Although UFC 291 didn’t have a traditional title fight to headline the card, it still came with a title fight in the main event, with Dustin Poirier facing Justin Gaethje for the vacant BMF title. The co-main featured a fight with light heavyweight title implications between two former UFC champions in Jan Blachowicz and Alex Pereira, plus the rest of the main card had some very interesting fights. This past Saturday night also had one of the biggest boxing fights we have seen anytime recently, with Terence Crawford facing Errol Spence Jr.
With that, here is a special edition of my UFC 291 takeaways, with a little extra from the combat sports world outside the UFC.
Justin Gaethje Is The BMF
The main event at UFC 291 was a five-round fight at lightweight between top three lightweight contenders Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje for the newly vacant BMF (Baddest Mother F***er) title. The BMF title became vacant with the retirement of Jorge Masvidal, and although it was supposed to be a one-time thing, the UFC decided to bring it back to allow Poirier and Gaethje to headline UFC 291 with a title fight. And when both men stepped foot into the octagon to face each other for the second time in their careers, you knew the fight had the chance to be over in the blink of an eye. That blink of the eye came in the second round, with Gaethje landing a picture-perfect head kick to put away Poirier to become the second-ever holder of the BMF title.
An interesting note about the combination Gaethje landed to KO Poirier is that it was the same jab, straight, rear head kick combo that Leon Edwards caught Gaethje’s teammate Kamaru Usman with in the same building at UFC 278 eleven months ago to take the welterweight title away from Usman. UFC 291 was at altitude in Salt Lake City and Gaethje recently had surgery to fix his nose so he can breathe out of it properly, just like Dricus Du Plessis did before his massive win at UFC 290. That had to have helped because the last thing you want at altitude with a fighter who has tired out before is the inability to breathe out their nose.
The last thing of note is where this victory puts Gaethje in the lightweight title picture, as the current plan for the UFC lightweight champ Islam Makhachev is for him to defend his title against Charles Oliveira at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi. That would mean that Gaethje should now be next in line to face the winner of that fight. For Poirier, it starts to get interesting for him. The next fight that would make sense for him is to fight the number four ranked Beneil Dariush, who is coming off of a loss to Oliveira. That would seemingly make sense, but the UFC has shown a tendency to not want to give Dariush big fights, so who knows what could be next for Poirier. That will have to wait.
Poatan Power Over Polish Power
UFC 291 was the first fight at light heavyweight in the UFC for former middleweight champ Alex Pereira – his first opponent at 205 lbs was former light heavyweight champ Jan Blachowicz. The first round of this fight did not go the way Pereira wanted, as he was taken down and controlled on the ground, with Blachowicz threatening a rear naked choke. However, Poatan survived, and by the time the second and third rounds came around, it was almost as if Jan had drained his own energy holding Pereira down. The altitude again potentially played a factor as Blachowicz basically made his first action of the fight an attempt to take Pereira down. That meant he spent most of the five minutes in the first round wrestling. Although Jan kept it close in the second and third rounds, Pereira got the slight edge over him in both rounds, ending up with a split decision win for Poatan.
With Jamahal Hill having to vacate the light heavyweight title due to injury, the light heavyweight title will once again be up for grabs, and Pereira will now be in prime position to get a title fight, whether it be against former champ Jiri Prochazka (who also had to vacate the title previous to Hill winning it due to injury) or against someone else. All I know is that the 205 title looks a little haunted, as out of the last three title fights in the weight class, the winners of the first and third fights had to vacate the title. And in the second fight, that fight was for the vacant title where it ended in a draw, meaning neither fighter won the title, taking both fighters out of contention for the next vacant title fight. So essentially, this is me saying be careful to whoever becomes champ at 205, whether it will be Pereira or someone else.
My Balls Was Hot, Part 2
Heading into his fight at UFC 291, Derrick Lewis was in the final fight of his UFC contract. That was a fact that we hadn’t learned until his post-fight interview. After finishing Marcos Rogerio de Lima in under 35 seconds via TKO, Lewis knew he needed a big statement post-fight as well, and he went back to his old reliable. He went to the center of the octagon, took his shorts off, and swung his shorts around in the air while jogging around the octagon in his underwear. Then for good measure, once he gets on the mic (with his shorts back on), he referenced his famous “My balls was hot” line from his post fight interview after his win against Alexander Volkov at UFC 229, then had a memorable interview to follow a memorable win that started with a flying knee seconds into the fight.
