Eddie Alvarez scored his first win since July of 2016 on Saturday night in Detroit, knocking Justin Gaethje out with a vicious knee in the third round of an absolute barnstormer at UFC 218.
Pre-fight, Alvarez claimed that the contest would determine the UFC’s most violent man and most were understandably expecting a legit ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate. Though it probably fell just short of Gaethje’s fight with Michael Johnson earlier this year in terms of drama, chaos and sheer savagery, the bout certainly lived up to the hype.
In the opening round, Gaethje unsurprisingly butchered Alvarez’s lead leg with hard kicks, while Alvarez ripped back with eye-watering hooks to Gaethje’s body. In between, the pair took turns throwing brutal combos upstairs while standing in the pocket.
In the second, the toll of Alvarez’s body-attack became obvious, as Gaethje began to slow down and suck wind, allowing ‘The Underground King’ to open up more to the head. Alvarez moved well early in the round, landing a good lead right hand as he bounced about, but as the round wore on he was more content to stand in close and bang away at an increasingly tired and slightly bloodied Gaethje. Despite his dominance, Alvarez’s right cheek was badly swollen at the end of the session.
Gaethje got back to work on Alvarez’s lead leg in the third, forcing the former UFC and Bellator MMA lightweight champion to switch to southpaw. When he subsequently switched back to orthodox, Alvarez was chopped down with another kick. Gaethje, however, refused to go down into his foe’s guard and backed off, insisting that the wounded Alvarez stand back up on that unsteady leg.
The leg kicks kept coming, but so did Alvarez.
At stanza entered it’s fourth minute, Gaethje was clearly exhausted, but he did find two big uppercuts that appeared to wobble Alvarez momentarily. Seconds later, however, Alvarez drilled and floored Gaethje with a knee. Sensing the former WSOF lightweight champ was done, Alvarez didn’t immediately follow up, but when referee Herb Dean hesitated to step in the grizzled veteran got back to work. Dean didn’t allow Gaethje to take much more punishment though, as he dived in to stop the fight at 3:59 of the third round.
— Ahmar Khan (@AhmarSKhan) December 3, 2017
Since finishing Rafael dos Anjos to claim the lightweight title at UFC Fight Night 90 last summer, Alvarez suffered a devastating stoppage defeat to Conor McGregor in November and was lucky to avoid a second consecutive loss when he fought to a controversial no contest with Dustin Poirier in May. This win, then, was much needed.
For Gaethje, this was the first defeat of his career, amateur or pro. ‘The Highlight’ has, however, lived up to that nickname throughout every minute of his exhilarating UFC tenure and fans will be anxiously awaiting his return to action.