Justin Gaethje Defeats Dustin Poirier | UFC 291
34-Year-Old Gaethje Earns BMF Belt and the UFC’s $50,000 Performance of the Night Bonus / Brazilian Alex Pereira Defeats Jan Blachowicz by Split Decision in Light Heavyweight Debut.
“The Highlight” does it again! Monster Energy congratulates Justin Gaethje on defeating Dustin Poirier and earning the infamous BMF Belt at UFC 291 in Salt Lake City. In the night’s Main Event fight contested in the Lightweight division, the 34-year-old from Safford, Arizona, dealt Poirier a thunderous stoppage via a head kick in Round 2 and earned the UFC’s $50,000 Performance of the Night Bonus.
Earlier in the night, 36-year-old Alex Pereira from São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, went the distance against Jan Blachowicz to earn a victory by split decision in his debut fight in the Light Heavyweight division.
Monster Energy’s Gaethje (25-4) came to Salt Lake City after recently defeating Rafael Fiziev at UFC 286 in March. Going against 34-year-old Poirier (29-8) from Louisiana, Gaethje had a special score to settle: In 2018, the two collided in the Octagon, with Poirier earning a TKO defeat in the fourth round. Time for a rematch!
In the bout for the iconic BMF Belt, both fighters started by throwing heavy kicks to the body. During the explosive exchanges, Poirier looked to have the upper hand in Round 1 after opening a cut above Gaethje’s left eyebrow. But that was about to change…
Heading into the second round, Gaethje maintained the pressure while waiting for the right opening to land big. It arrived when Gaethje connected a hard overhand right that stunned Poirier. Without missing a beat, Gaethje proceeded to land a surgical left kick right between his opponent’s neck and chin that sent Poirier straight to the canvas, knocked out cold.
At 1:00 of Round 2, referee Herb Dean called a stop to the fight, pronouncing Gaethje the winner by KO.
Celebrating the victory with a backflip off the cage, Gaethje said about settling the score at UFC 291:
“Unlike any other sport on earth, you rarely get a chance at redemption. We take a loss, and it just sits with us and eats away. We usually don’t get another chance so to come back and prove myself, I believed in myself the whole time.”
The epic knockout victory also earned Gaethje the UFC’s Performance of the Night bonus with a $50,000 payout. He has now won 20 of his 25 fights by knockout and is the second fighter to win the iconic BMF Belt after Jorge Masvidal.
The victory also puts Gaethje in line for a title shot in the 155-pound division. “You know what I want to do next. I want to fight for the world championship!” said Gaethje. “I want to prove I’m the best in the world. Win, lose, or draw, max effort is what you’re going to get from me. Luck and chance are a factor, and I'm willing to roll the dice any f-ing day.”
Also, the UFC 291 co-main event marked the Light Heavyweight division debut of 36-year-old Alex Pereira (8-2) from Brazil. Pereira is the UFC’s former Middleweight Champion and was looking to return to the winner’s bracket after losing the title to Israel Adesanya at UFC 287. Pereira’s opponent, 40-year-old Blachowicz from Cieszyn, Poland, also wanted a victory after earning a draw against Magomed Ankalaev in December 2022.
The co-main event fight pitted Pereira’s raw knockout power against Blachowicz's grappling skills. Round 1 saw the Polish fighter control Pereira on the ground but unable to lock in a submission. Next, the Brazilian bounced back in the second round to land heavy shots while wearing out his opponent’s gas tank.
Round 3 proved very close as a worn-down Blachowicz found himself on the receiving end of Pereira’s punishing leg kicks. With his left leg visibly damaged, Blachowicz was forced to switch stances and absorbed a heavy left hook from Pereira before the bell. When all was said and done, the judges pronounced Pereira the winner by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
After his successful debut in the 205-pound division, Pereira had one clear message for fans. “I want to be champion of this division,” said Pereira in his post-fight interview. Stay tuned for more!