A bombshell dropped on the MMA world late Friday evening, when ESPN’s Brett Okamoto revealed that UFC president Dana White confirmed to him that there will be an interim lightweight title on the line at UFC 236. In one corner will be top lightweight contender Dustin Poirier, while in the other corner UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway will stand, looking to join the select few UFC fighters who have won belts in two weight classes. Below, I’ll give my initial thoughts on the fight, and what it means for the lightweight division.
Dustin Poirier vs. Max Holloway, UFC 236
Poirier and Holloway will meet in the main event of UFC 236 for the interim lightweight title. The card takes place April 13 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. The co-main event of the card is an interim middleweight title bout between Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum, meaning two new UFC champions will be crowned that night.
Before I get into the actual matchup between Poirier and Holloway, I have to talk about what this means for the rest of the lightweight division. Obviously, the decision to create an interim title means that the promotion expects UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov to be out on the sidelines for a while. Indeed, he’s scheduled to return at the earliest in November due to his suspension stemming from the post-fight brawl at UFC 226. It’s possible the UFC doesn’t even think he’ll return before the end of the year is up, and the division obviously needs to keep moving around.
The fighter who gets hurt the most by this news is obviously Tony Ferguson, who is on an 11-fight win streak and who was the former interim title holder last year before he slipped on a TV cable and blew his knee out. Ferguson returned late last year at UFC 226 with a TKO win over Anthony Pettis and most figured he would be the next opponent for Nurmagomedov. But according to White, Ferguson turned down an interim title fight with Holloway, and Poirier jumped in and took his spot instead. What this means for Ferguson going forward remains to be seen, but considering what happened to Colby Covington and the welterweight division, it appears the UFC has already moved on.
As far as the Poirier vs. Holloway fight goes, it’s an awesome matchup, and actually a rematch as the two previously fought at UFC 143 back in 2012, with Poirier beating Holloway by submission. Of course, that was Holloway’s UFC debut and he’s a completely different fighter now. So is Poirier. They are both are the top of their respective games and this rematch should be amazing. Poirier (24-5, 1 NC) is unbeaten over his last five fights and is coming off of a TKO win over Eddie Alvarez. Holloway (20-3) is on a 13-fight win streak and knocked out Brian Ortega in his last fight. Both guys are truly at the top of their game right now and this should be an amazing fight.
The offshore sportsbooks dropped the opening betting odds for the fight, with Holloway opening as a -230 betting favorite, with the comeback on Poirier at +170. The early betting action has come in on Holloway, though given Poirier’s previous win over him I expect some action to come in his way at some point or another. Either way, the sportsbooks can expect a large handle for this fight, which promises to be one of the most-anticipated bouts of the year.
In addition to Poirier vs. Holloway, UFC 236 also features an interim middleweight title bout between Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum. You can check out my thoughts on the opening line for that bout here.
Opening Betting Odds
April 13, 2019
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Main Event – Interim Lightweight Title
Max Holloway -230
Dustin Poirier +170
CLICK BELOW TO BET ON UFC 236