UFC 291 Report: Justin Gaethje knocks out Dustin Poirier to claim BMF title
On Saturday night, UFC 291 took place from the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The card was headlined by a bout for the symbolic “BMF” Championship, as Dustin Poirier faced Justin Gaethje in a rematch of their fight of the year candidate from 2018. Poirier got the better of Gaethje in their prior encounter, eventually stopping Gaethje in the fourth round, but Gaethje has grown considerably as a fighter since then, and was looking to even the score with Poirier here, and perhaps earn himself another shot at the UFC Lightweight Championship in the process. The co-main event of the evening featured former UFC Middleweight Champion, Alex Pereira, making his light heavyweight debut against a former champion of the 205lbs division in Jan Błachowicz.
The commentary team for this card consisted of Jon Anik, Joe Rogan, and Daniel Cormier. Performance of the Night bonuses were awarded to Justin Gaethje, Derrick Lewis, Bobby Green, and Kevin Holland. The announced attendance for this event was 18,467, with a gate of $6,556,443.97.
- Miranda Maverick def. Priscila Cachoeira by armbar at 2:11 of Round 3
- Uros Medic is def. Matthew Semelsberger by TKO 2:36 of Round 3
- Jake Matthews def. Darrius Flowers by rear naked choke at 2:37 of Round 2
- Roman Kopylov def. Claudio Ribeiro by KO at 0:33 of Round 2
- J. Vergara def. Vinicius Salvador by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
- Gabriel Bonfim def. Trevin Giles by guillotine choke at 1:13 of Round 1
- Kevin Holland def. Michael Chiesa by D’Arce Choke at 2:39 of Round 1
- Bobby Green def. Tony Ferguson by arm triangle at 4:54 of Round 3
- Derrick Lewis def. Marcos Rogerio de Lima by TKO at 0:33 of Round 1
- Alex Pereira def. Jan Błachowicz by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
- Justin Gaethje def. Dustin Poirier by KO at 1:00 of Round 2
MIRANDA MAVERICK (11-5, 125.5) VS PRISCILA CACHOEIRA (12-4, 125) – FLYWEIGHT
Maverick threw out a series of low kicks throughout the first minute of the bout, as Cachoeira attempted to respond with her heavier shots. Eventually, Cachoeira got a bit too aggressive offensively, and as a result, Maverick was able to change levels, taking Cachoeira to the ground after catching a kick. Cachoeira attempted to wall-walk back to her feet but was unsuccessful, and Maverick advanced her position, moving into side control with ninety seconds to work. Maverick started throwing down numerous left hands, as well as the occasional elbow until time expired in the round.
Cachoeira defended a pair of takedown attempts at the start of the second round, but Maverick was committed to getting this fight to the ground, and eventually, she was successful. Much like the first round, Maverick dominated the action after taking the fight to the ground. While Maverick did not do a ton of damage from top position, Cachoeira was unable to escape to her feet before the end of the round, and this was a fairly decisive round for Maverick, who kept Cachoeira from landing a single strike throughout the round.
Maverick caught Cachoeira with an elbow, as well as a hard left hand, before taking Cachoeira back to the ground in the opening minute of the final round. This time, Maverick started hunting for a finish, and she quickly found one, catching Cachoeira with an armbar that forced Cachoeira to submit.
WINNER: Miranda Maverick by armbar at 2:11 of Round 3
Cachoeira is a heavy hitter for the flyweight division but has never been a strong grappler, and Maverick capitalized on her advantages as a wrestler to dominate this fight. Cachoeira was originally scheduled to fight Joanne Wood on this card, who is certainly more of a striker herself, but Wood pulled out of the bout two weeks ago, and Maverick took this fight on rather short notice, with the knowledge that this would be a favorable fight stylistically for her. Maverick’s gamble paid off, and she secured the dominant win here that she needed after her loss to Jasmine Jasudavicius in June. Maverick’s UFC record stands at 5-3 following this win.
MATTHEW SEMELSBERGER (11-5, 169.5) VS UROS MEDIC (8-1, 170.5) – WELTERWEIGHT
A hard leg kick from Semelsberger sent Medic to the ground in the opening seconds of the bout, and Semelsberger followed him to the ground, throwing down wild ground and pound strikes. Medic escaped to his feet and landed a big left hand on the break before Semelsberger answered with a straight right hand. Another heavy left hand for Medic found its target, but Semelsberger took the shot well and continued to press forward. A straight right hand from Semelsberger dropped Medic hard, but when Semelsberger dropped down to finish the fight, an up-kick from Medic seemed to hurt Semelsberger, knocking him back. Medic returned to his feet and pressed forward in an attempt to capitalize on the moment, but he was caught by a counter right hand from Semelsberger on his way in, rocking him once more. Medic was able to defend himself as Semelsberger was still seemingly hurt as well, and as a result, both fighters made it to the end of the round.
