UFC 218 results, highlights: Eddie Alvarez scores TKO victory over Justin Gaethje
Alvarez and Gaethje promised fireworks on Saturday night, and boy did they deliver
Eddie Alvarez spent the entirety of UFC 218 fight week talking about his goal to become the "violent champion of the world" by defeating unbeaten action star Justin Gaethje.
Alvarez needed to walk through hell and back on Saturday to get there but the former UFC and Bellator MMA lightweight champion has a new title to call his own.
In a three-round war that lived up to its expectations as a violent contender for fight of the year, a weary Alvarez saved his biggest strike for last by finishing Gaethje with a picture-perfect right knee to the face that dropped him.
Referee Herb Dean quickly jumped in at 3:59 of Round 3 after Alvarez, who paused to celebrate by raising his arms, added a pair of hammer fists before the stoppage.
"That's the only one I care about right now," Alvarez said, after attempting to prove he was UFC's most violent man. "There are many different titles and there are titles that aren't being defended. All the fans want to see who was the most violent guy in here. That's all they wanted to see."
Alvarez (29-5) traded at close range throughout and ultimately beat the barbaric bully in Gaethje (18-1), a former World Series of Fighting champion, at his own game. But Alvarez needed to weather a tremendously difficult storm to get there by surviving a badly swollen right cheek and a left leg so sore from Gaethje's kicks that he could barely stand and was forced to switch stances.
"It starting to bug me and if this was a five-rounder, I was going to need to finish that in the third because four and five would have been tough for me," Alvarez said. "I trained with a lot of my training partners going southpaw so I was able to resort to that."
Alvarez gave Gaethje his respect after the fight by bowing at his feet. During the fight, Alvarez relied on his advantages in speed and technique to flurry with punching combinations on his feet.
Inevitably things got hairy, however, as Gaethje never stopped coming forward the entire fight. It took a focused attack to the body, beginning in Round 2, for Alvarez to slow Gaethje down, primarily with the left hook.
"It's tough to spar and get ready for Justin Gaethje because he puts you in a fight every time so I needed my training partners to come after me," Alvarez said. "That's what they did and I realized the body was the best way to take care of that.
Alvarez appeared to get the better of trading in Round 1 despite a constant swing in momentum. He fought off heavy leg strikes to find even more success the following round and appeared to hurt Gaethje more than once with right hands.
But Gaethje turned the tide in the final round and appeared to have the momentum in his favor until Alvarez finished the fight.
While Alvarez was forced to go to war in order to win, he also carried out a game plan well by relying on his strengths. It was something he was unable to do one year ago when he was lured into a boxing match by Conor McGregor before losing his lightweight title via second-round TKO.
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