UFC 236 was this past weekend and it featured two interim title fights. Let’s get to the rundown.
GOOD- Nikita Krylov submits Ovince Saint Preux
OSP gassed out in the first round, which has seemingly always been a problem for him, and Krylov came out in the second round and put it on him. Nice punches from Krylov before getting the takedown, where he maneuvered around a bit before sinking in the rear-naked choke for the submission win. Good win for Krylov.
BAD/GOOD- Alan Jouban vs. Dwight Grant
The fight slowed considerably as it went on, and it was just there by the end. It was more like a sparring match. I didn’t care for this fight, which Grant won by split decision.
GOOD/UGLY- Khalil Rountree vs. Eryk Anders
Rountree beat up the leg of Anders early and often. He was the superior striker here. In the second round, Rountree knocked Anders down four times. Four times he knocked him down. It only takes three knockdowns to lose a fight in Punch-Out, yet the ref let this go. His corner let this go. The cageside doctor let it go. That’s a horrible job from the cornermen there. To be fair, I will place trust in the doctor that they saw enough to let the fight continue, but it was already over.
Stopping the fight in the second round, or at the end of the second round, would have only saved Anders from additional punishment. That’s all it would have done. Stopping the fight there wouldn’t have cost Anders anything, certainly not by the odds. Of course, there was always a chance Anders could have landed a miracle shot that knocked Rountree out, just as there was also a chance that the power would go out for a second and when the lights came back on, Rountree would be lying unconscious in the cage with Anders standing over him holding a steel chair. Neither possibility is particularly likely to happen so why bank on them? The best thing to have done is to stop the fight and let Anders not have to absorb more punishment. So, that’s where the UGLY comes from. The GOOD was from Rountree’s striking, which was really good and sent a message to others in the division. Things are a little different now. Good win for Rountree.
GREAT- Israel Adesanya vs. Kelvin Gastelum
This fight was fantastic. They both got hurt at different times, and they both battled back and showed such heart. Gastelum seemed to take the worst of it but damn, he never stopped. In the third round, Gastelum got hurt and looked exhausted so I’m thinking this is where Adesanya pulls ahead. It was a close fight up to this point, Gastelum has one round and Adesanya had two rounds. So I’m thinking Adesanya is going to win the fourth and fifth rounds, if not finish Gastelum outright.
Instead, what happens is Gastelum comes firing out of the gate and takes the fight to Adesanya. He dug deep and found more. He showed a warrior’s heart and was able to summon up the strength to keep going. And he ended up taking the fourth round.
So, now you wonder if Adesanya is going to be shaken at all. He’s given Gastelum a tremendous beating but he won’t stop, Gastelum just keeps coming. So, I’m wondering if Adesanya is going to turtle up and try to play some defense and steal the round at the end. Nope, he comes firing out himself and lays into Gastelum. They both take big shots, but Adesanya drops Gastelum three times. Gastelum won’t give up, though, and he tries to survive. I think the ref didn’t jump in and stop the fight because it was at the end of the fifth round. It definitely could have been stopped, though.
Anyhow, this was a fantastic fight. Adesanya is the new UFC Interim Middleweight Champion. What a way to win the title. What a fight, we could very well be talking about the Fight of the Year. I don’t want to get caught up in the moment so I’ll let it marinate for a while but damn, this was so good. Great win for Adesanya.
GREAT- Max Holloway vs. Dustin Poirier
First off, I’m a little conflicted on something and I want to get it out of the way real quick. I don’t agree with the scorecards of 49-46 for Poirier. It seemed a lot closer than that, and to be honest, part of me thinks Holloway should have won. I haven’t rewatched the fight, though, so I might be misremembering things or assigning too many points to things. I just vividly remember Holloway standing there after taking huge shots, wearing a crimson mask, and gesturing for Poirier to bring it. That’s just badass.
This was an incredible fight. I just said that Adesanya-Gastelum might be Fight of the Year, but this fight might have been better. I don’t know, I don’t want to say right now, I want to let things settle down in my mind and try to remove myself from the moment before saying one way or the other. The Poirier win was a great moment for a man who’s fought so many times and is now finally a champion. But Gastelum showing that heart in the fourth round was crazy. How can that be more heart and grit than Holloway in this fight, though? I want to take the easy way out and say that these are both great fights and co-Fights of the Year.
I don’t want to move on from this fight because it was so good, but to spin this forward, the obvious fight to make is Poirer vs. UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. You do this to unify the belts. However, I still think the fight to make is Tony Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov. Then you have Poirier fight Conor McGregor. The winners move on to face each other down the road. You have these fights on the same card, as a double feature. Or you could go with Poirier-Nurmagomedov and Ferguson-McGregor, with the winners fighting. Or you could go with Poirer-Ferguson and McGregor-Nurmagomedov, with the winners fighting.
Those are the three scenarios to choose from. They have good things about them, as well as bad things about them. However, I do strongly believe that whichever way you go, you book both fights on the same card. I think that elevates the lightweight title and keeps it on the minds of everyone, and also they can bump up the pay of whoever’s not fighting McGregor so that no one’s left too far behind.
Yeah, you risk McGregor losing before fighting Nurmagomedov again in two of the scenarios, but there’s also the chance McGregor beats either Poirier or Ferguson and makes his grudge match against Nurmagomedov even bigger. Having both fights on the same card lets you talk more about the matchups as well. We’ll see which route the UFC goes, though I doubt they’ll put whatever matchups they go with on the same card. Better to spread them out more and dilute the cards so we get two 1-fight cards. What could go wrong?
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