Semelsberger seemed to be getting the better of their exchanges on the feet early in the second round, landing numerous leg kicks to slow Medic down as well. The straight right hands from Semelsberger were catching Medic with power nearly every time that Semelsberger threw them, and he was finding success whenever he flurried forward with combinations as well. Medic attacked the body throughout the round, and while he may have fallen behind on the scorecards in terms of overall damage, his attack to the body of Semelsberger was doing a good job of slowing Semelsberger down, and the strike count between the two was fairly even by the end of the round.
Medic began the final round with another strong kick to the body of Semelsberger. Semelsberger was looking for a takedown, but Medic defended his attempts, keeping the fight on the feet, where the momentum seemed to be on his side. A strong combination of hooks from Medic rocked Semelsberger, and Medic dropped Semelsberger hard with a spinning forearm as he pressed forward. Medic followed Semelsberger to the ground, and he threw down ground and pound strikes until the fight was quickly stopped.
WINNER: Uros Medic by TKO 2:36 of Round 3
This was a very fun fight. Semelsberger is a fighter who is no stranger to finishing fights quickly, and he did his best to put Medic away in the first round, but Medic was able to weather the storm, and started attacking the body of Semelsberger to slow him down. By the third round, it was Medic who was getting the better of Semelsberger on the feet, and he ended the fight in highlight reel fashion, rocking Medic with a hard combination before putting him away with a spinning forearm. After the fight, Medic rallied the crowd by talking about how great Utah is, cutting a great promo for the state tourism board. Medic is now 3-1 in the UFC following this win.
JAKE MATTHEWS (18-6, 170) VS DARRIUS FLOWERS (12-5-1, 170.5) – WELTERWEIGHT
Flowers was applying heavy pressure from the very start of the fight, and he quickly trapped Matthews against the cage, where the fighters started to exchange strikes wildly. There were a few times when it looked as though Flowers’s pressure may have been starting to overwhelm Matthews, but Matthews eventually responded with power every single time, and his body shots appeared to be taking their toll on Flowers. A left hand from Matthews seemed to wobble Flowers, and he went on the attack in an attempt to finish the fight, but Flowers recovered quickly, and successfully took Matthews to the ground, where he maintained top position for the remainder of the round.
Just seconds into round two, Matthews caught Flowers with a kick to the body that dropped him hard, but it was identified as a low blow, resulting in a pause in the action as Flowers was given time to recover. Eventually, the fight resumed, and Matthews went right back on the attack. Flowers shot for another takedown, but this time, Matthews stuffed the attempt, and he proceeded to take top position on the ground. Matthews threw down ground and pound strikes until Flowers gave up his back, and he quickly locked in a rear naked choke, forcing Flowers to submit.
WINNER: Jake Matthews by rear naked choke at 2:37 of Round 2
Flowers brought the fight to Matthews in the opening round, but Matthews responded well by focusing his attack on the body of Flowers to slow him down, and it did not take long for Matthews to start going on the attack himself. The kick that dropped Flowers in the second round was quite the source of controversy, especially from Joe Rogan, who was outraged that the fight was not stopped as a TKO victory for Matthews at that moment, but Matthews did not let the controversy bother him, and he quickly Matthews finished the fight once the action resumed. Matthews has now won five of his last seven fights in the promotion.
ROMAN KOPYLOV (10-2, 185) VS CLAUDIO RIBEIRO (11-3, 185.5) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Riberio was somewhat hesitant throughout the opening minutes of the fight, and Kopylov began to pull ahead in terms of activity as a result, as he slowly started to pick away at the body of Ribeiro. Eventually, Riberio began to surge forward with heavy looping right hands, but Kopylov was countering well, and he quickly put Riberio on the retreat. In the rounds final minute, a huge right hand from Riberio seemed to rock Kopylov, and he started throwing hands wildly as he attempted to finish the fight, but Riberio opted to shoot for a takedown as time was running out in the round, and Kopylov was able to make it out of the round as a result.
Less than a minute into the second round, a huge head kick from Kopylov found its target, dropping Riberio hard. Kopylov followed Riberio to the ground with a single hammer fist, and the fight was quickly stopped.