For Lewis, he had been on a losing streak, and although it was against top-tier competition, you don’t want to be on a losing streak as your UFC contract expires. Lewis should be brought back by the UFC, as he is one of the most well liked fighters on the entire roster. Regardless of his contract situation, that fight also broke a UFC record, as it broke the tie Lewis had with Matt Brown for most KO/TKOs in UFC history, as that win for Lewis was his 14th KO/TKO in the UFC. Plus, with Lewis now being in the best shape of his life, he could potentially rack up more wins by knockout in the heavyweight division.
One Of The Greatest Performances Ever
Outside of the UFC and the MMA world, this past Saturday was arguably the biggest boxing fight since Floyd Mayweather faced Manny Pacquiao, with the former undisputed 140 lbs champ and current WBO 147 lbs champ Terence Crawford (39-0) facing the IBF, WBA, and WBC 147 lbs champ Errol Spence Jr. (29-0). Heading into the fight it was seemingly 50/50 between who would win, with some favoring Crawford and some favoring Spence. Spence came out and won the first round, getting a nice little start to the fight. However, that was the only tiny bit of success Spence had, as Crawford controlled the rest of the fight, starting with Crawford scoring a knockdown in the second-round. That second-round knockdown was the first time Spence had ever been knocked down in his career.
After that second round knockdown, it was almost one way traffic the rest of the way, with Crawford scoring two more knockdowns in the seventh-round. Then, in the ninth-round, the referee stepped in to rescue Spence as Crawford was dominating the fight, netting Crawford a win that turned him into the first fighter ever to unify all four titles at 147 lbs, as well as Crawford becoming the first ever male boxer to unify all four titles in two separate weight classes. At this point, if you don’t have Terence Crawford at number 1 at the top of your pound-for-pound list of best boxers in the world, I would probably call you an idiot. Saying Crawford beat Spence is the nice way of putting it. Crawford absolutely dismantled Spence. There’s no other way to put it.
Plus, Crawford could very well consider going up to 154 lbs to challenge the undisputed champ Jermell Charlo, which, if Crawford were to win, would make him the first fighter to unify titles at three different weight classes, male or female. However, Charlo wants to go up in weight to face Canelo Alvarez for the undisputed title at 168 lbs. Both Crawford vs Charlo and Charlo vs Canelo would both be massive fights, and boxing politics always make big fights tough to make, but Crawford could make a good case that he more than deserves a chance to face Charlo at 154 lbs in a fight that would be massive.
UFC 292 Look Ahead
With UFC 291 now in the rearview mirror, it is time to look towards UFC 292, which takes place on Saturday, August 19. UFC 292 will feature two title fights, with the headliner set to be a heated fight between the UFC bantamweight champ Aljamain Sterling and number two ranked bantamweight contender Sean O’Malley. The co-main event will be a title fight in the women’s strawweight division, with champ Zhang Weili facing the fourth-ranked contender at strawweight in Amanda Lemos. Other fights on the main card are Marlon Vera facing Pedro Munhoz in a top 10 bantamweight showdown, 8th ranked Geoff Neal fights the undefeated Ian Garry (14th ranked) in a top 15 welterweight bout, and former UFC bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt faces Mario Bautista, who has a 12-2 record.
In one of the two Fight Night cards before UFC 292, the headliner is a bantamweight fight on August 5 between Cory Sandhagen and Rob Font in a top seven matchup. The co-main event is a women’s strawweight bout between former champ Jessica Andrade and the 10th ranked Tatiana Suarez. Suarez is 10-0, but this fight is just her second after an almost four year layoff from June of 2019 to February of 2023. The second Fight Night card before UFC 292 pits former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos against the 10th ranked welterweight Vicente Luque in the first fight of RDA’s second tenure in the welterweight division for the main event.
That wraps up my UFC 291 recap, with a little bit of a recap on the Terence Crawford vs Errol Spence Jr. boxing match as well. The combat sports world is on fire right now, and hopefully it will carry over to UFC 292 next month. If you have anything you took away from UFC 291 or the Crawford vs Spence fight, make sure to tweet it out to myself @derrik_maguire and to @BleacherBrawl to let us know your thoughts.