To casual MMA fans, UFC 236 doesn’t seem like must-see action, but to MMA purist like myself, UFC 236 is topped off with two of the most exciting fights that have graced the octagon in 2019.
The co-main event will feature rising superstar (yes you heard that right), Israel Adesanya taking on the white-hot Kelvin Gastelum for the UFC Interim Middleweight Championship after Robert Whittaker was unable to compete at UFC 234.
The main event will see UFC Featherweight Champion Max Holloway move up to lightweight to take on Dustin ‘Diamond’ Poirier in order to crown the UFC Interim Lightweight Champion after Khabib Nurmagomedov earned a suspension for the infamous brawl post-UFC 229.
With two title fights, albeit interim title fights, UFC 236 will see some of the best fighters on the planet in two different divisions fight for the crown.
Now that we have gotten the formalities out of the way, it’s time to get down to the predictions.
(12) Ovince Saint Preux vs. Nikita Krylov
Ovince Saint Preux may be the most frustrating fighter on the UFC roster to scout. OSP is armed with every skill needed to become a legitimate threat to Jon Jones, but is unable to string together consecutive, consistent performances where he fights like a dominant threat.
When OSP is on his game, he presents a matchup nightmare when the fight is standing, armed with relentless pressure and a sense of unpredictability that’ll throw off the most meticulous fighters.
When OSP seems to mentally check out, we see a weathered veteran more than willing to stand around and wait for his opponent to implement his gameplan.
Nikita Krylov doesn’t seem to be the toughest of threats against the erratic OSP, and after a few lacklustre wins against mediocre opponents, nothing has convinced me enough to think that Krylov will get a win over OSP.
Prediction: Ovince Saint Preux, Unanimous Decision
Alan Jouban vs. Dwight Grant
It seems that the UFC has developed a winning formula guaranteeing fireworks, putting two, less than technical fighters against each other in the middle of every card. Alan Jouban has slowly, but surely become a UFC cult fan favorite, ringing up four fight of the night bonuses in his UFC tenure.
Jouban presents a tough task for the inexperienced Dwight Grant, who will unable to keep up with the tenacity of Jouban over three rounds.
prediction: Jouban, Unanimous Decision
Eryk Anders vs. Khalil Rountree Jr.
Eryk Anders does not get enough credit. Transitioning from college football (roll-tide), Anders has clash collision and competitive spirit ingrained into his DNA. With tough losses coming from a very game (and violent) Thiago Santos, and some very questionable split decision losses coming at the hands of Lyoto Machida and Elias Theodorou, Anders career trajectory has changed drastically due to some questionable judging and someone who refers to himself as a sledgehammer on short notice.
Anders seems comfortable fighting at 205, and he presents a more well-balanced repertoire than his opponent Khalil Rountree Jr., whose only incentive is to walk in there and knock your block off and has some plaguing cardio issues.
Armed with a developing wrestling game, Anders will be more than able to level change and throw off Rountree’s rhythm into a surprise KO late in the bout.
Prediction: Anders, KO, Round 3
(#4) Kelvin Gastelum vs. (#5) Israel Adesanya
Let’s get brutally honest for one second, the UFC is banking on Israel ‘Stylebender’ Adesanya securing a victory here. With all due respect to Kelvin Gastelum and his ability to rejuvenate his career by moving up to middleweight, he’s what you would imagine what a stock ‘create-a-ufc- character’ would look like in a UFC game.
Gastelum is a fighter who covers all of his bases, equipped with strong wrestling and boxing, Gastelum is built to dictate the tempo and pace against most of his opponents.
But I would be stupid to bet against Adesanya.
Adesanya seems to add to his resume in each fight, proving something every time he enters the octagon. Adesanya showed patience, resilience and mental toughness in his first Main Event at UFC 234 against his idol, the legend, Anderson Silva. Silva provided an excellent test for Adesanya’s mental toughness, showing fans and UFC pundits alike that he sticks to his gameplan and is able to execute it well enough in order to win.
Adesanya seems to have a chink in his unblemished armor, he gets rattled under blitzed pressure. Against Silva, Adesanya seems to hesitate under pressure in round 2, but with all due respect to Gastelum, his striking isn’t as diverse as Silva and I envision Adesanya point fighting his way to a unanimous decision victory.
Prediction: Adesanya, Unanimous Decision
(C) Max Holloway vs. (#3) Dustin Poirier
This fight is set to be fireworks between two of the best fighters in the feather/lightweight division. The undisputed 145 Champion has done all but cleaned house in the featherweight division, has decided to take on a challenge in stepping up a weight class, to take on a very game Dustin Poirier to add another notch in his belt.
For clarity sake, Dustin Poirier did defeat Max Holloway back in 2012, but no fighter has improved over the last 7 years than Max Holloway.
The clash in fighting styles are going to play a large part in the outcome of the fight, Dustin Poirier is a notoriously fast starter, whereas Holloway is a slow starter. If Holloway is able to weather the storm for the first two rounds, this is his fight to lose.
With an ironclad chin and the stamina of a racehorse, Max Holloway is set to become the fourth double champ in MMA history and earning the right to fight UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in the near future.
prediction: Holloway, TKO, Round 4