Fourteen months after their initial meeting ended in controversy due to illegal strikes, Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez delivered another instant classic at UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
And for the second time, an illegal strike by Alvarez shaped the course of the bout. This time, however, Poirier capitalized on it.
Poirier (23-6) earned a TKO victory at the 4:05 mark of the second round inside Scotiabank Saddledome. The finish came just moments after Alvarez lost a dominant position along the fence for throwing an illegal 12-to-6 elbow.
Referee Marc Goddard paused the lightweight fight after the blow and restarted it on the feet. Poirier hurt Alvarez with strikes immediately after. It was reminiscent of the first bout, which ended in a no-contest after Alvarez landed a pair of knees to a downed opponent.
"The elbow landed on my shoulder and didn't hurt me at all. It felt like a normal elbow," Poirier said. "After the fight, [Alvarez's corner] said, 'They stood you up.' Like, I won the fight because of that. Don't throw a 12-6 elbow. Just like, don't knee a downed opponent."
A 12-to-6 elbow refers to an elbow that is thrown in a direct line, from the ceiling downward. For an elbow strike to be illegal, it has to have some angle to it.
The error cost Alvarez, 34, dearly. Early in the second round, he threatened to submit Poirier with a neck crank and rear-naked choke from the back. He was in full mount at the time of the foul, an extremely offensive position.
Despite the poor positions in the second round, Poirier, who fights out of American Top Team, looked terrific on his feet. He out-landed Alvarez in total strikes 76 to 35, according to Fightmetric. The finish was a thing of beauty, as Alvarez tried to bob and weave his way out of trouble and fire back counter punches.
"Just look at my track record," Poirier said. "Eddie Alvarez, former champ. Anthony Pettis, former champ. Justin Gaethje, former [WSOF] champ. That's four champions in a row. What else do I got to do?"
Alvarez, of Philadelphia, suffered the third knockout loss of his career. He came into UFC Fight Night on the final bout of his exclusive contract. He expressed optimism prior to the fight that he would re-sign with the UFC.
Aldo roars back to life, knocks out Stephens in first round
Jose Aldo is recognized as the most dominant featherweight in UFC history, but many wondered how much the Brazilian had left following three losses in his past four performances. He answered those questions in a big way on Saturday.
Aldo (27-4) knocked out Jeremy Stephens (28-15) in emphatic fashion at 4:19 of the opening round -- his first finish in nearly five years. The official result was a TKO, as Aldo finished Stephens with strikes on the ground after crumpling him with a left hook to the liver.
It was a wild finish to an incredibly entertaining fight. Stephens, who fights out of San Diego, hurt Aldo early in an exchange and looked to swarm him with punches along the fence. He rocked Aldo's head backward with an uppercut and a follow-up left hook.
Aldo, 31, survived the onslaught and came back swinging. He backed Stephens off with power punches, including a left hand that cut Stephens below the right eye. It is just the second knockout loss of Stephens' 13-year career.
Aldo, who fights out of Rio de Janeiro, defended the UFC's 145-pound championship seven consecutive times before losing it to Conor McGregor in a devastating 13-second loss in 2015. He regained the title by defeating Frankie Edgar, before suffering back-to-back losses to Max Holloway.
Jedrzejczyk back on track, defeats Torres after three rounds
Former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (15-2) returned to the win column for the first time since losing her title 20 months ago, defeating Tecia Torres via unanimous decision. All three judges scored it a shutout: 30-27.
Jedrzejczyk, of Poland, suffered back-to-back defeats to Rose Namajunas, but she clearly remains one of the best 115-pound fighters in the world. She defended Torres' numerous attempts to take her down, and she made her pay for the effort by landing knees to the body and elbows to the head.
"I cannot wait to run to the top again," Jedrzejczyk said. "I am the strawweight queen, with the belt or without the belt."
Anytime Torres, who trains out of Colorado, backed away from takedown attempts and tried to box, Jedrzejczyk imposed her will from a distance. She landed the jab and leg kicks from a distance, and she recovered quickly when Torres did land a couple of hard shots late in the second round.
Jedrzejczyk improved to 8-2 overall in the UFC. She has more or less dominated her competition with the exception of Namajunas. Torres dropped to 7-3.
Hernandez making waves at lightweight, cruises past Aubin-Mercier
Alexander Hernandez (10-1) moved to 2-0 in the UFC with an impressive showing against Octagon veteran Olivier Aubin-Mercier. The 155-pound fight went the distance, and Hernandez admitted he wasn't happy with it, but all three judges awarded him the bout: 30-27, 29-28, 29-28.
Hernandez, 25, signed with the UFC earlier this year as a late replacement opponent for Beneil Dariush. He knocked out Dariush in just 42 seconds in his UFC debut, and he was equally impressive on Saturday. He outworked Aubin-Mercier to the point of complete exhaustion.
Hernandez took Aubin-Mercier down four total times in the bout, and out-struck him on the feet and the ground. Aubin-Mercier rocked Hernandez with a short right to the side of the head in the second round, but he simply could not match Hernandez's pace and relentless grappling.
For Aubin-Mercier, the loss snapped a four-fight win streak. Hernandez, of San Antonio, Texas, has not tasted defeat since 2013.