Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look ahead to the main event of UFC 236 as featherweight champion Max Holloway takes on Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight title.
Max Holloway (Record: 20-3, -204 Favorite, Power Ranking: A+)
The Hawaiian-born fighter has been on a historic run as he has quickly become one of the all-time great fighters. The champion has won 13 consecutive fights in the UFC and has the second longest active winning streak in the promotion trailing just Jon Jones. Holloway unified the featherweight championship when he dropped Aldo in the third round and forced the referee to stop the bout in 2017. He followed that up with another knockout win over Aldo and a TKO victory over then undefeated Brian Ortega. Holloway returns to lightweight for the first time since 2011 at an opportunity to become a two division champion.
The 27-year-old Holloway has been on a heck of a run beating the best fighters at featherweight to be the undisputed king of that division. Holloway has quickly become one of the best fighters in the sport and it’s his approach that makes him a very difficult opponent to beat. Holloway is constantly pressuring opponents and fights at a tremendous pace. Holloway lands 6.90 significant strikes per minute which is the third highest number in UFC history for any fighter with at least five fights in the promotion. Furthermore, he only absorbs 4.03 significant strikes per minute. What sets Holloway apart from other strikers is his combination work. Holloway throws a lot of unorthodox strikes, but follows them up with three, four, five, or even more combination punches. His output is unparalleled and is very difficult for opponents to contend with. As Holloway has gotten more experienced, his takedown defense has improved dramatically. He hasn’t been taken down by an opponent since 2014 and has a takedown defense percentage of 83% overall. With that said, Holloway has mainly fought strikers in his recent run and hasn’t had to contend with the grappling game of a standout wrestler. Holloway has forced opponents to fight him on the feet. Holloway is hittable, but has shown to have a granite chin. He’s never been knocked out in a fight and quite honestly hasn’t even been close to being finished by an opponent with strikes. Holloway is a fighter that gets better as a fight continues. While he’s not slow out of the gate, he really excels in his ability to take fights over when his opponents begin to slow down. He’s one of the best mid-round finishers the sport has ever seen which makes him capable of being a fighter that can be at the apex of the sport for a long time.
Dustin Poirier (Record: 24-5, +179 Underdog, Power Ranking: A)
The Louisiana-born-and-raised fighter has been a perennial top 15 fighter at both featherweight and lightweight. He’s currently on the best run of his career going undefeated in his last five fights including finishes over both former champion Eddie Alvarez and lightweight contender Justin Gaethje.
The American Top Team lightweight has become one of the most entertaining fighters in the sport. He’s a very strong starter as he opens his bouts on the attack with an aggressive striking approach. He is a volume-heavy striker landing 5.59 significant strikes per minute at a 49% success rate. Defensively he absorbs 3.69 significant strikes per minute for a positive differential of 1.90 strikes per minute. He has good power for the weight class and will go for the finish as soon as he senses it. At times he has employed effective offensive wrestling, but his approach to wrestling is not consistent. In many of his bouts, he has completely abandoned takedown attempts and focused simply on striking. He used to be lethal on the ground with one of the better D’arce chokes in MMA, but hasn’t earned a submission victory since 2012. Defensively is where he has had the most issues. He’s hittable on the feet and his over aggression has gotten the most of him at times. His last two losses have been by to technical strikers who are able to land with accuracy.
In what should be a captivating bout, Max Holloway moves up to lightweight to challenge for a second title as he takes on first time title challenger Dustin Poirier. This bout is a rematch of one from 2012 when Poirier submitted Holloway in the first round. A lot has changed since that bout. The biggest change is just how much better Holloway has gotten. He’s grown into his wiry frame and has become one of the sport’s best fighters. With his increased strength has seen his takedown defense become excellent and fighters are forced to fight him on the feet. This is why I feel the rematch will be much more difficult for Poirier. Holloway throws more, lands more, and can take a punch better than Poirier. Holloway has never been a power puncher, so moving up to lightweight will not be a major issue for him. I see his speed and volume giving Poirier problems. As Holloway continues to land, Poirier’s power will become reduced. Holloway will take over the fight and will pour it on for yet another mid-round stoppage. Holloway by TKO is +140 and is worth a bet in this bout.