UFC 236 was flying a bit under the radar for whatever reason, but it turned out to be one of the most spectacular cards of the year to date. The top two fights on the card lived up to the hype and then some as the fighters involved competed in two of the best MMA fights you’ll ever seen. We have crowned two brand new interim champions, and the future of two of the UFC‘s divisions is much more clear following an incredible night of epic MMA fights.
In the evening’s main event, Dustin Poirier outlasted Max Holloway over the course of five hard-fought rounds to win the UFC interim lightweight title by unanimous decision. Poirier was the underdog heading into the fight despite the fact he had a previous submission win over Holloway, but he didn’t let the odds reflect the matchup as he was able to piece Holloway up on the feet for the majority of the fight and inflict major damage on Holloway’s face. It’s amazing that Holloway was able to eat as many shots as he did, but while Poirier wasn’t able to finish him, he still did enough to win the belt 49-46 on the scorecards of all three judges.
Now that Poirier is the interim champ, we have a better idea of how the lightweight division’s title hierarchy will shake out. In the post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White confirmed that Poirier will fight UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov later this year, possibly in September. That should put an end to the rumors that Conor McGregor will get a rematch with Nurmagomedov after getting submitted by him back at UFC 229 last year. Poirier vs. Nurmagomedov immediately becomes one of the biggest fights of the year for the fans, and should be a tremendous future pay-per-view headliner for the UFC.
Holloway losing also makes the future of the featherweight title more clear. While he did lose to Poirier in his bid to become a double champ, he didn’t lose his featherweight title, and White said he hopes Holloway moves back down in weight. He’s likely going to fight the winner of UFC 237’s Jose Aldo vs. Alexander Volkanovski bout for his next fight, although Frankie Edgar is still out there as well. At least we know now that Holloway is going back down in weight, because the featherweight division was up in the air had Holloway beaten Poirier.
The middleweight division’s future is also more clear following UFC 236. It was a close nail-biter, but Israel Adesanya found a way to defeat Kelvin Gastelum by unanimous decision 48-46 on all three judges’ scorecards to become the new interim UFC middleweight champion. The co-main event of UFC 236 was an amazing fight as well and with the win, Adesanya has set himself up for a title unification bout later this year against UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker. White said the UFC plans on doing that fight at a stadium somewhere in Australia, giving the promotion another potentially massive pay-per-view later this year. And if for whatever Whittaker isn’t able to compete, the UFC can strip him and have Adesanya defend his belt against a top contender like Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza or Yoel Romero. So the future of the middleweight division looks really good with the victory by Adesanya.
Considering all the issues surrounding the lightweight and middleweight divisions, with Nurmagomedov getting suspended and not being able to compete and Whittaker pulling out of his last title defense due to injury, the fact we have two new interim champs in Poirier and Nurmagomedov is tremendous for both divisions. We now have a much better view of what 155lbs and 185lbs will look like going forward, not to mention 145lbs. Now only did UFC 236 provide two of the most exciting title fights you’ll ever see, but it helped not one, not two, but three divisions have their immediate futures looks much more clear, and that’s a very good thing.