Even a bombshell dropped on the MMA world late Friday evening, when ESPN’s Brett Okamoto disclosed that UFC president Dana White confirmed to him that there will be an interim lightweight title at stake at UFC 236. In one corner will probably be top lightweight competitor Dustin Poirier, whilst at the other corner UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway will stand, trying to join the select few UFC fighters that have won belts in two weight classes. Below, I’ll give my initial thoughts on the struggle, and also what it means for the lightweight division.
Dustin Poirier vs. Max Holloway, UFC 236
Poirier and Holloway will meet in the primary event of UFC 236 for the interim lightweight name. The card takes place April 13 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. The co-main event of the card is an interim middleweight title bout between Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum, meaning two fresh UFC champions will be crowned that night.
Before I get into the actual matchup between Poirier and Holloway, I have to talk about what this means for the rest of the lightweight division. Obviously, the choice to make an interim title usually means the promotion expects UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov to be out on the sidelines for some time. Indeed, he’s scheduled to return in the oldest in November because of his suspension stemming from the post-fight brawl in UFC 226. It is possible the UFC doesn’t even think he will return before the end of the year is up, along with the branch obviously needs to keep moving around.
The fighter who gets hurt the most by this information is clearly Tony Ferguson, who’s on an 11-fight win series and who had been the prior interim name holder last year until he slipped on a TV cable and blew out his knee. Ferguson returned late last year in UFC 226 having a TKO win over Anthony Pettis and most figured he’d be the next competitor for Nurmagomedov. But according to White, Ferguson turned down an interim name fight with Holloway, and Poirier jumped in and took his own place instead. What this means for Ferguson moving forward remains to be seen, but considering what happened to Colby Covington and the welterweight division, it seems the UFC has moved on.
So far as the Poirier vs. Holloway fight goes, it is an great matchup, and actually a rematch as both formerly fought at UFC 143 back in 2012, together with Poirier beating Holloway by submission. Obviously, that was Holloway’s UFC debut and he is a very different fighter today. So is Poirier. They are both would be the very best of their respective games and this rematch should be amazing. Poirier (24-5, 1 NC) is unbeaten over his last five fights and will be coming from a TKO win over Eddie Alvarez. Holloway (20-3) is on a 13-fight win streak and hauled out Brian Ortega in his last struggle. Both guys are truly on top of the game right now and this should be an amazing battle.
The offshore sportsbooks dropped the opening betting odds for the struggle, with Holloway launching as a -230 betting favorite, with all the comeback on Poirier at +170. The early betting action has arrived in on Holloway, though given Poirier’s previous win more than him I expect some action to come from his way at some point or another. In any event, the sportsbooks can anticipate a large deal with this fight, which promises to be one of the most-anticipated bouts of this year.
In addition to Poirier vs. Holloway, UFC 236 additionally features an interim middleweight title bout between Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum. You can check out my thoughts on the opening lineup for this bout here.
Launching Betting Odds
UFC 236:
April 13, 2019
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Main Event — Interim Lightweight Title
Max Holloway -230
Dustin Poirier +170
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