If it feels like we’ve been waiting for an unusually long time before another UFC pay-per-view, that’s because it has been.
After Jon Jones dominated Anthony Smith at UFC 235 on March 3, we’ve lacked UFC title fights in our lives. Fortunately, that end comes to an end this weekend with UFC 236, an event that features two world-class title fights at the top of the card.
It should be illegal not to watch Max Holloway vs. Dustin Poirier this weekend. These two especially entertaining fighters will battle inside the Octagon in a five-round interim lightweight title fight. Holloway’s the current featherweight champion and will be making a move up to lightweight to claim gold in two divisions. The winner of this weekend’s main event will surely go on to face current 155-pound champion Khabib Nurmagomedov next.
But before Holloway and Poirier exchange heavy hands, Kelvin Gastelum and Israel Adesanya will collide in what is sure to be a thrilling middleweight fight. Like the main event, these two will be battling for an interim title and jockeying for that opportunity to fight the current champion of the division, Robert Whittaker.
The fight card also features many other brilliant fights. For now, however, we’re going to dive into the main and co-main event to bring you our insight and recommended betting strategy for UFC 236.
Max Holloway vs. Dustin Poirier
Max Holloway has cemented himself as one of the greatest featherweight fighters to have ever competed in the UFC. Now, he moves up to lightweight to challenge a man who defeated him many years ago.
Max “Blessed” Holloway isn’t just one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world today; he’s also on the fast-track to becoming a star in the UFC. Fans are enjoying Holloway’s exciting fighting style combined with his willingness to accept fights with some of the greatest athletes in the sport today.
This move represents that well. Holloway could have just sat back and waited to fight a top contender in the featherweight division but has taken a risk by moving up to 155-pounds to challenge one of the most dangerous guys competing at that weight today.
Holloway steps into this fight after a brilliant, one-sided beatdown of Brian Ortega. Surprisingly, Ortega entered that fight as the betting favorite, and we made sure to jump on the Holloway odds before UFC 231 commenced.
Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier doesn’t quite get the credit he deserves by fans of the UFC. His always-forward style has resulted in many entertaining fights as well as outstanding wins over the likes of Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje and Anthony Pettis in his last three fights alone. His most recent defeat came back at UFC Fight Night 94 in 2016 against Michael Johnson, but despite that stunning knockout loss on that night, Johnson has been superb for a while longer.
In almost any other division today, Poirier would have already earned a title shot. However, the lightweight category is flooded with talent, and that means Poirier was required to fight either Tony Ferguson or Holloway to earn a shot at interim gold before even facing the champion, Nurmagomedov, who is suspended anyhow.
This is Poirier’s opportunity to shine.
Max Holloway vs. Dustin Poirier Odds
The good times of getting Holloway at underdog odds have passed, sadly. Our opinion is that these odds are a little too wide and that Poirier is the high-value play here on the night.
Holloway vs. Poirier breakdown
In many ways, Holloway’s move to the lightweight division has now resulted in him sliding into position as one of the most dangerous strikers at 155-pounds already. Holloway’s a sound gameplanner who utilizes an intelligent fighting style that revolves around flicking his opponent with his jab from a distance before working the gaps that he creates. One way Holloway achieves this is by forcing his opponent to consider defending incoming shots to the head before then dropping low to rip punches into the body.
Holloway only gets better as the fight progresses and has consistently lifted his output as the fight progresses to the second, third and fourth rounds. It’s here where Holloway is most dangerous. After a good ten minutes of fighting, Holloway has seen everything his opponent can do and begins to feint and move his opponent around with perceived pressure to draw out responses. More of a high-volume damage accumulator than a one-punch knockout type of fighter, Holloway’s best work comes over a consistent effort and not a specifically devastating combination of strikes.
Poirier is quite the opposite. That’s not to say he’s not an intelligent striker with relatively superb boxing for a mixed martial artist – he is only slightly behind Holloway in that sense – but that he packs tremendous power in his hands and can overwhelm even the most durable of opponents. Poirier used to be a reckless fighter (similar to how Holloway used to be) but is now more careful when attempting to finish a fight.
