UFC 236 will be staged Saturday in Atlanta. The 13-fight card begins at 3:15 p.m. PT with the main card kicking off at 7.
The main card features two outstanding five-round championship fights, each highly competitive matchups determining who will be awarded the UFC “Interim Championship,” which basically means the winner fights the current recognized champion for the official belt later in the year.
MAX HOLLOWAY -200 VS. DUSTIN POIRIER 175 lightweight championship (155 pounds) Main event This fight will be action packed as each man completes his task in the Octagon by out striking the opponent. In this instance, each man’s approach to striking varies which provides the intrigue and suspense for this lightweight fight.
Holloway is the current featherweight (145-pound) champion, moving up to lightweight as he’s cleaned out the featherweight division. Usually there are questions revolving around moving up in weight, but recent UFC history proves that the tactic can be a benefit to the fighter because they are refreshed and possess better stamina when they rid themselves of the burdensome task of cutting weight. Case in point IS the 6-1 Holloway, who is a guy that walks around normally at 190 lbs. and is unusually large for a lightweight let alone his previous division where they fight at 145 pounds.
Holloway’s UFC debut seven years ago was a short notice submission loss to Poirier, who at the time was the more complete fighter and mature individual. Flash ahead to today, and all realize that Holloway has developed exponentially and is trying to make a bid as an all-time great UFC fighter. He is now more complete in his fight arsenal, he’s thicker, he more mature and at 26 he’s in the prime of his career.
Holloway is a boxing-based Muay Thai, BJJ fighter, but let’s make no mistake here, he’s a striker. He employs precision striking and he throws in volume and from angles with movement. He is equipped with the cardiovascular conditioning to fight for five hours let alone five rounds and his best work comes from moving the opponent backwards which allows him to increase output and apply his own pressure.
Holloway does need distance to punch at peak performance so his footwork and movement are critical to his success for he must not allow Poirier to impose himself rather it’s Max that eventually must force Poirier back.
The first couple of rounds in this fight will be interesting as each man will look to force their will on the other. Max will need to weather the early storm from Poirier and handle his power and pressure with the plan that he will be able to deal with Poirier’s pressure, keep his distance and pepper Poirier with straight strikes.
This strategy (the belief is) is one that will systematically wear the pressing power puncher Poirier down. This is Holloway’s first go at 155 pounds. so that, coupled with the fact that Poirier has been fighting grown men in the lightweight division and finishing them for four years, is one key to this fight in my judgment.
If this fight is to go Holloway’s way, it will be in the later rounds where he will have navigated that early unrelenting pressure from Poirier and straight strike Poirier over time and in accumulation to slowly take the fight from him. Holloway’s damage comes from volume strike accumulation and he’ll need the time necessary to inflict it as I do see Poirier’s durability and size to be something Holloway will need to adjust to.
Poirier is a well-rounded mixed martial artist but at heart he wants to utilize power hooks crosses and uppercuts to immediately press the fight and force Holloway into a brawl (which Max may just acquiesce to). Poirier uses those hooks and crosses to inflict damage (as opposed to straight precision strikes like Holloway) and he chooses to stand more flat footed and square to his opponent in order to put power combinations together with bad intentions.
I see this fight going Poirier’s way early to be honest as he’ll be fresh and willing to attempt to impose his will on Holloway. Holloway will be large for this new division but I believe he’ll need time to adjust to the size and power of his opponent which I also view as important to the outcome of this fight.
How Holloway adjusts to Poirier’s pressure and early pop will go a long way in determining if he’ll be able to survive the early onslaught, create/maintain striking distance and turn the tables on another fighter in the prime of his career.
Holloway currently holds the featherweight title and is looking to poach another while Poirier has been toiling, tussling and yearning for years to simply fight for a title. Poirier has finished top-ranked UFC lightweights such as Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje to earn this opportunity and in those victories comes at least some advantage as I handicap this fight.
Holloway opened -230 and the price has compressed a bit to the current -200.
I struggle to believe that Holloway is a legitimate -200 in this situation based on Poirier’s four years of highly successful results in the lightweight ranks. I also give Poirier a touch of advantage for the intangible of ‘hunger,’ for he’s worked for years to finally capture this shot. I believe Poirier comes ready to lay it on the line Saturday night and gets his hand raised in what many will call an upset but I am not so certain.
Fight starts Round 4 110 (awaiting total for fight)
ISRAEL ADESANYA -180 VS. KELVIN GASTELUM 150
I am of the belief that Adesanya is a future star for the UFC but I am also of the belief that he has not served his time nor has he faced anywhere near the level of elite UFC competition that Gastelum has.
Adesanya is long, athletic and a kickboxing-based fighter who recently went three rounds with the fluid but powerless Anderson Silva, who is 43 years old. Adesanya has not faced any real viable world-class UFC talent, but on Saturday he will and he’ll be thoroughly tested.
Gastelum is going to surprise Adesanya with his quickness and ability to eventually work his way inside of the constantly moving counter striker. Besides quickness (Gastelum fought for a time at the Welterweight level 170lbs.) he is well more powerful than many realize and Adesanya may discover that first hand come Saturday.
Adesanya does not possess the power to hurt Gastelum in my judgment and his ability to keep outside of Gastelum’s grasp for a full 25 minutes is doubtful as I see Gastelum hunting the Kiwi down and presenting Adesanya with his PhD. in MMA Saturday night.