Gaethje will be keeping a close eye on 2021’s final pay-per-view this weekend as his next opponent is likely decided in the main event. After winning the vacant belt with a miraculous comeback against Michael Chandler at UFC 262 in May, Oliveira will defend the lightweight gold for the first time on December 11.
The opening challenge to his reign will come from Poirier, widely considered the be the greatest lightweight on the planet right now. Riding two victories over Conor McGregor into Saturday’s headliner, “The Diamond” will be looking to secure his place on the 155-pound throne at the second time of trying.
Gaethje Backs Poirier’s “Heart And Will”
The narrative heading into the second lightweight championship main event of 2021 has largely centered around the idea that Poirier is the “uncrowned champion” of the division, and that Oliveira has a tough night ahead of him. That’s a sentiment that’s consistently been shared by top contender Gaethje.
As well as claiming that Chandler proved the 28-fight promotional veteran is a quitter at UFC 262, “The Highlight” has previously refused to acknowledge Oliveira as the titleholder until he defeats Poirier. The former interim champion shared a similar view during a recent appearance on Throwing Down with Renee & Miesha on SiriusXM.
Repeating his doubts about the Brazilian’s grit and toughness, Gaethje suggested Oliveira has to finish Poirier before the third round to have any chance at victory. Should the fight reach the championship rounds, a depth “Do Bronx” has never dived to, the #2-ranked contender believes the Louisianan will have his hand raised.
“If they get into some grappling situations, I think Poirier can get finished in the first two or two-and-a-half rounds. But I think after that, most fights come down to heart and will. There is something special about Poirier when it comes down to that department you know. He has made all the money but it’s very special when you find someone who is not here just for the money and he is one of those guys. So I don’t see him losing in the heart and will department of this fight.” (h/t Sportskeeda)
Oliveira has consistently maintained that he’s being underrated and unfairly written off ahead of UFC 269, both in terms of his ability to beat Poirier and his willingness to engage in a five-round war. On December 11, he’ll have the chance to prove Gaethje and a sizable chunk of the combat sports community wrong.
Do you agree with Justin Gaethje? Does Charles Oliveira need to finish Dustin Poirier early at UFC 269 in order to keep hold of the lightweight title?