Everyone is an Interim Champion
The UFC practice of giving out UFC ‘interim’ championship belts like their outlet store sneakers being sold during a ‘Black Friday sale’ may have reached its peak for this weekend’s card in Atlanta for UFC 236. The co-main events in the lightweight and middleweight divisions are fun matchups between elite fighters but for some reason the UFC has slapped interim-titles on the fights to make them more appealing to some people. Who those people are is unknown to me and many others.
Interim titles are an old corrupt boxing promoter’s trick trying to sell a non-title matchup. These interim titles have been an all too familiar tactic by the UFC to cover-up the fact they’ve struggled to get its actual champions in the octagon to defend their belts. It is a shame too because the fights and matchups between Dustin Poirier & Max Holloway is an electrifying matchup that doesn’t need a fake belt to make it worth watching. Kelvin Gastelum vs Israel Adesanya is also a fun fight that should give the winner a shot at a real title shot instead of a silly interim belt. However, after you get past the two co-main events it quickly becomes evident why they’ve tried to sell this as a ‘two-title’ fight card; the rest of the card is mediocre.
I always keep it real so I don’t see many casual MMA fans plunking down their PPV dollars just because the UFC could put a quality PPV card together and instead just called their main events ‘interim titles’. If you choose to sit out buying this card, I cannot blame you. However, if you are a sucker like me for high-level MMA even if marketed in a gimmicky way this card should have several action packed fights on it. I bring back the Burger-meter to get fans ready for the tastiest fights on the card. The Burger meter will look at the fight matchup (how good is it, how important, how entertaining) and associate it with its hamburger equivalent. I’ll breakdown the main card by relating it to its “burger form” and offer some fight predictions to hopefully help your bank accounts. Let’s get to the card:
(100% Imported Kobe Beef Burger): Ridiculously luxurious & best of the best
Dustin ‘Diamond’ Poirier (#3 Lightweight) vs Max Holloway (Featherweight Champion) (Interim-Lightweight Championship 155lbs)
Preview: Meaningless ‘interim’ title aside, this is a fantastic fight. A rematch from their previous meeting at featherweight at UFC 143 which Poirier won via submission. In 2012, after losing to Poirier not many people would have thought they were seeing a young future Featherweight champion who would only lose twice more over the next 7 years in Holloway. However, Holloway took his early loss to Poirier and built himself into one of the most dominant fighters and champions in the featherweight division.
The best 3 featherweights over the last decade is a short list: Conor McGregor, Jose Aldo, and Max Holloway. Poirier appeared to be more destined to hoist UFC gold after their first fight but a combination of bad luck, bad timing, and bad matchups have prevented him from getting hands on a belt. He will not care if it’s an interim belt, he is currently in the best form of his career and knows a victory over a guy he already found a way to beat is between him and his first ever ‘title’ in the UFC. While their original fight may not tell the whole story as to how their rematch will play out as both men are considerably different & better fighters than they were in 2012.
I do think it offers some clues into how their rematch will unfold. Poirier knows he can beat Max, confidence in big fights is sometimes all a guy needs to give him an edge vs his opponent. An while Holloway has been in his share of big fights he knows he is going up in weight against a man who already has beaten him so I do not think it’s easy to dismiss their previous matchup as meaningless.
Max has shown he can strike and grapple with the best in the world; the question he still needs to answer is can he stop a larger man from taking him down in a bigger weight division. Poirier has been on a tear since his loss to Conor McGregor in 2014. He suffered a flukish loss against a hard hitting Michael Johnson who appeared to catch Poirier overlooking him but other than that he’s been unstoppable. I expect Poirier to test Holloway’s chin very early in this fight to see if his chin and power can handle the jump in weight. The first round of this fight could be bananas.
