Dustin Poirier, Israel Adesanya win interim belts at UFC 236

Dustin Poirier-Israel Adesanya-The Last StyleBender-UFC 236-Kelvin Gastelum-Max Holloway

Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier won the interim lightweight championship in the main event of UFC 236 on April 13 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The Lafayette, La., product captured a unanimous-decision victory (49-46, 49-46, 49-46) over featherweight champ Max “Blessed” Holloway.

Poirier hooked up his betting supporters as a +185 underdog, improving to 9-1-1 since moving up to the lightweight division after a first-round knockout loss to Conor McGregor at UFC 178. Poirier dominated the opening round, landing more than 40 significant strikes in the fight’s first four minutes. His power punches had Holloway in trouble and backing up across the Octagon.

MajorWager.com scored the first round 10-8 in favor of Poirier.

Holloway was the more active fighter in Round 2, pushing the pace in the first four minutes. However, once Poirier got his wind back after his strong push to finish the fight in the first stanza, he started landing the heavier shots. In the final minute of Round 2, a combination by Poirier hurt Holloway again. His work late in the round caused the most damage and gave Poirier the round on MajorWager.com’s card.

Holloway battled back in the third and fourth rounds. His pace and volume shifted the momentum in those stanzas, but his surge was halted late in the fourth. That’s when Poirier connected with a knee right down the middle.

This instantly opened Holloway up and he was gushing blood from his forehead for the rest of the scrap. MajorWager.com scored the fight 48-46 in favor of Poirier, giving him the fifth round.

Holloway was gracious in defeat. He gave Poirier all the credit and was in good spirits, although UFC President Dana White insisted on him going straight to the hospital rather than doing any media (other than the Octagon interview with Joe Rogan). His 13-fight winning streak dating back to his decision loss to McGregor ended.

White felt like Holloway looked small against a big 155 pounder in Poirier. Look for Holloway to drop back down to featherweight and defend his belt against former lightweight kingpin Frankie Edgar. Another potential challenger is Alexander Volkanovski if he can beat Jose Aldo at UFC 237 in Rio on May 11.

Poirier will face reigning lightweight champ Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov in September. BetOnline listed Nurmagomedov as a -275 favorite as of April 22. The betting shop had Poirier as a +235 underdog.

UFC 236: interim middleweight title fight

In the co-main event, Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya beat Kelvin Gastelum in a bout that’s a leading candidate to garner Fight of the Year honors. Adesanya won by 48-46 scores on all three judges’ cards and MajorWager.com also scored it that way.

Gastelum dropped Adesanya in the opening round and had his way throughout the stanza. Adesanya bounced back to win Rounds 2 and 3, but then Gastelum had a big fourth round. This left it all even and anyone’s fight going into the last five minutes.

“The Last Stylebender” hadn’t faced much adversity in his five previous trips to the Octagon. But in the fourth round, his face was bloodied and swollen. He would have to dig deep in the fifth and did just that. Adesanya dominated the final round, nearly scoring a finish with a KO and a submission, but Gastelum wiggled out of the submission and wouldn’t quit after being dropped multiple times.

The Ultimate Fight Season 17 winner fought to the final horn, but this was Adesanya’s night to taste UFC gold. He improved to 6-0 in the UFC and won the interim middleweight strap. His victory gave the promotion a pair of Nigerian-born champs, joining welterweight kingpin Kamaru Usman.

Adesanya, who trains in New Zealand, will next face reigning middleweight champ Robert Whittaker to unify the belts. Whittaker had to underdog emergency surgery for a hernia in his abdomen just hours before he was going to face Gastelum in Australia several months ago.

Whittaker is from New Zealand and trains out of Sydney, Australia. White said that Whittaker-Adesanya will take place in Australia in the fall. It is expected be in a stadium and should sell North of 60,000 tickets.

Whittaker is currently listed as a -140 favorite at BetOnline, with Adesanya as the +120 underdog.

Both title fights earned Fight of the Night honors, and no Performance of the Night bonuses were issued.

Other winners included Khalil Rountree, who produced his finest career performance in a unanimous-decision victory (30-26, 30-26, 30-26) over Eryk Anders. Rountree hooked up his backers with a +160 payout (paid $160 on $100 wagers).

Dwight Grant defeated Alan Jouban by split decision (29-28, 27-30, 29-28) as a -125 favorite. The main card’s opener saw Nikita Krylov avenge a loss to Ovince St. Preux by submitting the former Tennessee football player with a rear-naked choke midway through Round 2. Krylov won as -135 chalk.

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