WINNER: Roman Kopylov by KO at 0:33 of Round 2
This was one of the better knockouts of the year. Kopylov was the aggressor for the majority of the first round and seemed to have Riberio somewhat hesitant to engage until late in the opening round, but once he did, Riberio found success, hurting Kopylov with several heavy hooks. Momentum seemed to be on Riberio’s side heading into the second round, but Kopylov quickly put an end to that, knocking Riberio out cold with a perfectly placed head kick. It was a beautiful finish, and this marked Kopylov’s third consecutive win by knockout. After the fight, Kopylov called out Sean Strickland, but as Joe Rogan was quick to point out, Strickland is a highly-ranked fighter, and that seems like a very unlikely next fight for Kopylov. Regardless, Kopylov is now 3-2 in the UFC following this win.
C.J. VERGARA (11-4-1, 125.5) VS VINICIUS SALVADOR (14-5, 128.5) – FLYWEIGHT
Salvador missed weight by 2.5 lbs and was fined 20% of his purse.
Neither fighter was active throughout the opening minutes of this fight. The first notable strike went to Vergara, who landed a solid left hand, before he was poked in the eye, resulting in a pause in the action. When the action resumed, the fight continued to play out at a rather slow pace, with Salvador doing his best to dodge Vergara’s strikes before landing some shots of his own. This resulted in a very close round, but I gave the slightest of edges to Vergara, largely due to the left hand he landed which I thought was the most impactful shot of the round. 10-9 Vergara.
Vergara began the second round with a series of kicks to the legs and body of Salvador. At one point, Salvador feinted a takedown attempt before partially landing a knee up the middle. As the round wore on, Vergara started to pull ahead based on his edge in activity, catching Salvador with lengthier combinations with Salvador’s back to the cage. Much like the first round, this was not the most exciting five-minute period, and Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier just openly stated that watching this fight was like watching a lengthy sparring match, and I cannot honestly say that I felt any differently. 20-18 Vergara.
Vergara looked like a different fighter in the third round, as he came out throwing heavy hands. Salvador was getting caught by some of Vergara’s heavier shots, and he was getting backed up as a result. As the round progressed, Salvador started firing back, and Vergara’s attack slowed as a result, which allowed Salvador to take back the center of the octagon. Still, I thought Vergara managed to stay a step ahead of Salvador based on the power he was throwing his strikes with, despite the strike count between the fighters likely being very even. The fight went the distance, and I scored it 30-27 for Vergara.
WINNER: C.J. Vergara by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
Salvador seemed quite upset with the decision, but I cannot say I disagreed with the victor. While the fighters exchanged strikes at a fairly even rate, Vergara seemed to be packing a bit more behind his punches, and Salvador could not match the immediate impact of Vergara’s power. This was far from the most entertaining fight to watch, as the commentary team openly discussed throughout the bout, but not every fight is going to produce fireworks, and unfortunately, this just was not the most engaging fifteen minutes for the viewer, despite decent activity from both fighters. After the fight, Vergara acknowledged that it was far from the prettiest fight, but his arm was raised in the end, and he is now 3-2 in the UFC.
GABRIEL BONFIM (14-0, 170) VS TREVIN GILES (16-4, 170) – WELTERWEIGHT
A left hand from Bonfim seemed to clip Giles in an early flurry, and Giles closed the distance in search of a takedown as a result. Bonfim defended Giles’s attempt and immediately secured a takedown of his own, where he opted to jump for a guillotine. The submission was locked in tight, and Giles was quickly forced to submit.
WINNER: Gabriel Bonfim by guillotine choke at 1:13 of Round 1
Bonfim just ran through Trevin Giles in this fight. Bonfim was swinging for the fences from the opening seconds of the bout, and when Giles opted to take the fight to the ground, it was Bonfim who just threw Giles down to the ground before submitting him. Bonfim was the biggest betting favorite on this entire card, and those odds seemed appropriate by the end of this fight, as Bonfim looked incredible here. Bonfim is now 2-0 in the UFC following this win, and the undefeated fighter has finished all fifteen of his professional opponents by knockout or submission.
MICHAEL CHIESA (16-6, 170) VS KEVIN HOLLAND (24-9, 1 NC, 169.5) – WELTERWEIGHT
An uppercut from Holland tagged Chiesa in the opening minute, and Chiesa opted to effectively pull guard to bring the fight to the ground. Holland quickly stood up and landed a right hand upon returning to his feet. Chiesa started to press forward and shot for a takedown, but Holland kept the fight on the feet, where he landed a pair of solid knees up the middle. Chiesa was in trouble and shot for another takedown as a result, but Holland caught him with a D’Arce choke, forcing him to submit.
