Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier will be the main-event this UFC 236 in Atlanta for the interim lightweight title and whoever wins is next in line to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov. Dustin first fought Holloway in UFC 143, winning the bout via submission, now Holloway gets a chance at redemption finally. Max Holloway is already the featherweight titleholder and wants to make a true testament to his greatness at possibly being a two-weight champion. The co-main event for 236 is going to be electrifying thanks to 29 year-old Israel Adensaya, who’s undefeated in his five UFC fights and has the biggest hype behind any fighter right now. Adensaya will face his biggest challenge against the man who has earned his right to fight for the middleweight title, the heavy-handed Kelvin Gastelum. A very exciting match awaits against two welterweights hungry for a knockout, Alan Jouban and Dwight Grant. To start off my UFC 236 predictions and picks, a light heavyweight bout against Ovince St. Preux and Nikita Krylov will be an interesting match up where experience meets competition.
Ovince St. Preux vs Nikita Krylov
ST. PREUX -105 / KRYLOV -115
These light heavyweights won’t disappoint and here is where the action begins that leads into an anticipatory fight. St. Preux has been 3-2 in his last five fights, but he is still in the top ten in the UFC’s light heavyweight ranking and for good reason. He’s a decorated fighter who went up for a title shot against Jon Jones at one point and has since fell off. Ovince is a power-puncher, which means that when he connects, it’s lights out, garnering a 11-2 KO record. OSP will be going up against 27 year-old former FNG light heavyweight champ Nikita Krylov in just his second UFC appearance. Krylov is coming of being submitted via an arm triangle choke but he is technically skilled in submitted opponents with a record of 14-5. I see St. Preux battling the younger Krylov in the Octagon like the veteran that he is. In this bout, the experience that St. Preux brings to the cage will throw off the chaotic energy that Krylov exudes, likely ending the bout in a decision.
PICK: OVINCE ST. PREUX IN DEC
Alan Jouban vs Dwight Grant
JOUBAN -115 / GRANT -105
The welterweight match between Alan Jouban and Dwight Grant is honestly the hardest fight to predict because both fighters have very similar fighting styles. Jouban has the most extended track record of 16-6 over Grant’s 9-2 for only his third appearance in the UFC. Each fighter has the disadvantage of not being very skilled in the mat, which was evident in Jouban’s last loss to Gunnar Nelson where he got ended by a guillotine and Grant’s non-existent submission record. This fight won’t go to the ground and I see the advantage relying in Grant’s 78″ reach, catching Jouban late in the second round or maybe even in the first. Dwight is a technical kick boxer and can switch stances on the dime which can confuse a southpaw like Jouban. Grant has more keys to this stand-up fight, he has kicks over the shorter Jouban combined with a much superior striking and take-down defense in his UFC stint. This will be a well-sided match that I don’t see going the distance based on the fighting styles of these two. It will be Grant’s kickboxing versus Joban’s muay thai. I’ll take Grant finishing Jouban in the second round.
PICK: GRANT TKO/KO IN 2ND RD
Co-Main: Kelvin Gastelum vs. Israel Adensaya
GASTELUM +150/ ADENSAYA -180
The co-main fight at UFC 236 against Kelvin Gastelum and Israel Adensaya has all the makings of a title fight. Gastelum is 27 and has taken out the best of the division in an amazing display of strength, speed and ferocity. Adensaya is 29, undefeated, has a pro record of 16-0 and is riding a phenomenal five fight win streak in the UFC. Israel Adensaya has all the makings of a champion, beating his idol and future hall-of-famer Anderson “The Spider” Silva. In his win against the Spider he showcased a masterful striking display against the ageing Silva, as well as his humility, bowing to a man that was his inspiration. Israel’s connections with his punches and kicks are a deadly symphony, giving him an excellent difference in SLpM of 4.47 versus his SApM at 2.07! His defense also makes him very entertaining as he stays close to his opponents and utilizes matrix-like reflexes to dodge head kicks as cool as Miles Davis. Adensaya will have the fight of his career against a fighter who thrives in underdog situations and this case is no different. Kelvin Gastelum is at the point in his young career where he can be the official face for the UFC and has fought to the point of title contention. Gastelum made quick work to UFC hall-of-famer, Michael Bisping, when he knocked Bisping out in the first round with a beautiful one-two counter punch. Kelvin than went to defeat Jacare Souza, a much bigger opponent and proved his toughness in all five rounds with a decision victory. Kevin, unlike Adensaya, fights likes he’s an unstoppable wrecking ball of power and possesses great reflexes while in his boxing stance. I love both fighters in this one, but I have to give the edge to Gastelum and the fact that the guy can maul fighters in the ground. A great showing of this was his fight with Chris Weidman, where Weidman actually brought him down and Kelvin just bullied him into a submission. I don’t think Gastelum can take Adensaya to the ground when the “The Last Style Bender” has a TD def. of 85%, but I do see Gastelum being a great challenge in this fight.
PICK: GASTELUM VIA DEC.
Main Event: Holloway VS Poirier
HOLLOWAY -220/ POIRIER +180
In his first UFC fight, 20 year-old Max Holloway fought Dustin Poirier, who was a top ranked fighter in the world at that time. From the beginning of that fight you can see the potential that awaited the UFC with Holloway’s striking abilities. He came into that fight with Poirier with no jiu-jitsu training whatsoever, which ultimately was his Achilles heel, when Dustin finished Holloway with a painful arm bar at full mount. Now Holloway is the UFC’s featherweight champion with two title defenses against the best featherweight in UFC history, Jose Aldo. Max is on a 13 fight win streak and has cemented himself as the #3 pound-for-pounder in the UFC, having three title defenses along the way. After T/KOing the undefeated Brain Ortega in his last title fight, Holloway’s entering into the 155 pound division and taking on Poirier who has been dominant in the 155 for four years. Dustin “The Diamond” is backed by one of the best MMA institutions, ATT (American Top Team) in Florida where he trains with Jorge Masvidal for this Holloway bout. Poirier has a list of former champions that he dismantled towards his chance at gaining the interim belt. His fight with Eddie Alvarez was nothing short but dominant, lighting him up in every corner of his face and T/KOing the former champ inside the second round. Before he faced Alverez he fought with one of the most powerful lightweights in the UFC, Justin Gaethje. The fight with a Gaethje was long and arduous for Poirier, he suffered from the leg kicks and ended up with a torn quad but walked away from a fourth round T/KO on another former champ. If you look at what’s on paper, Holloway has the superiority leading up to this fight. Holloway has the highest SLpM in the UFC with 6.90 while Dustin has 5.59 and Holloway bests Poirier with a higher TD defense and Sig. Str. defense. Like in their first fight, Poirier has more substantial submissions with six of them while Holloway only has two submissions in his career. This fight is going to showcase the best boxing from two elite strikers, but only one will walk out victoriously. I have Poirier holding onto Holloway on this one, he really knows how to grab a hold of someone and has been training on his submissions with Jorge Masvidal nonetheless. Dustin Poirier has been owning the lightweight division and I see him pulling off the upset in UFC 236 to be the next in line to take on Khabib.
PICK: POIRIER VIA SUBMISSION