That MMA Show

UFC 236: Holloway vs. Poirier 2

Published by: Alex “AFM” Minor

On Saturday, April 13, 2019, MMA fans across the world tuned in to ESPN for UFC 236; a tremendous card touting several of the biggest names in the sport today. Unlike most pay-per-view cards since the UFC’s birth, UFC 236 had no current champions defending a belt. Instead, the marquee bouts of this card involved two interim championship bouts that would decide whom would go on to challenge for the respective lineal championship belts. This tactic of replacing lineal title bouts with interim title bouts for pay-per-view cards has become increasingly frequent in the past few years. Many complaints have been made regarding this recurring tactic, for there’s been no good reason to bring about the interim belts aside from garnering pay-per-view buys.  Nevertheless, in this case, both divisions had substantially stagnated due to the absence of the lineal champs. Furthermore, the results of both interim championship fights would leave no fan disappointed.  

In the main event of the night, the steadily-rising, third-seed-contender, Dustin Poirier, challenged the reigning, 145 Lbs. champion, Max Holloway, for the interim Lightweight title. Initially this matchup bred confusion, seeing as Max Holloway was already the champion at featherweight. However, Holloway’s size and a temporary matchup with current lightweight champ, Khabib Nurmagomedov, the year prior both generated plenty of interest in Holloway making a run at 155 Lbs. Not to mention, Holloway had already beaten almost every legitimate contender at 145. Therefore, his move up was not a hard sell.  

Although Dustin Poirier was ranked high in the Lightweight division, he was not seen as the front-runner to challenge for the title. In fact, most believed that either Tony Ferguson would finally get his well-deserved shot, or that Conor McGregor would rematch Khabib when they both came off of their UFC 229 suspensions. Nevertheless, Poirier had been petitioning hard for a big fight for months after his brilliant victory over Eddie Alvarez in 2018. When the UFC was searching for an interim challenger to fight in Khabib’s absence, Ferguson was the first to come to mind. However, he was dealing with some personal issues at the time, and chose to decline the opportunity. The next call was made right to Poirier, who agreed to his first title fight with no hesitation. 

When the fight commenced, Poirier immediately came out landing leg kicks, kicks to the body and overhands off of level changes. Poirier stunned Holloway badly with a straight left hand and swarmed him against the cage with big hooking combinations. Holloway circled out, flash-dropped Poirier with a left hook, then put together his own vicious flurry of straight punches, battering Poirier against the fence. Poirier circled out and landed a kick to the body, which Holloway answered with another lead hook. Shortly thereafter, Holloway would land a short lead hook-jab combo before Poirier cracked him with a straight right and continued to unload a staggering combination of hooks, stiff jabs, and uppercuts. Holloway managed to counter with a few straight punches to interrupt Poirier’s groove momentarily, but Poirier would go right back to battering Holloway with big hooks, uppercuts, and even a few knees before the round ended.  

In the second round of the bout, Holloway came out, immediately forced Poirier to the perimeter and put together a long combination of lead hooks and right hands to the head and body. Poirier managed to circle out and put together a few big shots here and there before shelling up. However, Holloway continued to land in high volume with crosses to the body and lead hooks up top. In the last minute of the round, Poirier hurt Holloway with several mean left hooks, then beat him up against the fence for the remainder of the round. 

In the third round, Holloway came out landing jab-jab-cross combinations, and Poirier steadily countered at the end of these combinations with stiff crosses, body kicks, leg kicks, and lead hooks. Later in the round, Holloway caught Poirier resting with a lengthy combination of pinpoint, straight punches, ending with a flying knee to the liver. As soon as Holloway landed, Poirier snatched the double leg and reversed cage position. Nevertheless, Poirier merely caught hard elbows for the rest of the round as he hung on Holloway’s legs.  

