Five storylines to watch for in Salt Lake City for the Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje 2 fight on the UFC 291 fight card

There are other things on the line at UFC 291 than the ceremonial BMF title.

Over the years, Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje have each referred to themselves as the UFC’s most vicious fighter. Both lightweights have compelling arguments in their favour, but Poirier and Gaethje aim to resolve the debate at UFC 291 on Saturday in Salt Lake City, Utah, with the ceremonial BMF title on the line.

The BMF (Baddest Mother F—-er) concept may not be for everyone, but the combatants on the marquee definitely meet the description. Among all-time leaders in Fight of the Night bonuses are Poirier and Gaethje. If their second fight in Salt Lake City comes close to matching the magic of their 2018 Fight of the Year, Poirier might break an all-time record.

Despite the unusual absence of a true UFC title, UFC 291 is a fight fan’s paradise. The card is packed with colourful characters and dynamic fighters. Poirier, Gaethje, Alex Pereira, Tony Ferguson, Bobby Green, Kevin Holland, Stephen Thompson, Michel Pereira, and Derrick Lewis are all expected to battle. These are the kinds of competitors you’d anticipate to see on a fantasy card.

Let’s examine the main plotlines from a pay-per-view card that deviates from the norm in more detail.

Poirier chases elusive hardware

The BMF championship is a meaningless trophy. It is a ceremonial trophy and not one of great distinction. It makes no concrete, publicly known promises to the winner, such as a shot at the UFC championship. However, if you scratch through the silver award, you’ll uncover some gold. The organisation recently revealed the UFC lightweight championship matchup between Islam Makhachev and Charles Oliveira 2. The victor of Poirier vs. Gaethje 2 will have plenty of time to rest before facing the lightweight champion. After defeating Conor McGregor in a trilogy, Poirier has earned genuine crossover fans, and the UFC would be happy to use him in another headline event. Despite being in the height of his physical prowess, “The Diamond” has endured a career that has spanned nearly 40 fights over the course of 15 years. Although Poirier’s situation at UFC 291 isn’t quite life or death, it’s difficult to believe he has many more opportunities to win a gold medal. The former interim lightweight champion was never the bride; she was always a bridesmaid. As he gets closer to his third opportunity to become the uncontested champion, the pressure is mounting.

The clock is ticking on Gaethje

Gaethje has contributed more than most to the UFC fan base. In his 11 UFC fights, Gaethje, dubbed “The Highlight,” has amassed 11 performance bonuses. After all, UFC events typically have 12 to 15 fights that are vying for two Performance of the Night awards and one Fight of the Night incentive. Gaethje used to be solely focused on having the most brutal fighting style in the UFC, but he has since changed his priorities to become the world champion. However, he too was unsuccessful in his attempts to win the entire title when he was defeated by Khabib Nurmagomedov and Charles Oliveira. Gaethje had stated to MMA Fighting that he planned to retire at the age of 37, which gave him three years to decide whether to challenge for the title again. Gaethje will join featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and upcoming title challenger Charles Oliveira in a murderer’s row of contenders if she defeats Poirier.

Pereira’s absurd two-division run

The ascension of Pereira to UFC champion is one of the most remarkable rises in MMA history. Similar to Brock Lesnar’s unexpected ascent to the top of the heavyweight division, Pereira won the UFC middleweight championship in his fourth trip inside the Octagon. Pereira may not have completed the feat as quickly as Lesnar, but “Poatan” is capable of quickly winning the UFC championships in two weight divisions. In his 205-pound debut, Jan Blachowicz, a former light heavyweight champion, will welcome Pereira. After Jamahal Hill gave up the light heavyweight title due to injuries, there is a lot of uncertainty over its current status. The UFC may decide to change Blachowicz vs. Pereira into a title eliminator or go one step further and contest the vacant belt. In around 10 MMA fights, Pereira would need to win two divisional UFC championships, which would be an incredible accomplishment.

Should Tony Ferguson even be fighting?

Ferguson vs. Bobby Green’s declaration was welcomed with, at best, surprise and, at worst, disdain. On May 7, Ferguson allegedly crashed his pickup into two other vehicles outside of a nightclub before being taken into custody on a DUI charge and being lodged in jail. Nine days later, the UFC scheduled Ferguson vs. Green. Ferguson later entered a not guilty plea to the misdemeanour DUI charge, but the promotion has to be held accountable for scheduling the fight so soon after a running police investigation. Given Ferguson’s history with mental illness and his competitive downfall, the choice is alarming. In 2019, Ferguson’s wife, Cristina Ferguson, requested a restraining order be placed against him, according to ESPN. “Our boy has a nice father in Tony Ferguson, who is a good spouse. The current legal actions are a step in a process to make sure Tony gets the support he needs to keep becoming the best he can be. Ferguson has suffered five straight defeats and is currently mired in his first losing run of his career. Green is a step down from most of Ferguson’s previous adversaries, but he still poses a lot of threats to a city in turmoil. Fighting might be the ideal treatment for “El Cucuy,” but it’s difficult to accept how this particular fight came about.

Is Derrick Lewis done as a contender?

Lewis is another fan favourite who is stuck in a terrible career rut. Lewis has lost his last three fights, marking the first losing run in a career that has included almost 40 contests. Although Marcos Rogério de Lima is inferior than fighters like Tai Tuivasa and Sergei Pavlovich, Lewis still needs to prevail in this contest. Losing against a fellow heavyweight who is 38 years old and most certainly won’t ever compete for a world title would significantly alter his position in the division. Compared to other categories, heavyweight is gentler to its veterans. The average calibre of heavyweight competitors isn’t quite as good as it is in lighter, more populous classes because power is sometimes the last thing to go. Although Lewis can always rely on his strength—he shares the UFC record for most knockouts—it seems like his days as a consistent contender are behind him. As future heavyweights like Tom Aspinall and Jailton Almeida begin to fill the heavyweight division, the route will only grow more difficult. Lewis’ head-shattering power and cult fanbase will always have a place in boxing, but without a strong performance on Saturday, he won’t be at the top.