The GambLou ‘Bout Business Podcast drops Friday early PM PT.
This article was originally published on VSiN’s digital magazine 7/26
Salt Lake City, UT hosts this week’s UFC 217 where fight fans will witness a much-anticipated rematch in the lightweight division where second ranked Dustin Poirier faces third ranked Justin Gaethje for the ‘BMF’ belt. Whether for a mythological belt, the lightweight championship or a backyard melee, all these two require to face one another in an epic rematch is time and place.
Dustin Poirier -145 vs. Justin Gaethje +125 Middleweight (155lbs.) main event
I was fortunate enough to be live at the first bout between these two in Phoenix 2018 when Poirier, who’d had his legs bludgeoned by the unrelenting forward striking pressure of Gaethje, ultimately ignored his injuries, persevered and finished Gaethje in the fourth in an ultra-impressive display of guts and grind.
What Gaethje took from that experience is what many did in that he realized then that his ‘go for broke’ fight style, though entertaining for fans had to be refined and a true fight plan had to be installed if he had any aspirations of taking the title for this division.
Attributes such as footwork, patience, strike defense and levelheadedness are required improvement areas to instill into Gaethje’s warrior mentality.
Trevor Wittman of team Elevation in Colorado has worked with Gaethje on his mental approach, especially his fight IQ once he finds himself in the blistering heat of the fight. This has been their focus since the first Poirier bout.
In Gaethje’s last fight we saw great evolution as we witnessed him systematically take apart a very accomplished, future lightweight elite in Rafael Fiziev. In that fight Gaethje displayed his fight evolution for he came with a plan, executed said plan, then allowed his raw aggression to put an exclamation on his systematic yet aggressive attack.
Gaethje believes that Poirier will step into the cage Saturday with a foe that is nowhere near the fighter or man he fought in 2018 and to an extent I believe that to be true.
For Poirier there only positivity. Aside from losses to Oliveira and Nurmagomedov which Poirier has moved beyond; he’s had his hand has raised in his last nine competitions. He’s a refined, precise, striker who is versed in grappling, has cardio for ten rounds, features a granite chin and is as determined as any athlete in the organization.
Poirier’s precision, athleticism, fight IQ and experience against the absolute elite in the division make him THE threat to the title in my opinion should he get his hand raised here.
A clarifying way to look at these maniacs is by their numbers.
Poirier lands 5.51 significant strikes per minute and only allows 4.25 for a +1.26 ratio. He averages 1.4 take downs per fight and he defends 63% of takedown attempts.
A well-rounded approach.
Gaethje’s numbers are more reflective of the reckless, aggressive Gaethje as his successful significant strikes are a whopping 7.38 but the significant strikes he receives is 7.66 for a negative .28 ratio. He attempts few to no take down attempts in his bouts though he’s got a solid wrestling base and defends 53% of takedowns.
A singularly dimensioned approach.
Both men, after losing to Oliveira had impressive victories to set them up for this fight which essentially props the winner into a final run at a title fight while the loser will have a long road back to contention realizing that each combatant is thirty-four.
It’s Poirier’s more diverse fight ability, his logic, calm demeanor and ability to remain on plan against the ‘natural born brawler’ in Gaethje who is claiming to be more patient and ‘Poirier-like’ in his approach.
My question, does that all change once Poirier pastes Gaethje with a two-piece to the teeth?
This fight opened Poirier -125
Total for this fight: 2.5 Rds. Over -130
This total surprised me based on the fact that these two went a ferocious four plus rounds in their first fight.
Each man seems to be entering this fight more dangerous as mixed martial artists than when they first fought despite the five-year gap in bouts.
The point spread of ‘Poirier -5.5 points -105’ most surprises me as this seems to indicate a relatively one-sided fight favoring Poirier.
I handicap this fight as very tight early but as the minutes elapse wears Poirier’s speed, precision, power, cardio and footwork will be the differentiating factors in this bout.
Poirier via KO, Submission or DQ +130
Jan Blachowicz -120 vs. Alex Pereira +100 Light Heavyweight (205lbs.) co main event
Brazilian Pereira we last saw being KO’d By Israel Adesanya in their rematch at middleweight this past April after KO’ing the then champion in the fifth round of their first bout.
Pereira moves up to the 205lb. weight class for obvious reasons. He walks around at 225-230lbs. normally. The cut to 185 made him a monster to face on fight day but as Adesanya displayed this past April, that cut took too much away from the Brazilian stalwart thus this move up.
Weight class or not Pereira, a decorated, elite, world class kickboxer is relatively inexperienced in the MMA realm as his 7-2 record indicates.
He was profoundly powerful and dangerous at the middleweight level and his power will more than translate to light heavyweight.
What he may have issues with are the size of combatants he’ll face as well foe’s whose fight arsenal is equipped with world class grappling and wrestling are sure to provide Pereira with plenty of challenge for his area of improvement is surely grappling.
In ex-champion Jan Blachowicz, we have a relatively understated Polish killing machine trained in Judo, dangerous on his feet and decorated with a black belt in BJJ.
Blachowicz has been in with the likes of Jared Cannonier, Glover Teixeira (Pereira’s coach and mentor) and Thiago Santos, so he’s prepared for structured, physical foes like Pereira.
What Blachowicz offers as his most valued asset in this fight is his well-rounded fight ability.
He can compete at a world class level anywhere this fight goes. Blachowicz’s certain edge in the grappling/wrestling department provide him the means to get his hand raised in this bout.
He’ll need to press and tax the Brazilian striker from the opening bell and try to back him up. Blachowicz does not benefit in any way by remaining at distance too long.
For Blachowicz, eliminating distance from Pereira, smothering him, clasping onto him, clinching then pressing him against the fence are signals he’s got the fight working by his parameters because the next move from fence is floor and once there this fight becomes Blachowicz’s to lose.
In summary, Blachowicz wants to fight forehead to forehead, then chest to chest while his Pereira must maintain distance in order to be effective with those long, vicious, damaging, knee’s, teeps, elbows and fists.
Blachowicz opened -145 for this fight because he is the experienced light heavyweight with more diverse weaponry. We’ve seen his price drop a bit leading into the week which in my estimation makes the Blachowicz side an interesting proposition.
Total in this Fight: 2.5Rds. Under -185
GambLou’s ‘Bout Business Podcast drops Friday mid-day PST. All my final releases can be found there. I’ll also appear on VSiN’s ‘Follow the Money’ program Friday 5:30AM PT.
Thank you for reading and enjoy the fights!