When the fourth round commenced, Poirier immediately shot and landed a big double-leg-takedown. Holloway regained his footing shortly thereafter and landed a knee to the body on the break. Both men traded good combinations in the center of the cage momentarily. Then, Holloway drove Poirier back to the fence and continued to pick him apart with an extended straight punch combination. After spinning off the cage, Poirier started landing hard, yet labored counters amidst Holloway’s continued volume striking. Poirier gained even more momentum when he landed a big knee, busting Holloway’s nose. Poirier followed up with quick jabs and a hard cross before level changing and pinning Holloway to the fence. Holloway landed several body shots and attempted a darce choke before the bell.  

In the final round, both men came out trading combinations. Holloway was a bit more accurate and active. Poirier eventually shot a double leg and held Holloway against the fence once more. Holloway landed a few short shots to the dome before reversing the position. Both men finished the last few seconds of the round trading in the center of the cage.  

Upon the final bell, fans lit up the stadium with cheer and applause for what was  aseat gripping war of attrition. Upon Bruce Buffer’s reading of the official decision, fans rejoiced in response to the news that Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier had earned the 155 Lbs. title. Despite the back and forth nature of the fight, judges unanimously decided that Poirier had won 4 out of 5 rounds. Although Holloway had several big moments of his own, Poirier’s moments were just much bigger and more frequent. Many analysts have since attributed this difference to Poirier’s readily apparent size and power advantage. However, Poirier’s drive, determination, and a lifetime of growth in the octagon were surely considerable factors in his success as well.  

Now that Poirier has proven himself more than worthy, there is only one more ridge for Poirier to scale upon the mountain that is his journey to the lineal championship. Nevertheless, this next ridge is more than treacherous as Poirier must overcome the supreme, dominant force that is Khabib Nurmagomedov. As of right now, the word is that Khabib will return in September to defend his belt. Until then, fans can only wait, and pray that nothing happens to either fighter before what should be a tremendous unification bout.  

In the co-main event of the night, the brash, kick-boxing specialist, Israel Adesanya, would be capping off his year-long, meteoric rise with an interim Middleweight title bout against the heavy-handed, top contender, Kelvin Gastelum. This matchup originally came about after 185-pound champ, Robert Whittaker, was forced out of a title fight with Gastelum, 2 months prior. The potentially life-threatening hernia that forced Whittaker out of the fight would also leave him side-lined for an extended period of time after his corrective surgery. Therefore, Gastelum was slated to take on Israel Adesanya, who defeated the legendary Anderson Silva in the same main event slot that was originally set to be occupied by the Gastelum-Whittaker fight.  

In the first round of the fight, both men merely felt each other out at first. About a minute into the fight, Gastelum began to find his range with his lead hand. About halfway into the round, Gastelum dropped Adesanya with several lead hooks to the jaw. Gastelum continued to find success with the lead hook, jabs, and a few quick left hands as well. On the other hand, Adesanya landed a few body kicks and straights, but didn’t find much success in the round.  

In the second round, Adesanya came out on a mission, opening up with kicks to the body, whipping jabs, and hard straight right hands to the gut. Gastelum found some success with jab-straight and lead hook-rear hook combos; tagging Adesanya every time they landed. Nevertheless, Adesanya began mixing it up even more with right cross counters, dropping Gastelum about 2 minutes into the round. Shortly thereafter, Gastelum came back with his own powerful combinations, but Adesanya picked up his volume in return, and dropped Gastelum once more with a spinning elbow toward the end of the round.  

In the third round, Adesanya did a much better job of keeping his distance, and out-striking Gastelum from kick-boxing range. Adesanya constantly kept Gastelum on the outside using his jab and punished the body and legs with a swift kick to follow. Deeper into the round, Adesanya started landing stiff crossess to the head and body. In the few instances that both men got close to one another, Adesanya also landed a couple of pinpoint knees to the chin. Gastelum seemed visibly tired in this round as he constantly tried to find his range with the jab, and lunge in with a right hand in vein. Gastelum did manage to get a good takedown toward the last minute of the round. However, Adesanya quickly shrimped back to the fence and kicked Gastelum off to regain his feet.  

