It's a biggie this week - We break down the huge main event for UFC 236 as well as offer up a double.
It’s been a long two-week break, but the UFC is back! Last time out we got to witness the highlight-fuelled spectacle that was UFC on ESPN 2, a show which saw a healthy profit for us and a number of breathtaking finishes to boot!
Now we go in search of more profit as we look ahead to UFC 236, a pay-per-view event that boasts two interim title bouts and a number of intriguing fights. Let’s jump into this week’s tips for UFC 236: Holloway vs. Poirier 2!
Co-Main/Prelim – Double
In the card’s only flyweight bout, we see former title challenger Wilson Reis take on Alexandre Pantoja. Pantoja enters having won four of his last five, two by decision and two via submission. He holds an overall pro-record of 20-3-0, with his three losses coming solely from decisions, and his wins from a variety of methods. Pantoja should have the speed, stamina and striking advantage in this one. Reis’ route to victory is through his strong ground-game. This doesn’t worry me too much however, as Pantoja has a good history defending submission and if he were to ever get in an unfavorable position, he’s often able to work his way to his feet. With this being said, I expect Pantoja to dictate where the fight goes and take this one with relative ease.
Co-Main Event for the Interim UFC Middleweight Championship: #4 Kelvin Gastelum (16-3-0) vs. #5 Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya (16-0-0)
In the co-main event, we have kickboxing sensation Israel Adesanya take on The Ultimate Fighter season 17 winner Kelvin Gastelum. Adesanya burst onto the mma scene after winning 11-straight by KO/TKO on the Australasian/Chinese circuit. He then got his shot in the UFC in February of 2018. Since then he has remained unbeaten, whilst accumulated five more wins, the last of which coming over the consensus middleweight “GOAT” – Anderson Silva (although slightly past his prime).
Gastelum has also been on a good run of form himself having won five of his last six, and his only career losses coming via two split-decisions and one submission, to his much larger opponent in the former middleweight champion Chris Weidman. Gastelum made his name winning the 17th series of TUF at middleweight before going down to welterweight. After missing weight numerous times, Kelvin then made the move back up to middleweight to put a stop to his weight-cutting issues. Although this move has proved to be a positive one for him thus far, he still goes into each fight being the smaller fighter as he stands at a comparatively low 5’9” with a short 71.5-inch reach. What he does have however is a solid wrestling game with ever improving boxing.
Kelvin’s grit and determination should make it hard for Adesanya to deliver the KO blow many expect from him. Kelvin’s well-rounded base could also prove tricky if he’s able to get inside of Adesanya’s reach and seek to land either hooks or shoot for a takedown. These are the concerns for “Stylebender” but considering he comes from a kickboxing background, questions over his ability to stop takedowns will almost certainly follow him until he’s proven capable of stopping the elite of the elite’s. Many similar questions were raised when he went up against Brad Tavares and he dealt with his (then) critiques in emphatic fashion. I expect the Nigerian-born Kiwi to keep distance on his shorter stocky opponent and out point him, either resulting in a late stoppage or by taking it on the scorecards.
1pt Double @ 8/5
Main Event for the Interim UFC Lightweight Championship: Max “Blessed” Holloway (20-3-0) vs. #3 Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier (24-5-0)
In the show’s main event we have the rematch of two former featherweights vying for lightweight (interim) gold. When these two first squared off, it was Holloway’s UFC debut and he came in on short notice. Dustin had a couple issues on the feet against the young Hawaiian, but after he decided to take the fight to the mat, he punished Max for his then inexperienced BJJ skills.
We’ve seen both fighters come a long way since that fight in February of 2012. Max went on to win three of his next five, before going on a 13-0 tear through his division, with notable stoppage victories coming over former champs Anthony Pettis and ‘featherweight king’ José Aldo (twice). Poirier on the other hand went on to trade a wins and losses at featherweight before deciding to make the move up to lightweight, where he’s since gone 8-1, beating many of the division’s top contenders.
The main question mark for most has been “how will Holloway deal with the step-up in weight to 155lbs?”. I don’t see it presenting any issues, or at least not in this fight. Max has always been a tall fighter in the FW division and this should carry over. There’s a chance that the added weight could slow him down, but the reduced weight-cut could be less fatiguing on his body, which intern might add to his already impressive gas tank. I expect Holloway to roll forward as he usually goes about his business, despite Poirier’s wrestling, jiu-jitsu and chopping leg kick threats. Money has been slowly pouring in on “The Diamond” and we are likely to see Holloway’s price rise even further come fight time.
With him currently sitting at 1/2 I still see value on him where others don’t. The odds suggest that Max needs to win this fight over 66.7% of the time for this to be a profitable selection, and I see him getting this done more frequently than that figure suggests. The “Blessed” one works off accumulation and forcing his opponents to crumble under his pressure. I don’t expect Poirier to collapse where others have, but I do expect Max to out stamina and out strike Dustin. His durability is better than that of Poirier’s, and we’ve seen moments where Dustin has looked close to being put away by his opponents. Holloway has proven he’s the man at every turn since his early UFC fights and Poirier has looked impressive as of late, but still displaying faults. It’s not the ideal stylistic match-up for Holloway, but that hasn’t stopped him controlling the action in the past.