,000 with POTN bonuses.