WINNER: Kevin Holland by D’Arce Choke at 2:39 of Round 1
Holland was far too much for Chiesa on the feet in this fight, seemingly damaging Chiesa with every shot he landed. Chiesa did his best to take the fight to the ground, but Holland showcased some very impressive takedown defense to keep the fight on the feet, where he forced Chiesa to shoot for a bad takedown after throwing a pair of knees up the middle, allowing Holland to sink in the D’Arce Choke for the submission win. Holland typically looks impressive in victory, and this was no exception, submitting the grappling specialist in highlight-reel fashion here. After his win, Holland stated that if there are no “BMF” fights for him at welterweight, then he would like to return to 185 lbs for his next fight.
TONY FERGUSON (25-8, 155) VS BOBBY GREEN (29-14-1, 1 NC, 155.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Ferguson shot for a takedown about a minute into the fight, but Green was able to defend the attempt, keeping the fight on the feet. Ferguson landed a straight left hand as Green stepped in, and Ferguson began to press forward until a one-two from Green paused Ferguson’s pressure. A right hand from Ferguson dropped Green momentarily, but Green quickly recovered, and an accidental eye poke to Ferguson led to the action being paused as the doctor was brought in to check on Ferguson. Green caught Ferguson with another one-two as the action resumed before both fighters missed their target on some wilder strikes. Green tagged Ferguson with several solid shots throughout the final minute of the round, ending the first round strongly.
Ferguson dived for a takedown early in the second round but did not come close to completing it, and Green took top position as a result. Green landed several hard ground-and-pound strikes from top position, mauling Ferguson with ground-and-pound strikes as Ferguson attempted to catch him with an up-kick. Green opted to return to his feet late in the round, and Ferguson pressed forward, throwing hooks in an attempt to steal the round back, but Green was doing a good job of avoiding Ferguson’s bigger shots, before firing back with his offense.
A huge right hand from Green tagged Ferguson at the start of the final round, but Ferguson took the shot well and continued to march forward. Green was doing a good job of fighting from his backfoot, and Ferguson was having trouble finding his target, even as he applied forward pressure. A right hand from Green caught Ferguson off-balance, knocking him to the floor momentarily. Ferguson returned to his feet where he landed a right hand of his own, but Green eventually shot for a takedown, and Ferguson’s attempt to roll with it resulted in Green taking top position on the ground. Ferguson tried to throw up a triangle off of his back, but Green avoided the submission attempt before locking in an arm triangle, where he eventually choked Ferguson unconscious.
WINNER: Bobby Green by arm triangle at 4:54 of Round 3
Ferguson was the advancing fighter for the vast majority of this bout, but Bobby Green has always been a skilled counter striker, and he was largely able to dominate Ferguson from the backfoot as he circled the cage throughout the bout, avoiding Ferguson’s heavier shots before firing back with short combinations of his own. While Green held the advantage on the feet over Ferguson, the fight was at least somewhat competitive when the fighters were standing, but whenever the fight went to the ground, Green dominated, brutalizing Ferguson from top position with heavy ground and pound strikes. In the end, Green secured the submission victory, recording his first finish by submission since his UFC debut at UFC 156 over a decade ago. For Ferguson, this was yet another tough loss against an opponent who he would have been heavily favored in the prime of his career. Ferguson has now lost six consecutive fights, and it would not shock me if this marks his final bout in the UFC.
DERRICK LEWIS (26-11, 1 NC, 263.5) VS MARCOS ROGERIO DE LIMA (21-8-1, 262.5) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Lewis just rushed across the cage and sent de Lima to the ground with a flying knee, as the crowd roared in appreciation. Lewis followed de Lima down, and he just poured down ground and pound shots until the fight was stopped, as Lewis picked up the quick first-round finish.
WINNER: Derrick Lewis by TKO at 0:33 of Round 1
After his big win, Lewis took his shorts off, and did numerous DX-styled crotch chops, before throwing his cup into the crowd. His post-fight interview was just as colorful as you would expect from the man, who had Joe Rogan on the verge of death from pure laughter. It was a great night for Derrick Lewis after a trio of rough losses, and this marked the quickest finish of his entire career, as well as his fourteenth victory by knockout in the UFC, extending his promotional record. In his post-fight interview, Lewis stated that this marked the final fight on his contract, and while he hopes to re-sign with the UFC, he is open to fighting elsewhere as well. He remains an incredibly popular fighter, and I imagine the UFC will make an effort to keep Lewis in the promotion, where he will remain a prominent name in the current heavyweight division.
