April 12, 2018

Justin Gaethje vs. Dustin Poirier and the Impending Doom of Damage

By Raphael Garcia

Mixed martial arts is a dangerous game. When two fighters apply various techniques to see which of them is the better competitor, there’s something to be said for the importance of a game plan that minimizes that danger. However, that's not what makes this weekend’s UFC on FOX 29 main event such a compelling affair. This Saturday night, Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier are scheduled to square off in an important lightweight bout, and looking at how these two fight, one wonders if we are about to see years knocked off of their professional careers.

In an interview with Shaun Al-Shatti of MMA Fighting, Dustin Poirier was asked to describe what he thinks about Justin Gaethje’s style heading into their main event fight:

“Justin’s a fighter’s fighter. He’s a little bit of a brute. It’s not a sustainable style, and I said that when he was with World Series of Fighting. He’s going to have a bunch of fun paydays and a bunch of memorable fights, but it’s not going to last. Once it starts going downhill, it’s going to go down fast for him, fighting like that.”

That’s a telling criticism of Gaethje and one that is not new. The Arizona native is known for his violent style, one that is exciting and dangerous at the same time. We’ve seen Gaethje be injured by opponents numerous times, only to see him snatch the victory away from the jaws of defeat. Michael Johnson had Gaethje on skates multiple times during their bout at The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale. But somehow, Gaethje found a way to overcome and outlast Johnson to gain the victory.

And Poirier’s remarks ring true. Numerous examples stand out of fighters who have struggled to last after taking a large amount of damage. Diego Sanchez, Carlos Condit, Gray Maynard, Andrei Arlovski, and other names blot the list. It’s too soon to say that Gaethje will join that collection of fighters, but he does take his fair share of damage.

According to Fight Metric, Gaethje absorbs 10.34 significant strikes per minute. In two fights he absorbed 246 significant strikes in less than five rounds of action. Let’s compare that to Poirier, another fighter who many consider as a frequent absorber of damage. He absorbs 3.42 strikes per minute. Poirier does have a longer history in the UFC, but it still makes you wonder if Gaethje’s style will be a detriment to his long term career.

The moment that Gaethje vs. Poirier was announced, everyone knew that the violence was set to come. Both of these men do not shy away from heavy exchanges. Yet Poirier’s remarks show a difference in willingness to implement a more measured game plan. That’s an approach that Gaethje may have to embrace at some point in the future, because his high octane style may not yield the best outcome over time. We could be in for a brutal fight on Saturday night, but who knows for how long.

UFC on FOX 29: Poirier vs. Gaethje takes place April 14, 2018 at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.

Click HERE for more UFC on FOX 29 Pre-Fight Analysis

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