UFC 236 takes place at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday night. The main event features current featherweight champion Max Holloway taking on Dustin Poirier for the UFC interim lightweight championship. The winner of the fight will in all likelihood move on to face current lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The last time Max Holloway failed to get his hand raised was back in April 2013 at UFC Fight Night 26 where he dropped a unanimous decision to Conor McGregor. Since then Holloway has won thirteen consecutive fights. His most recent victory was a fourth-round stoppage against Brian Ortega at UFC 231. Prior to the Ortega fight, Holloway finished all-time featherweight great Jose Aldo in back-to-back bouts. First at UFC 212 and again at UFC 218. Both finishes came in the third round. At twenty-seven years of age, Holloway makes the walk for the twenty-fourth time. The Hawaiian born fighter has twelve wins via stoppage to go along with eight by decision.
Dustin Poirier is 4-0 over his last five fights with a no-contest due to an accidental knee to the head of a grounded fighter against Eddie Alvarez at UFC 211. However, Poirier won the rematch against Alvarez in his most recent fight at UFC on FOX 30. His last three victories include Alvarez, Justin Gaethje and Anthony Pettis. All three ended inside the distance. Like Holloway, Poirier has also suffered a loss at the hands of Conor McGregor. Poirier’s loss was a first-round knockout back in September of 2014 at UFC 178. Since then “The Diamond” is 8-1-1. The thirty-year-old will make the walk for the thirtieth time on Saturday night. Nineteen of his twenty-four career wins ended inside the distance.
The co-main takes place in the middleweight division where Kelvin Gastelum squares off against Israel Adesanya for the UFC interim middleweight championship. The winner will face Robert Whittaker once the UFC middleweight champion is ready to return from injury. Gastelum was set to face Whittaker for the title at UFC 234 but the champion was forced to pull out mere hours before the fight due to an abdominal hernia which required emergency surgery.
Since getting subbed by Chris Weidman at UFC on FOX 25 Gastelum has won his last two fights. He beat Michael Bisping via knockout at UFC Fight Night 122 and then won a split decision against Ronaldo Souza at UFC 224. The twenty-seven-year-old boasts ten finishes in fifteen career victories.
Israel Adesanya has yet to lose a fight as a professional. His last win occurred at UFC 234 where he picked up his sixteenth victory with a unanimous decision over Anderson Silva. This is a quick turnaround for the Nigerian born fighter considering the Silva fight was only two months ago. All but three of the twenty-nine-year-old’s sixteen wins ended inside the distance.
Also on the main car,d Khalil Rountree will look to get back in the win column after getting finished by Johnny Walker at UFC Fight Night 140. He takes on Eryk Anders who has fallen on hard times by going 1-3 over his last four fights.
Rounding out the main card Alan Jouban goes up against Dwight Grant and Ovince Saint Preux will be looking to go 2-0 against Nikita Krylov.
Note: The predictions in this column do not necessarily mean that I will be betting them. I have changed my mind in the past and gone the other way after conducting more research. For all of my official bets follow me on Twitter @MichaelGrocke.
Max Holloway (20-3) vs. Dustin Poirier (24-5) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Holloway -210; Poirier +175
Pick: Holloway by (T)KO. This should be an amazing fight. I’m a fan of both fighters and will hate to see one of them lose. However, the quickest way to lose your bankroll is to bet with your heart. Holloway as a 2-1 favorite surprised me, so my initial thought was the value was on Poirier. The more I looked at it the more uneasy I became backing Poirier. I think Holloway wins the fight, but ultimately I am passing on it.
Kelvin Gastelum (15-3) vs. Israel Adesanya (16-0) – Middleweight 185 lbs.
Current Odds: Adesanya -170; Gaselum +150
Pick: Adesanya by decision. I see this fight going in one of two ways. Either Gastelum will be successful in getting inside, clinching and dirtying it up, or Adesanya will be able to keep distance, get on his horse and keep circling away. Thus, making for a boring fight. Sadly, I see the latter happening and Adesanya doing just enough to earn the decision.
Eryk Anders (11-3) vs. Khalil Rountree (7-3) – Light Heavyweight 205 lbs.
Current Odds: Anders -200; Rountree +170
Pick: Anders by decision. I know Anders has lost his previous two fights but there’s no shame in losing to Thiago Santos, who’s now fighting for the UFC light heavyweight championship and the underrated Elias Theodorou. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a finish here as well.
Alan Jouban (16-6) vs. Dwight Grant (9-2) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Jouban -120; Grant -100
Pick: Jouban by (T)KO. Someone’s getting knocked the f#@k out.
Ovince Saint Preux (23-12) vs. Nikita Krylov (24-6) – Light Heavyweight 205 lbs.
Current Odds: Krylov -120; Saint Preux +100
Pick: Krylov by (T)KO with little confidence making this fight is a hard pass for me.
Jalin Turner (8-4) vs. Matt Frevola (6-1-1) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Turner -130; Frevola +110
Pick: Turner by (T)KO.
Wilson Reis (23-9) vs. Alexandre Pantoja (20-3) – Flyweight 125 lbs.
Current Odds: Pantoja -150; Reis +130
Pick: Reis by decision. Reis may lose the fight, but there’s value backing him at +130.
Max Griffin (14-6) vs. Zelim Imadaev (8-0) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Imadaev -115; Griffin -105
Pick: Griffin by decision.
Boston Salmon (6-1) vs. Khalid Taha (12-2) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Salmon -145; Taha +125
Pick: Salmon by (T)KO.
Curtis Millender (17-4) vs. Belal Muhammad (14-3) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Muhammad -140; Millender +120
Pick: Muhammad by decision. This is more of a fade on Millender than an endorsement of Muhammad.
Montel Jackson (7-1) vs. Andre Soukhamthath (13-6) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Jackson -500; Soukhamthath +400
Pick: Jackson by decision.
Lauren Mueller (5-1) vs. Poliana Botelho (7-2) – Flyweight 125 lbs.
Current Odds: Botelho -175; Mueller +155
Pick: Botelho by (T)KO.
Brandon Davis (9-5) vs. Randy Costa (0-0) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Davis -170; Costa +150
Pick: Davis by (T)KO.
Enjoy the fights!