JAN BLACHOWICZ (29-9-1, 205) VS ALEX PEREIRA (7-2, 205.5) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Błachowicz wasted little time in shooting for a takedown, but Pereira was able to defend the attempt, threatening a guillotine choke to keep the fight against the cage. Eventually, Błachowicz was successful in taking the fight to the ground, where he immediately climbed to the back of Pereira. Błachowicz did his best to lock in a rear naked choke, but Pereira was able to defend Błachowicz’s attempts at securing the submission until time expired in the round. 10-9 Błachowicz.
Pereira pressed forward at the start of the second round, throwing heavy right hooks. The fighters exchanged heavy leg kicks before Błachowicz caught Pereira with a pair of heavy hooks. Just as Pereira was about to respond, Błachowicz changed levels and secured another takedown, but Pereira was able to climb back to his feet along the cage. Pereira went on the attack in the round’s final minute, and he defended a takedown attempt from Błachowicz to keep the fight on the feet. A lengthy combination from Pereira had Błachowicz shelling up against the cage as he attempted to survive Pereira’s flurry, and just as Błachowicz looked as though he was about to crumble, the horn rang out, signaling the end of the round. 19-19.
A short combination from Błachowicz landed with power after eating several leg kicks from Pereira in the final round’s first minute. Pereira had the edge in terms of activity, and he was able to defend Błachowicz’s attempts to bring the fight to the ground, which was draining the gas tank of Błachowicz. A heavy jab from Pereira generated a big reaction from Błachowicz, who seemed to be behind in this round as the fight reached its final minute. Błachowicz was finally successful in taking the fight back to the ground towards the fight’s conclusion but was too tired to do much with the position before time expired. 29-28 Pereira.
WINNER: Alex Pereira by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
Błachowicz dominated the first round with his wrestling, but this card took place at elevation, and I think that took its toll on Błachowicz, who seemed to fatigue quickly. By the second round, Błachowicz was unable to come close to securing the takedowns that he was looking for, and Pereira was overwhelming him on the feet, coming close to securing a stoppage at the end of the round. The third round however was quite competitive, and I was not surprised to see the judges split on its victor. Błachowicz was finding a level of success on the feet in round three that he did not find in the prior round, but his body language was poor, and Pereira was still landing at a consistent rate as well. I gave the slight edge to Pereira, but it was certainly a close fight, and I would not be opposed to seeing them fight again in the future, ideally, not at elevation. Regardless, this was a big win for Pereira in his light heavyweight debut, and he will likely fight for the vacant UFC Light Heavyweight Championship in his next fight.
DUSTIN POIRIER (29-7, 1 NC, 155) VS JUSTIN GAETHJE (24-4, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Poirier and Gaethje fought previously at a Fight Night event in April of 2018. Poirier won that fight by knockout in the fourth round.
The fighters touched gloves to begin the main event. Gaethje opened up with a series of leg kicks before Poirier responded with a kick to the body. Gaethje landed a shot to the body before connecting with a short hook to the head of Poirier, before continuing his attack to Poirier’s lead leg. Gaethje caught Poirier with a right hand as Poirier stepped in, fighting well from his back foot. Poirier cracked Gaethje with a straight left hand, and another one generated a big reaction from Gaethje. The leg kicks from Gaethje was landing with power, and those kicks were the story of this opening round, as Poirier did not seem to have many answers for them.
Just a minute into round two, Gaethje caught Poirier with a perfectly timed head kick, knocking Poirier down hard, before landing a fight-ending hammerfist.
WINNER: Justin Gaethje by KO at 1:00 of Round 2
Unsurprisingly, this was a fun fight while it lasted. I thought Gaethje was doing an excellent job of tenderizing the lead leg of Poirier with his kicks, while consistently catching Poirier with counters on his way in to keep Poirier from getting too comfortable offensively. In the second round, Gaethje switched things up and went high with his kick, catching Poirier behind his guard for the fight-ending head kick, which is sure to be a top candidate for knockout of the year in 2023. This was easily Gaethje’s biggest win since he ended Tony Ferguson’s lengthy win streak in 2020, and while he was awarded the BMF Championship after the fight, Gaethje still has greater ambitions at 155lbs, making it clear that he still intends on capturing the undisputed UFC Lightweight Championship. For Poirier, this loss may have very well put an end to his hopes of claiming UFC gold, but he remains one of the top fighters (and most popular fighters) at lightweight, and there is no shortage of interesting fights for the former interim lightweight champion coming out of this one, including a possible trilogy fight down the line against Gaethje.