Gaethje targeted Poirier's legs with kicks from the opening bell and the strategy appeared to be paying off as it took its toll on his mobility.
While it may sound like a far-away possibility with Nurmagomedov seemingly headed for a vast grudge match with former champ Conor McGregor, UFC President Dana White was understandably complimentary of "The Diamond" when discussing the insane match-up at UFC on FOX 29 with Megan Olivi during the post-fight show on FOX Sports 2.
Gaethje's loss to Poirer was named fight of the night, the second consecutive card the 29-year-old has received the honour, and the Arizona native speaks with a level of confidence that makes you believe that he nearly expects to be in "fight of the night" calibre bouts.
Gaethje, a modern-day barbarian who is nearly impervious to pain, seemed unfazed by a cut above his left eye in Round 1 and continued to chip away at Poirier's right leg with a steady stream of damaging kicks.
What remains unsure, however, is whether Poirier will get his wish for an instant title shot.
Gaethje's latest setback will leave him just shy of the lightweight title discussion and in an interview given to a media scrum after the fight (via MMAFighting), he made it clear that he can only see himself competing in the sport five more times. "I just want to say, 'I did it, ' man". I fight to entertain people. I want the biggest fights possible. "I was training, I knew I could be called at short notice". Each fighter earned a $50,000 United States dollars bonus. Poirier hit Gaethje with a couple of combinations, bloodying the left side of his face midway through the first round while dodging most of Gaethje's counter attempts. Poirier attacked primarily with punches to the head, while Gaethje chose to brutalize his adversary's legs.
"This guy would've died in here if Herb Dean didn't stop it", Poirier said. "I smell it. I feel it in the air".
Up and comer middleweight Israel Adesanya of New Zealand won a split decision over Italian Marvin Vettori.
Kenai Andrews checks in with his thoughts on the main card.