It was a rare week off in the UFC schedule, but that only meant a big PPV was looming. One that features two Interim title fights, featuring four of the top fighters in the UFC. Headlining the event, Featherweight kingpin Max Holloway takes his 13-fight win streak up to Lightweight, as he challenges Dustin Poirier for the Interim Lightweight Championship. Poirier enters this contest on a three fight win streak, finishing Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje and Anthony Pettis. The winner of this fight is all but destined to meet Lightweight kingpin Khabib Nurmagomedov. Also on the card, the rising Israel Adesanya meets Kelvin Gastelum in an Interim Middleweight title fight. The winner would meet Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker to unify the belt.
UFC 236 PPV Main Card on ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Max Holloway vs. Dustin Poirier for interim lightweight championship – This is going to be exciting for however long it last. Two of the very best fighters the UFC has, vying for the Interim Lightweight Championship and the right to unify the belts against Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
As for my prediction, I have Holloway. In what should strictly be a striking contest, Holloway might just be the best striker in the UFC. Despite lacking power, Holloway brings forth aggression, cardio, pace and volume. When you fight Holloway, expect to be back pedaling and have zero room to breath the entire fight. And while Poirier is too an excellent striker, he gets hit too often. And while I’d consider him durable, he has been rocked and finished before. I can’t recall Holloway suffering any of those two. So with that, I have Holloway winning via TKO.
185 lbs.: Kelvin Gastelum vs. Israel Adesanya for interim middleweight championship – This is such an awesome fight and I feel like people are over looking Gastelum’s skills due to the meteoric rise of Adesanya. I mean, I believe Adesanya is the real deal, but I don’t see this being a walk in the park.
As for my prediction, I have Adesanya. I believe on the feet, Adesanya’s length could be problematic for Gastelum getting inside. Adesanya’s kicking game should also keep him at bay and slow him down. However, if Gastelum decides to wrestle, then Adesanya could be in for a long night. We’ve seen Adesanya get taken down by lesser wrestlers. Gastelum has the chops to grind down “Stylebender” and control him him while on the mat. Then again, Gastelum is a smaller Middleweight and perhaps has the strength to fend off the takedown attempts. So with that, I’m going Adesanya via decision.
205 lbs.: Eryk Anders vs. Khalil Rountree – This is a toss-up. Rountree has legit knockout power and is extremely athletic. Same goes for Anders, but what the former Alabama Crimson Tide Linebacker has over Rountree is wrestling. And Rountree notoriously lacks any sort of takedown defense. If it turns into a brawl, Rountree wins. However if Anders fights smart, and takes this to the ground like I think he will, then I got him via late TKO.
170 lbs.: Dwight Grant vs. Alan Jouban – Tough fight to call. Jouban has been out a awhile, but that could be a good thing for his body. Grant is striker, who has devastating power, but lacks volume. Given Jouban’s iffy chin, and Grant’s power, it could be a short night the Louisiana native. However, given Grants hesitancy and lack of volume, Jouban keeps his distance and out points Grant en route to a decision victory.
205 lbs.: Nikita Krylov vs. Ovince Saint Preux – I feel for Krylov. He got unnecessarily cut by the UFC, only to come back and have to face Jan Blachowicz and now Ovince St. Preux. While he’s an improved fighter, OSP is simply better everywhere. On the feet, he’s got the power to finish this and his wrestling chops should get him into an advantageous position in which he will lock in a fight ending submission victory.
UFC 236 ESPN “Prelims” Under Card (8 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Matt Frevola vs. Jalin Turner – Frevola had an epic fight against Lando Vannata, but at the same time he showed a real lack of striking defense. Against a lanky, long and knockout artist like Turner…that’s just not gonna work. So with that, I have Turner via knockout.
125 lbs.: Alexandre Pantoja vs. Wilson Reis – While Pantoja is the better all around fighter, it’s wrestlers like Reis he has struggled with. Now, will Reis have the cardio to go three rounds? That’s a tough one too answer, but I feel like he can control Pantoja for two of the three rounds en route to a decision victory.
170 lbs.: Max Griffin vs. Zelim Imadaev – Since beating Mike Perry, Griffin seemed destined to climb the ranks. However, he’s lost two straight, albeit the last loss to Thiago Alves he got robbed in. Now, with his UFC career in jeopardy, he’s tasked to fight an undefeated Russian making his UFC debut. Fortunately, Imadaev has fought no one yet near the caliber of Griffin. So with that, I have Griffin winning via decision.
135 lbs.: Boston Salmon vs. Khalid Taha – Ive never seen Taha fight yet, but I’ve seen Salmon knock a dude out cold on Dana White’s Contender Series. So….I’ve got Salmon via knockout.
UFC 236 Fight Pass “Prelims” Under Card (6:15 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Curtis Millender vs. Belal Muhammad – This is a toss-up. On one hand, Muhammad has the wrestling, pace and cardio to grind out Millender. On the other hand, Millender is an excellent striker who uses distance to keep his opponents at bay. If Muhammad wasn’t such a small Welterweight, I’d favor him here. However, Millender is big for the weight class and has the strength to fend off Muhammad’s wrestling. On the feet, I see Millender getting the better of Muhammad, potentially finishing him with a head. However, Muhammad is extremely tough and durable, which is why I’ll go with Millender winning via decision.
135 lbs.: Montel Jackson vs. Andre Soukhamthath – I’m very high on Jackson, but Soukhamthath is no slouch and a legitimate test. If his fight IQ were better, he’d be in the top fifteen. In the end though, I think Jackson is just physically too overwhelming for Soukhamthath to deal with. I expect Jackson to edge out Soukhamthath in all aspects, winning via decision.
125 lbs.: Poliana Botelho vs. Lauren Mueller – This could go either way, but I lean Botelho due to her vicious nature. She’s got legit striking chops with enough pop to turn off the lights. If Mueller can’t get this to the ground, she’s going to be in for a long night. So with that, I have Botelho winning via decision.
135 lbs.: Randy Costa vs. Brandon Davis – Although Davis is 1-3 inside the octagon, he’s faced some tough opponents thus far. Obviously his most recent fight against Zabit Magomedsharipov takes the cake. While Davis doesn’t exactly have the wrestling chops, his striking, durability and cardio make him a tough out for anyone. This newcomer Costa has yet to fight anyone with a winning record thus far and is in for a rude awakening. So with that, I have Davis winning via decision.