Alan Jouban argues ‘it’s not over’ for Justin Gaethje’s title hopes despite brutal UFC 300 loss

Justin Gaethje had a lot to lose heading into UFC 300, and he arguably lost it all.

Sure, Gaethje walked away with a $300,000 bonus for Fight of the Night, but that came at the expense of a potential lightweight title shot after he ended his night face-down on the canvas following one of the most stunning knockouts in UFC history. With Max Holloway already up on the scorecards, the former featherweight champion invited Gaethje to meet him in the center of the cage and throw down before the final horn sounded. Holloway then uncorked a brutal right hand that sent Gaethje crashing to the mat with one second left.

It was arguably the worst-case scenario for Gaethje after he was previously promised a title shot following a head-kick knockout over Dustin Poirier last year.

“I think Justin Gaethje had the most at stake to lose on Saturday night, and he put it all on the line,” UFC analyst Alan Jouban said on the latest episode of The Fighter vs. The Writer. “So we have to applaud him for stepping up and doing that for us.

“Justin said, ‘I’m making one more run at the title.’ That was taken away from him on Saturday night. If he didn’t get knocked out in that last second and he would have lost that decision, probably by a 49-46 scorecard, he possibly could have retired. There was talks of him retiring without a win that night because that kind of takes him out of title contention.”

With Gaethje out of the running for the next title shot, UFC turned to Arman Tsarukyan as the new top contender after he beat former champion Charles Oliveira in a back-and-forth battle at UFC 300. Tsarukyan ultimately turned down the opportunity because he needed time to recover from his fight and truly prepare for a June 1 challenge against reigning champion Islam Makhachev at UFC 302.

As a result, Dustin Poirier now fights Makhachev for the lightweight title following Poirier’s knockout win over Benoit Saint Denis at UFC 299.

On paper, Poirier shouldn’t be getting a shot at gold considering he lost to Gaethje less than a year ago, and his only win since came against a somewhat unproven prospect in Saint Denis. None of that really mattered in the end, however, because Poirier remains a massive name in MMA and he’s a well-respected veteran with an untouchable lifetime résumé.

Timing and opportunity led to Poirier getting his title shot at UFC 302, and Jouban argues it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if something similar happens to Gaethje.

“Dustin Poirier got knocked out by Justin Gaethje just about a year ago and won one big, dramatic fight, and now he is pushed back in the title shot,” Jouban said. “It’s not over. It’s not over for Justin Gaethje.

“This was a huge setback. But if he comes back and now fights Charles Oliveira in a rematch or fights the winner or the loser of Michael Chandler vs. Conor McGregor, any of those fights with a big finish and looking very good in a victory could get him right back in title contention as well. I don’t think it’s over for Justin.”

Jouban acknowledged that Gaethje is probably reaching the final chapter of his career, but even at 35, he still has some time left to make another push into title contention.

Gaethje also has the magical ability to put on the kinds of entertaining fights that always keep him in the conversation among the most attractive options for UFC to promote a huge card. In other words, Gaethje is never too far from a shot at gold.

“I don’t think it’s all done for him,” Jouban said. “I think he has some time to maybe try and get one more big win and get one more shot at the title.”

As for Holloway, he sits on the other end of the spectrum, with the world at his fingertips following the viral knockout over Gaethje.

He’s already considered one of the greatest featherweights of all-time, and it appears Holloway wants the chance to cement his legacy in that division with a showdown against current champion Ilia Topuria.

That option likely leads the pack, but Jouban says Holloway can pretty much call his shot after his performance at UFC 300.

“I think Ilia Topuria is the fight that we have to make now,” Jouban said. “Now [Holloway] goes back to his rightful division and it doesn’t cloud the lightweight division.

“The thing about [Holloway vs. Gaethje], it was the best fight that made no sense because it messes up two divisions. Now you have a ‘45er jumping the line in the lightweight division, which is already kind of not making too much sense. Now Ilia Topuria is saying, ‘This is the fight I want now after seeing what Max Holloway did.’ Now the elevation, the star status of Max Holloway is even bigger, his star is even brighter. That fight is now even bigger. That is a bigger fight than fighting the former champion, who we all love and respect, Alexander Volkanovski. I think that fight makes a ton of sense.

“I think Ilia Topuria would be my No. 1 pick [for Holloway next], and then possibly the winner Chandler and Conor McGregor would be my No. 2 pick.”

Listen to new episodes of The Fighter vs. The Writer every Tuesday with audio only versions of the podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and iHeartRadio

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