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A bombshell dropped on the MMA world late Friday evening, when ESPN’s Brett Okamoto disclosed that UFC president Dana White affirmed to him that there will be an interim lightweight title at stake in UFC 236. In one corner will be high lightweight competitor Dustin Poirier, while in another corner UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway will endure, looking to join the select few UFC fighters that have won straps in two weight classes. Below, I’ll give my first thoughts on the struggle, and also what it implies 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 remaining lightweight division. Evidently, the choice to create an interim name usually means the promotion expects UFC lightweight winner Khabib Nurmagomedov to be outside on the sidelines for some time. Indeed, he is scheduled to return at the earliest in November due to his suspension coming out of the post-fight brawl at UFC 226. It’s possible the UFC doesn’t even believe he will return before the close of the year is up, and the division obviously needs to keep moving around.
The fighter who gets hurt the most with this information is obviously Tony Ferguson, who’s on an 11-fight win streak and who was the former interim name holder last year until he slipped on a TV cable and blew his knee out. Ferguson returned last year at UFC 226 with a TKO win over Anthony Pettis and many figured he would be the next opponent for Nurmagomedov. However, according to White, Ferguson turned down an interim name struggle with Holloway, and Poirier jumped in and took his place instead. What this means for Ferguson moving 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 is an awesome matchup, and actually a rematch since the two formerly fought at UFC 143 back in 2012, with Poirier beating Holloway by entry. Of course, that was Holloway’s UFC debut and he is a completely different fighter now. So is Poirier. They’re both are the top of their respective games and this rematch ought to be amazing. Poirier (24-5, 1 NC) is unbeaten over his last five fights and will be coming off of a TKO win over Eddie Alvarez. Holloway (20-3) is really on a 13-fight win streak and knocked out Brian Ortega in his last fight. Both guys are really at the top of the game at this time and this should be an wonderful battle.
The offshore sportsbooks dropped the opening betting odds for the struggle, with Holloway launching as a -230 betting favorite, together with all the comeback on Poirier in +170. The early betting action has arrived in on Holloway, however awarded Poirier’s past win more than him I expect some action to come in his way sooner or later or another. Either way, the sportsbooks can anticipate a large handle for this particular battle, which promises to be one of the most-anticipated bouts of this year.
Along with 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 lineup for that bout here.
Launching Betting Odds
UFC 236:
April 13, 2019
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Main Event — Interim Lightweight Title
Max Holloway -230
Dustin Poirier +170

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