If life is a marathon and not a sprint, UFC on Fox 29 was remarkably lifelike.
The 14-fight card began Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET and ended at about 10:30 p.m. ET. That's seven straight hours of UFC action, or 44 percent of the waking hours in an average person's day.
Those who crossed the final tape were rewarded with a scenic home stretch of a main card. In the main event, slugger-poet Justin Gaethje took on a well-rounded and violent veteran in Dustin Poirier. A lightweight title shot shouldn't be far off for the winner.
In the co-main event, fan favorite and muay thai wrecking machine Carlos Condit made a relatively rare appearance in the Octagon against Alex Oliveira, a high-octane Brazilian stepping in on short notice for the injured Matt Brown.
I haven't even mentioned Israel Adesanya yet.
If you didn't finish the marathon or picked up somewhere in the middle, no judgments. Herein we've covered the most noteworthy moments, and as always, the final stat lines only reveal so much. These are the real winners and losers from UFC on Fox 29 at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
For the literal-minded among us, full card results appear at the end.
Winners: Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje
After observing a moment of silence for Dustin Poirier's legs and the lost brain cells of both men, there's nothing but celebration for the gusher of MMA greatness that occurred in the main event of UFC on Fox 29.
This is the kind of main event you dream of if you're a fan or a UFC matchmaker. Poirier and Justin Gaethje are tough as nails and talented as they come. And they waged a war. No other way to put it.
The bout began with Gaethje's familiar attack: some of the most brutal leg kicks in the UFC today. Poirier didn't check the kicks directly but answered each with a signature of his own: a biting counter left hook. It went on that way for some time, punctuated only when they came into the proverbial phone booth, where Poirier worked the head and body with sharp combinations and Gaethje returned fire with straights, uppercuts and the occasional elbow.
It wasn't long before Poirier was in clear pain from the leg kicks, his punching power diminishing as a result of losing thrust in his legs. As time went on, Poirier was out-landing and bloodying Gaethje, but Gaethje's legendary toughness was kicking in. He simply ate punch after punch as he continued his own leg-kick-heavy offense. It looked like Gaethje was slowly pulling away, that the accumulated leg damage would inevitably hit some tipping point. Gaethje did poke the eyes of Poirier more than once, eventually forcing referee Herb Dean to take a point. Would it be a factor?
The violence went on for three-and-a-half outstanding rounds. Until Poirier reached down and unleashed the strike of the match, a crushing left hook. Gaethje, wild man that he is, backed up and beckoned Poirier forward. Poirier obliged, smelling blood. He unleashed the kitchen sink on Gaethje's head. Gaethje would simply not go down. He appeared out on his feet. Finally, he fell to his hands and knees, an exhausted runner who had just crossed a bitter finish line. Dean stepped in (perhaps a few strikes too late) and waved off the fight.
It was a fight and a win for the ages. Poirier is not a good fighter. He is a great fighter. Gaethje is a warrior, a winner and more than a worthy foil for Poirier on Saturday. He has now dropped two in a row, but there is no question he'll be back to make more memories. Perhaps he can take solace in winning, alongside Poirier, the $50,000 Fight of the Night bonus.
"Justin is a warrior and wouldn't have stopped unless Herb [Dean] stepped in like he did,” Poirier said in a statement after the fight. “I’ve been through two weight classes, this is my 20th fight in the UFC. I know what it’s like to battle through adversity, get knocked down, get knocked out and stand back up. I would never ask for something unless I knew I earned it. So, Dana [White], [matchmaker] Sean [Shelby]. … [champion] Khabib [Nurmagomedov], let's go!"
Yes, there is an easily doable rematch with Eddie Alvarez that could occur. But Poirier is now 23-5 (1) as a pro. He hasn't lost in three of his last four (including a no-contest with Alvarez) and is 6-1 (1) since returning to lightweight. If he hasn't earned a title shot with this win, you have to wonder what the UFC has against him. Hopefully, it recognizes it has greatness in Poirier and can take steps to reward that and itself.
Winner: Alex Oliveira
Alex "Cowboy" Oliviera waged a bloody war with Carlos Condit—maybe the most beloved fighter on the UFC roster—and rode an opportunistic guillotine choke to the biggest win of his life.
Condit threatened with a rear-naked choke early, but Oliveira stayed calm and escaped. The two bloodied each other throughout, with both men leaking: Oliveira from his nose and Condit, seemingly (it was hard to tell), from his scalp.
The turning point came in the second round when a prone Oliveira landed an upkick flush on Condit's jaw so hard it spun Condit's head around like The Exorcist. I'm no doctor, but I'd be in no way surprised if the shot broke Condit's jaw.
Oliveira sprang to his feet and a hurt Condit shot in for a takedown on pure instinct. He charged directly into Oliveira's guillotine, Oliveira squeezed for all he was worth, they hit the mat and Condit tapped.
Yes, this is Condit's fourth straight loss, going back more than two years. After 42 pro contests, the 33-year-old has some thinking to do. He seems like a thoughtful guy, not one who will continue out of stubbornness or delusion.
So let him do his thinking. Tonight, give Oliveira some shine for coming into hostile territory and winning his third bout in four tries, and on two weeks' notice at that.
Loser: Israel Adesanya
OK, perhaps I'm being a little tongue-in-cheek. But despite escaping with a split-decision win, Saturday was a lateral move for Israel Adesanya.
He kept his phenom status intact with a win that featured the kind of dynamism fans came to love in his kickboxing career and then in MMA. But the lack of a stoppage wasn't the only reason Adesanya didn't have his best night: his opponent, Marvin Vettori, drew the blueprint for how to beat him.
It's not rocket science, but Vettori was the first to actually do it. He took Adesanya down and held him there. He didn't try any, you know, offense, just stayed on him chest-to-chest and clung for dear life. It was the opposite of pretty and, given that he waited until the third round to try it, more than a little desperate. Still, it proved what Rob Wilkinson couldn't in Adesanya's UFC debut: wrestling and grappling are big holes in the phenom's game.
The split decision went Adesanya's way (I have no idea who gave Vettori two rounds), and order was maintained. Adesanya is now 13-0. There were memorable moments that showed his masterful striking, timing, feinting, evasiveness and range control. He's a great talent and great things lie ahead—he just has some stuff to work on before he gets a real test.