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’ll be a interim lightweight title on the line at UFC 236. In one corner will be high lightweight competitor Dustin Poirier, while at the other corner UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway will endure, looking to join the select few UFC fighters who have won belts in two weight classes. Below, I’ll give my first thoughts on the fight, and what it means for the lightweight division.
Dustin Poirier vs. Max Holloway, UFC 236
Poirier and Holloway will fulfill in the primary event of UFC 236 for its interim lightweight name. The card takes place April 13 in State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. The co-main occasion 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 involving Poirier and Holloway, I must talk about what this implies for the rest of the lightweight division. Evidently, the decision to make an interim title usually means that the advertising expects UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov to be out in the sidelines for a while. Really, he is scheduled to return in the earliest in November due to his suspension stemming from the post-fight brawl at UFC 226. It’s possible the UFC does not even believe he’ll return before the close of the season is up, and the branch obviously needs to keep going around.
The fighter who gets hurt the most by this news is clearly Tony Ferguson, who’s on an 11-fight win streak and that was the prior interim title holder last year before he slipped on a TV cable and blew his knee out. Ferguson returned last year at UFC 226 having a TKO win over Anthony Pettis and most figured he’d be the next competitor for Nurmagomedov. However, according to White, Ferguson turned down an interim title fight with Holloway, and Poirier jumped in and took his place instead. This implies 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.
As far as the Poirier vs. Holloway fight goes, it’s an awesome matchup, and actually a rematch since both previously fought UFC 143 back in 2012, together with Poirier beating Holloway by submission. Obviously, that has been Holloway’s UFC debut and he is a very different fighter today. So is Poirier. They are both are the top of their various games and this rematch should be amazing. Poirier (24-5, 1 NC) is unbeaten over his last five fights and will be coming off of a TKO win over Eddie Alvarez. Holloway (20-3) is on a 13-fight win series and knocked out Brian Ortega in his last struggle. Both guys are truly on top of the game at this time and this ought to be an wonderful fight.
The offshore sportsbooks dropped the opening betting odds for the fight, with Holloway launching as a -230 betting favorite, with all the comeback on Poirier in +170. The first betting action has arrived in on Holloway, however awarded Poirier’s past win over him I expect some action to come in his way at some point or another. In any event, the sportsbooks can expect a large deal with this particular fight, which promises to become one of the most-anticipated bouts of this year.
Along with Poirier vs. Holloway, UFC 236 also features an interim middleweight title bout between Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum. You can check out my thoughts on the opening line for this bout here.
Opening Betting Odds
April 13, 2019
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Main Event — Interim Lightweight Title
Max Holloway -230
Dustin Poirier +170
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