We’ve seen it time and time again from Poirier. He’ll hurt his opponent and sense an imminent finish, but will progress slowly and make sure to pick the best openings to land hooks to the body, and uppercuts and hooks to the head. At close range, Poirier is excellent and can hang in there with the best of the strikers in the division today. Particularly dangerous is his left-straight, which from a southpaw stance is a notable weapon of choice against Holloway in this fight.
Holloway’s proficient from southpaw and orthodox stance, and we should expect to see both looks from the Hawaiian at UFC 236. Additionally, if he chooses to exchange with Poirier at close range, he has the durability to survive, unlike other opponents who have traded with him in the past. The most likely outcome here is that Holloway attempts to heap pressure on Poirier and make him pedal backward. If he can achieve this, we can expect Holloway to rack up damage to the body and head and eventually earn a late stoppage in this fight.
However, if Poirier can catch the typically slow-starting Holloway out in the first round, we might have a different outcome. Furthermore, Poirier’s grappling is a potential gamechanger in this fight. If used well, that could be the difference. Add in the fact that Holloway has been tagged heavy by Aldo and Ortega in recent fights, and there’s enough reason to believe that Poirier can land enough hard shots against Holloway to win on the scorecards or by stoppage.
The odds are a little too wide here. We’ll be taking Poirier in what should be a relatively close fight at UFC 236.
Bet on Dustin Poirier to win: +185 at SportsBook
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Israel Adesanya
Before Holloway and Poirier battle it out in the main event, Kelvin Gastelum and Israel Adesanya will meet in an unexpected, but a fascinating middleweight co-main event.
Kelvin Gastelum has every right to be furious. He was mere hours away from competing for the actual middleweight title in Melbourne, Australia, but the fight was canceled on the day of the event after news of Robert Whittaker’s health issues. Now, he’s competing against one of the most highly-rated strikers in the UFC today just for a chance to fight Whittaker again – a fight that he had already apparently deserved.
Regardless, Gastelum was likely to cross paths with Israel Adesanya sooner than later.
Not too many fighters make it to their first title fight in the UFC as an undefeated fighter, but Adesanya has done just that.
Unbeaten after 16 fights as a professional, Adesanya has stormed past all of his competition in the UFC so far. He was the breakthrough fighter of 2018 in the UFC, joining in February before fighting five times in 12 months to slide his way into a title fight.
His most recent win came against Anderson Silva at UFC 234, where he showcased all of his exceptional striking techniques.
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Israel Adesanya Odds
Gastelum has been around a lot longer than Adesanya, and he’s proven himself against many of the best fighters in the welterweight and middleweight division over the years. That hasn’t stopped the public and bookmakers leaning toward Adesanya to get the job done at UFC 236, however.
Gastelum vs. Adesanya breakdown
This one could get ugly.
There’s no denying that Israel Adesanya is a truly elite striker and arguably one of the greatest in all of mixed martial arts today. He’s efficient, accurate, patient, tricky, and almost everything else you want from someone who keeps the fight standing. He’s difficult to hit well, and he can glide in and out to hit an opponent with speed and power.
His feinting ability keeps an opponent guessing at every second of the fight, and he freezes them on the spot to open up opportunities to land powerful kicks and rapid combinations of strikes. All parts of Adesanya’s striking game is fluid and calculated.
While many believe that Gastelum stands a chance on the feet, we believe that his primary objective should be to try and get this fight to the mat. He doesn’t need to succeed on all attempts, but the constant threat of a takedown may be enough to bring Adesanya down a level. If Adesanya can comfortably sit back and engage in a kickboxing fight, it will surely be a long night for Gastelum.
Gastelum does have a heavy left hand that he can land on occasion due to his speed and athleticism more so than effective boxing techniques, but it might be hard to slip into Adesanya’s range and land that shot cleanly. This breakdown may seem unfair to Gastelum, who is a decent enough striker and grappler in the UFC, but there’s nothing particularly spectacular about any of his game. If anything, it’s a testament to how he does everything well and doesn’t rely on any one area of his game.
Without a clear path to victory on the feet and the fact that Adesanya is surprisingly difficult to take down, we believe these odds should be even wider than they currently are.
Bet on Israel Adesanya to win: -170 at 5Dimes