In the fourth round, Gastelum came out focused on changing the tide of the fight. As soon as the referee gave the word, Gastelum started chasing Adesanya down, forcing the boxing range with wild combinations of jabs and crosses. Adesanya managed to avoid a clean shot for the most part utilizing head movement, counter right hands, and evasive footwork/angles, then landed leg kicks on the exit. Gastelum was able to force Adesanya into the fence and initiate the clinch on several occasions, but Adesanya simply pummeled for under-hooks and circled out once again. Toward the latter half of the round, Gastelum put together a sneaky jab-cross-head kick combination that wobbled Adesanya badly. Gastelum then continued to poor on big punches, cracking Adesanya several times as he backed him into the cage. After briefly disengaging, Adesanya quickly regained his wits, and came back with his own powerful combinations of straight punches and a head kick to the chin. Gastelum landed a good jab-cross combination and a hook off the clinch before the bell sounded.  

In the final round, Gastelum came out blitzing Adesanya once again with hard jab-cross flurry combinations; tagging Adesanya on several occasions. On the other hand, Adesanya was more focused on setting up his shots: throwing quick kicks to the legs/body and cracking Gastelum with straight right hands. In response to eating one of these right hands, Gastelum attempted a shot on Adesanya. Adesanya caught Gastelum coming in with a tight, standing guillotine choke. In order to avoid being finished, Gastelum fell to the mat to relieve pressure. From here on, a back and forth scramble ensued in which Gastelum reversed Adesanya to gain top position. Adesanya sinched in a triangle choke from his back, and then Gastelum rolled to escape before both men stood back to their feet. From this point on, Israel Adesanya took over, laying into Gastelum with numerous swift jabs, and brutal right hands. By the time the bell sounded, Gastelum had been dropped three times, and barely retained his consciousness.  

Fans throughout the stadium roared in approval of what is being called one of the greatest title fights in UFC history. When Bruce Buffer read off the judge’s decision, it was made clear that Adesanya had pulled out the victory despite the tremendous amount of adversity he faced throughout the fight. In doing so, Adesanya proved to the masses that he has not only the skill, but the heart of a champion as well. Now he must prove this same notion once more when he takes on Robert Whittaker in their unification bout. The word from Dana White is that the fight will most likely take place in Australia, as Adesanya has continually promised. Considering the tremendous momentum Adesanya has generated and the Australian-New Zealand rivalry, this title bout should be one of the biggest fights of 2019, if not one of the biggest fights in UFC history.  

Official Results 

  • Dustin Poirier def. Max Holloway via DEC 5:00 into rd. 5 
  • Israel Adesanya def. Kelvin Gastelum via DEC 5:00 into rd. 5 
  • Khalil Roundtree def Eryk Anders via DEC 5:00 into rd. 3 
  • Dwight Grant def. Alan Jouban via DEC 5:00 into rd. 3  
  • Nikita Krylov def. Ovince St. Preux via SUB (Rear Naked Choke) 2:30 into rd. 2 
  • Matt Frevola def. Jailin Turner via DEC 5:00 into rd. 3 
  • Alexandre Pantoja def. Wilson Rei via KO/TKO (right cross/ground & pound) 2:58 into rd. 1 
  • Max Griffin def. Zelim Imadaev via DEC 5:00 into rd. 3 
  • Khalid Taha def. Boston Salmon via KO/TKO (Lead hook) 0:25 into rd. 1 
  • Belal Muhammad def. Curtis Millender via DEC 5:00 into rd. 3 
  • Montel Jackon def. Andre Soukhamthat via DEC 5:00 into rd. 3 
  • Polian Botelho def. Lauren Mueller via DEC 5:00 into rd. 3 
  • Brandon Davis def. Randy Costa via SUB (Rear Naked Choke) 1:12 into rd. 2 

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