Odds: Holloway (-210) vs Poirier (+175)
Prediction: Vegas tends to know more than the average fan so there is a reason Holloway is a clear favorite in this fight. However, I don’t agree he’s as clear of a favorite as Vegas would have us believe. Holloway is unquestionably dominant at 145lbs, we haven’t seen him at 155lbs so the confidence his dominance translates there for his first fight at 155lbs I think is a little naïve. Holloway was rocked and recovered in his fights against Aldo and Ortega but then had some neurological issues stemming from some of his wars forcing him to delay his last fight against Brian Ortega. He looked amazing once he made it to the octagon but I worry what a bigger and stronger punch does to a guy whose taken some head trauma. I also like the Poirier fought and defeated Anthony Pettis a guy who has a difficult striking style like Holloway. This fight in my opinion is a clear toss-up and in a toss-up I always like to take the bigger guy, who has better odds, and who won the first matchup in a rematch fight. Dustin Poirier is all of those things in this fight and I think he provides incredible value vs a game but vulnerable Holloway making a jump to 155lbs.
(Poirier via KO/TKO (+175)) / Bonus Play Under 2.5 rounds (+125)
(In& Out): Lives up to the Hype & always worth it
Israel “The Style Bender” Adesanya (5th) vs Gelvin Gastelum (4th) (Middleweight 185lbs)
Preview: This is a really fun matchup that should not have a interim-title on the line. The idea you could have neither man in the top 3 yet fight for a non-vacant title is absurd. Both men have fun styles that finish fights. Adesanya has a significant and clear size advantage but he’s struggled to put higher level opposition away in convincing fashion. He should have mowed down a well past his expiration date Anderson Silva but allowed him to hang around admits a very mediocre decision victory. Gastelum is a man who isn’t going to wait for a decision in the biggest fight of his career.
He’s undersized but may actually possess better striking inside the pocket or distance with his dirty boxing. Adesanya is a dynamic and talented striker but appears to do best when his opponents give him space to get a rhythm and spacing to setup those strikes. Gastelum will not hesitate to smoother the lankier Adesanya and force him to fight out of the clinch or grapple with a guy who has a lower center of gravity. This fight could easily turn into a exciting stoppage if either man finds success in the early rounds with their styles.
Odds: Gastelum (+125) vs Adesanya (-155)
Prediction: Adesanya I think is the obvious favorite due to his size and reach advantage but I don’t think he’s such a clear a winner I’m willing to lay -155 on him. Gastelum has been a puzzle to numerous fighters at middleweight; they underestimate his power and speed due to his smaller stature. I do not think Adesanya has fought a guy yet like Gastelum who might surprise him with his speed and power. I like the plus odds with a crafty fighter in the biggest fight of his life.
(Gastelum via KO/TKO (+125))
(Home Cooked Burger): Solid, reliable, and hits the spot
Ovince Saint Preux vs Nikita Krylov (Light heavyweight 205lbs)
Odds: Krylov (-110) vs OSP (+120)
Prediction: This one opens the PPV and casual fans might recognize OSP as a perennial gatekeeper to the top 10 at 205lbs. However, do not sleep on Nikita Krylov. If he can force OSP into a pace he is not comfortable with I think he could take advantage of OSP’s sloppy defense at times. This one could go back and forth a couple of times but I expect Krylov to come out on top in a impressive fight against a legit top 15 opponent. (Krylov by decision -110)
(Waffle House Burger): It won’t kill you but high quality it is not
Eryk ‘Ya Boi” Anders vs Khalil Roundtree Jr (Light heavyweight 205lbs)
Odds: Roundtree Jr (+160) vs Anders (-195)
Prediction: Two guys who love to swing and should put on a fun fight for fans; just not sure why two unranked guys in the weakest division in the UFC is the 3rd fight on a pay-per-view. (Anders by KO -195)
Alan “Braham” Jouban vs Dwight “The Body Snatcher” Grant (Welterweight 170lbs)
Odds: Jouban (-110) vs Grant (+120)
Prediction: This could start as a technical fight and end up in a war. It will entertain, just not sure why its on a PPV. (Jouban by decision -110)
(Gas Station Burger): Hello darkness my old friend
Prediction Record since 2016 to Date (82-59-1) (+$1620.50)
- Record & predictions based on Win vs Loss predictions only. Unless specified otherwise I use increments of $100 (for + odds predictions) & $110 (for – odds bets) as hypothetical wagers for each prediction.
- Predictions & Records are for entertainment value only
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