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Fight Night fury

By - Apr 15, 2018

By Paige Burnell/For The Sporting Nation


The Ultimate Fighting Championship entrusted its Fight Night to Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona for the first time in UFC’s 25 years. However, by the number of ardent fans in the building, it did not seem like the event had not taken place there before. 


The main event was the lightweight bout between Dustin Poirier and Glendale native Justin Gaethje. To the obvious dismay of the crowd, Poirier took the victory via a technical knockout(TKO) in Round 4 of a possible five rounds. 


The crowd booed Poirier to such an extent before and during the fight that after his victory, he told the crowd at Gila to cheer for him.  


“How could you not (cheer)?” Poirier said. “That’s what you came to see, right? You bought a ticket to see a fight and we just put it all out there and left it all out there. We had a shootout. We had a desert shootout and one man was standing when the smoke cleared. If you’re a fight fan, I think you can appreciate it whether you root for Justin or root for me, but it doesn’t matter.”


Poirier was more concerned about all of the kicks he took to the inside of his leg from Gaetheje, but he was also poked in the eye two times by his opponent. Gaethje received a point deduction because of the infractions. 


“He poked me two times,” Poirier said. “I know it was an accident, I told him after when they restarted the fight that I know he’s not dirty, but we’re fighting. These gloves, you know, are open so sometimes you run into stuff like that. Just felt like my eyelid was kind of flipped, I could still see.”


Nonetheless, Poirier came out on top of a fight that was fairly even until the fourth round. Gatheje, unlike most of the audience, was very pleased with his performance and not upset about the TKO.  


“It’s not about winning or losing to me,” Gaethje said. “I’ve never been worried about winning or losing. The only thing I’m scared of is not performing and not putting on an entertaining fight.”


Both Poirier and Gaethje kept their rankings, which were fifth and sixth respectively in the UFC. Gaethje now holds an 18-2-0 record while Poirier’s record is 22-5-0. 


Earlier in the night, the crowd made it known to the fighters who they did and did not favor, most of the former being Arizona natives. 


It all started with the first female fight of the night between Lauren Mueller and Shana Dobson in the UFC’s newest weight class, the flyweight division.  


Mueller won the fight 29-28 in her debut as a UFC fighter, and she definitely felt the beginnings of what would be a lot of energy from the crowd. 


“My eyes are just on my opponent, but every once and a while, I could hear people yelling like getting excited when it would get going fast again,” Mueller said. “It was pretty neat.”


However, the crowd really started to warm up when Arizona State alumni and Phoenix native, John "Chicano" Moraga, began to fight Wilson Reis in the flyweight bout. 


As the underdog, Moraga beat Reis by unanimous decision in a fight that required a lot of the skills he acquired on the ASU wrestling team. 


“I don’t know if the crowd starting cheering or what, but I kind of went nuts before we started fighting when I was in the cage.” Moraga said. 


After that, it was on to the main card. Three fights before Poirier versus Gaethje, Michelle Waterson took on Cortney Casey in the strawweight bout.


Waterson had the higher ranking as she is seventh in the UFC while Casey is 10th, but as a Tucson-born fighter, Casey had the upper hand as far as support from the crowd. 


The audience would get loud whenever Casey had any success, but her multiple attempts to make Waterson submit all failed. 


Waterson won by a split decision with two out of three judges scoring the fight 29-28 in her favor. 


“When the crowd cheers, they cheer for you,” Waterson said. “Even though they weren’t, that’s what I told myself. I just chose to take in what I needed to take in.”


Next on the main card was the middleweight bout between Israel Adesayna and Marvin Vettori, from which the up-and comer Adesayna emerged as the winner by another split decision by the judges. 


“I’m still swimming well with these sharks and yeah, you’ll see, just give me time,” Adesayna said. “Try and beat me now because every time I step in there I get better so if you want to try and beat me, try yesterday.”


The last fight leading up to the Poirier and Gaethje fight was the co-main event between Carlos Condit and Alex Oliveira in the welterweight bout. 


Condit went in ranked 12thin the UFC, while Oliveria was unranked. That did not stop Oliveira from putting Condit into a guillotine choke hold that forced him to submit. 


“He went to sleep and I changed grips on him and he woke up,” Oliveira said. “Then I had to finish him so I went and tightened again and then he tapped. 

Oliveira had a commanding victory and while he nor Condit are Arizona natives, he could tell that crowd did not want him to win.


“I knew the crowd was his,” Oliveira said. “If it was in Brazil, it would be mine.”


Gila River Arena attracted quite the crowd for its first UFC Fight Night and with an audience so intense that most of the fighters could feel surges of energy, the UFC may have to consider another trip to Glendale. 



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