UFC 236 Picks: Max Holloway vs. Dustin Poirier Fight Analysis
UFC 236 Picks
When: Saturday, April 13, 2019
Where: State Farm Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
The UFC takes its show to Atlanta, where UFC 236 will take place at the State Farm Arena. The main event is for the Interim UFC Lightweight Title, with Max Holloway taking on Dustin Poirier. With Khabib Nurmagomedov suspended, these two will duke it out with the winner a likely next opponent for the real lightweight king. Holloway, the reigning UFC Featherweight Champion, looks to move up in weight and his entrance exam is a tough one against a veteran contender on a winning streak in Poirier.
Max Holloway, 20-3 (10 KOs, 2 Submissions), (-280) vs. Dustin Poirier, 24-5 (12 KOs, 7 Submissions), (+200)
Featherweight champion Max Holloway takes on Dustin Poirier in the UFC 236 main event. This interim lightweight title fight features a pair of streaking fighters, with Holloway on an incredible run of 13 straight wins, while Poirier is on a five-fight unbeaten streak, with just one loss since 2014. Poirier is a top lightweight and no easy match, even for a champion like Holloway.
These two are familiar opponents. In 2012, Poirier scored a first-round submission win over Holloway, when a mounted triangle armbar ruined Holloway’s UFC debut. We should take pause to consider the details of that encounter. First of all, it was over 7 years ago—a virtual lifetime in MMA terms. Holloway was a few months separated from his 20th birthday and was making a big jump in class, fighting in the UFC for the first time after fighting in local shows in Hawaii. Considering what has happened to each fighter since that 2012 fight, I’m not quite sure how much that fight even matters at this point.
The time seems right for the 27-year old champion Holloway to move up. Long struggling to make 145 pounds, the nearly-six-foot Hawaiian should fit in nicely at lightweight. In his last fight, he defended his title against Brian Ortega in a vintage performance. It was a fight many suspected Ortega would win. But Holloway teed off for four rounds on Ortega, issuing a vicious beating. And for all his recent struggles with injuries, he continues to look better and better each time he steps into the octagon.
Poirier, meanwhile, has also found a nice little Renaissance-period in his career at age 30. Since losing to Conor McGregor in 2014, he has lost just one of ten fights, scoring some big wins along the way. If not for a top-heavy 155-pound division, you’d think he has done enough to earn a shot. In his last three fights, he TKO’d two former champions in Eddie Alvarez and Anthony Pettis, which sandwiched a fierce KO win over contender Justin Gaethje. A UFC fighter for over 8 years, he has seen a hard toil finally start to materialize into big things, and it all culminates here.
Looking back, it was understandable why many fancied Holloway’s last challenger to win. Max had been on the shelf all year and was coming off injuries, a rough weight cut in a truncated challenge of Khabib, and a bad concussion suffered in training that forced a postponement of the Ortega bout. Though he didn’t lose in the octagon, the feeling was that he was on a bad roll and against a peaking and dangerous contender like Ortega, many suspected the wheels would come off. By the end of the fight, Ortega backers were left to pick up the pieces and ask themselves why they questioned a man who very well could be the best featherweight MMA fighter of all time. Now 27, he last tasted defeat as a green 21-year-old when he lost to Conor McGregor. And despite some outside issues, he really has gotten better and better in just about every fight.
A lot of Holloway’s worth doesn’t register right away. He’s not really awesome in a given area or discipline. But he can do everything and is never out of his element. And at the end of the day, no one as of late has been able to match his toughness, fighting spirit, and simple ability to out-gut his foes. His willpower is unmatched. Before long, opponents of all styles simply find themselves drowning in the octagon. When looking for what he does best, the answer simply lies in his ability to fight. His stamina never betrays him. He fights his tail off and doesn’t let up until the job is done.
Poirier, however, does have the knowledge that he can beat this man; even if Holloway bears little resemblance to the neophyte he beat years ago. But it’s fair to say that Poirier has found another gear in his career as well, looking like a renewed force since moving up to 155 pounds. I mean, it’s hard not to be impressed as he disposes of 155-pound talent like Pettis, Gaethje, and Alvarez. He has added a finishing flair to his fights, with a slew of stoppage wins in recent fights. His movement has become very crisp, and he can use angles expertly. His leg-kicks soften up opponents, as Poirier has really become an efficient veteran who is exceedingly dangerous and well-versed. There isn’t much he hasn’t seen in the octagon.
In a three-round fight, I would be inclined to fancy this as a toss-up, of sorts. Over the five-round distance, however, I favor Holloway. Over the years, he has shown a higher level of infallibility, while probably beating a higher level of opposition, being that he is a champion. I see that kind of dependability paying off well in a difficult spot here, as Holloway emerges the victor.
My Pick to Win: I’m betting on Max Holloway at -280 at Bookmaker. Neither fighter really bears much resemblance to the men who tangled over 7 years ago. Both are much better, but Holloway has traveled a greater distance and simply put, is the more-bankable proposition at this level.