For Dustin Poirier, the top of the mountain is now in sight. He’s reached the final base camp before the final push, and unless Dana White decides to pull his feet out from under him, Poirier should expect to face Khabib Nurmagomedov sometime later this year. Not enough can be said about Poirier’s current run as a lightweight… He has won four straight fights over Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez and Max Holloway, a streak that is hard to match by anybody in the sport. He has proven himself to be a very well-rounded fighter, with great cardio, a solid chin, good boxing, and grappling, and a ton of heart. He will need all of that and more when he faces Khabib, but an argument could be made that he is as good of a challenger as anybody. He is undeniably reliable, and you can essentially guarantee that he will show up to fight night. Dagestan and Louisiana couldn’t be farther apart, but they will clash soon enough.
Fight to make next: (IC) Dustin Poirier vs. © Khabib Nurmagomedov for UFC Undisputed Lightweight Championship
All good things must end and that applies to Max Holloway’s incredible win streak. Despite a valiant effort, Dustin Poirier proved to be too much yet again for the fighting Hawaiian. Holloway seemed to struggle to get going in the first round and took quite a beating before finding a bit more of a rhythm in the second round. He looked great when he was able to isolate Poirier against the fence, he was in a position to avoid most of the power shots yet still land his own volume heavy strikes. But Poirier never stayed in a bad place for very long, end, in the end, Holloway was defeated for the first time since August of 2013. He will likely return to featherweight now, and from there, things aren’t exactly clear. The biggest fight in the division right now is the upcoming Jose Aldo/Alex Volkanovski bout scheduled for UFC 237, but what if Aldo wins that bout? Can we expect to see Holloway/Aldo 3? So, here’s what I’m thinking. If Volkanovski wins, he obviously gets the next shot. But if Aldo wins, the shot should go to Frankie Edgar. Edgar may not be the most deserving guy when it comes to his recent success, but that doesn’t change the fact that Edgar/Holloway is a bout that has been talked about for some time, and it would be a great fight if a more deserving contender doesn’t emerge soon.
Fight to make next: © Max Holloway vs. Alexander Volkanovski (Depending on 237 results) or Frankie Edgar for UFC Featherweight Championship
Israel Adesanya def. Kelvin Gastelum for UFC Interim Middleweight Championship
Did we witness the future of the UFC winning gold for the first time on Saturday? Well, it is too early to tell, but we definitely saw signs of a fighter that is very much ready to compete with and defeat the best fighters in the world. But we must remember that he is not actually the World Champion… For Adesanya to complete his goal he will have to get past one of the most violent men in fighting, a man that has twice bested Yoel Romero, a man that does not go backward, that, of course, being Robert Whitaker. Whitaker vs. Adesanya will without a doubt be the biggest fight in Oceanic history and will be a big-ticket seller if the fight takes place there.
Fight to make next: (IC) Israel Adesanya vs. © Robert Whitaker for UFC Undisputed Middleweight Championship
Kelvin Gastelum did an exceptional job of handling himself against Israel Adesanya in a fight that saw him deal with more physical disadvantages than perhaps anybody before him. Gastelum had to deal with a nearly 7-inch height difference, as well as an 8.5-inch difference in reach. Despite that, he navigated the range well, he was able to get in often and even managed to hurt Adesanya with a head kick in the later rounds. It wasn’t quite enough, but it was still a valiant effort and I think a rematch could certainly be in order if Gastelum can earn a few wins and if Adesanya continues on his own upward trajectory. But first, a bout with Yoel Romero should be in order. Romero is like a hungry shark, just churning the waters of the middleweight division. He has two losses to the current champion and will likely need quite a win if he wants to earn a third crack. The winner of this potential Gastelum/Romero would certainly be in line for a shot, if not at least a “title eliminator” bout.
Fight to make next: Kelvin Gastelum vs. Yoel Romero
Khalil Rountree Jr. def. Eryk Anders
In case you haven’t noticed: people really enjoyed the two interim title fights on this card. But we have to be sure not to forget about the other standout performances that took place. Khalil Roundtree ran into Johnny Walker in his last fight, and as they say he “got dealt with”. But he didn’t allow the performance to carry over. Roundtree thrashed Anders for three rounds with dozens of powerful strikes, dropped him on three different occasions, and regained any of the shine he lost after his last loss. Rountree is an interesting prospect in a division that doesn’t have many of them so hopefully, the UFC doesn’t bring him along too quickly.
Fight to make next: Khalil Rountree Jr. vs. Saparbek Safarov
Eryk Anders is in a spot that no fighter ever wants to be in. He has lost three straight fights, and three of four overall. He has gone from a top prospect to fighting for his job in a very short amount of time. But considering his division 1 athletic background, and his willingness to brawl, I think it’s likely he will be given another shot to prove he belongs in the UFC. Kennedy Nzechukwu didn’t look great in his last fight, and an argument could be made that he needs to face some very light competition so that he can have a chance to develop, but this is more a chance for Anders to get things going again, and in that case it still serves as a big opportunity for Nzechukwu to pull off an upset.
Fight to make next: Eryk Anders vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu
Dwight Grant def. Alan Jouban
This wasn’t an overly exciting, or active fight. Grant mostly moved backward, and Jouban chased but didn’t throw much volume. Jouban was upset with the decision but ultimately, he will have to deal with a loss while Grant moves a rung or two up the ladder. Alex Morono has looked good as of late, and on top of that, he’s just one of those guys that seems like a good test for any young fighter. He’s durable and well rounded and if Morono can get past him perhaps we’ll know a little bit more about what he’s going to be capable of.
Fight to make next: Dwight Grant vs. Alex Morono
Alan Jouban has been a mainstay of the UFC for some time and while he has had a lot of good moments, last Saturday wasn’t one of them. Jouban and Dwight Grant took part in a fairly uneventful fight, but when the judges scored the fight for Grant, Jouban took great offense. He railed against the judges, but his complaints largely seemed to fall on deaf ears. The fight wasn’t very exciting, and now Jouban will have to deal with his third loss in four fights. Nearing forty years of age, Jouban is unlikely to make a title run, but he is a solid test for any young fighter and the next one up should be Mickey Gall. Gall. This will be a solid striker vs. grappler matchup, and it will give us a chance to see if Gall has made any improvements in his striking.
Fight to make next: Alan Jouban vs. Mickey Gall
Nikita Krylov def. Ovince St. Preux
Nikita Krylov managed to avenge one of his few career losses with a submission win over Ovince St. Preux on Saturday. I admittedly missed the fight due to my inability to understand basic time zone differences… someday I will get it right. But knowing that Krylov won, we can move forward with that alone. He is one of Russia’s top fighters under a UFC contract, especially in the higher weight classes. He is very skilled both on the feet and on the mat, and it’s about time he gets the chance to show us what he is truly capable of. OSP was a solid test, and up next should be Shogun Rua. Rua is skilled and experienced, and only the best get past him.
Fight t make next: Nikita Krylov vs. Shogun Rua
Ovince St. Preux is a workhorse. He’s fought everybody from Jon Jones to Gegard Mousasi, and he’s managed to build a notable career for himself in a very tough division. He’s never been the best, but he has proved time and again that he is the ultimate gatekeeper for the division. Micha Cirkunov is a guy that came into the UFC and put together a pretty impressive streak before suffering his first defeat. Since then its been up and down. Both of these guys looked like contenders at one time, but now they are trying to find a footing in a division that is fairly open at the top. Perhaps with a few wins, one of these guys could work themselves into a title shot but it’s going to be a long road.
Fight to make next: Ovince St. Preux vs. Misha Cirkunov