UFC 236 breakdown: Does first Max Holloway-Dustin Poirier fight even matter?
MMA Junkie Radio co-host and MMA Junkie contributor Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for UFC 236.
UFC 236 takes place Saturday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and UFC Fight Pass.
Max Holloway (20-4 MMA, 16-4 UFC)
- Height: 5’11” Age: 27 Weight: 155 lbs. Reach: 69″
- Last fight: TKO win over Brian Ortega (Dec. 8, 2018)
- Camp: Hawaii Elite MMA (Hawaii)
- Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
- Risk management: Excellent
+ UFC featherweight champion
+ Regional MMA titles
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt
+ 10 KO victories
+ 2 submission wins
+ 3 first-round finishes
+ Building pace and pressure
+ Superb feints and footwork
^ Attacks off angles/manages distance well
+ Excellent variety of shot selection
+ Strikes well off the break
+ Deceptive counter grappling/wrestling
^ 83 percent takedown defense rate
+ Underrated ground game
^ Slick submissions in transition
+/- 0-2 against UFC southpaws
Dustin Poirier (24-5 MMA, 16-4 UFC)
- Height: 5’9″ Age: 30 Weight: 155 lbs. Reach: 78″
- Last fight: TKO win over Eddie Alvarez(July 28, 2018)
- Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
- Stance/striking style: Southpaw/kickboxing
- Risk management: Good
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ Regional MMA titles
+ Amateur MMA accolades
+ 12 KO victories
+ 7 submission wins
+ 12 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Improved overall boxing
^ Cage-cuts, shifts, takes angles
+ Accurate left cross
^ Coming forward or off the counter
+ Strong inside of the clinch
+ Underrated wrestling ability
^ Offensively and defensively
+ Excellent transitional grappler
^ Solid submissions and scrambling
Point of interest: Building vs. demolishing
The main event for UFC 236 features a fun rematch between a building striker with a not-so-slow burning trajectory and a “fighter’s fighter” who will find any means necessary to demolish his target.
Dustin Poirier, for all intents and purposes, is the demolishing force at hand who has taken the long road to get here.
The 10-year pro from Louisiana has shown to evolve from the once eager slugger to a more mature fighter who likes to dictate brawls rather than enter them. In fact, Poirier has made significant upgrades to his game since moving shop to American Top Team in South Florida.
Demonstrating an excellent awareness of distance and footwork, the slugging southpaw will shift his stance for setups (often doubling up on strikes from the same side) as he adjusts his angles accordingly with fight-ending shots in mind.
Utilizing this style of shifting to create attack opportunities, Poirier has shown to sit down more on his punches, giving three fighters their first stoppage losses since returning to 155 pounds. The 30-year-old also displays improvements to his prodding, pulling and returning — countering tactics that could serve him well considering the offensive swarm coming his way.
Enter Max Holloway.
Displaying solid striking and footwork fundamentals since storming onto the UFC scene (as one of the promotion’s youngest signees, no less), Holloway, who was already improving from fight-to-fight, turned the biggest corner after his encounter with Cub Swanson.
Since then, we have witnessed a technical evolution unfold from the Hawaiian, who embraces his creativity and range with a diverse arsenal of attack. Whether Holloway is shifting his stance mid-combination or adjusting his timing on the fly, the current featherweight king makes for a hard read on the feet.
When feeling in stride, the 27-year-old looks to pay off his previous bodywork by punctuating his presence with everything from spinning sidekicks to digging left hooks to the liver. Coupled with his ability to counter effectively from either stance, Holloway can hypothetically take a fight in many different directions.
That all said, it is the building nature of the champion’s game that makes him stand out from the rest of the UFC stable.
Embodying a fighter archetype that I like to refer to as “a builder,” Holloway will not only build in his output, but his understanding of the fight’s traffic will also increase as he intelligently takes tools from his opponent and incorporates them into his game. For example, against Ricardo Lamas, Holloway ate a healthy dose of leg kicks throughout their battle. However, in looking closer at the exchanges, you will see Holloway steadily get a read on the attacks – evading, checking and countering the kicks by the end of the contest.
Still, offensive volume – no matter how clever – comes with a price. So, with that in mind, I will be curious to see if Poirier can detonate deadly counters anytime Holloway looks to procure building materials.
Next point of interest: Return of the mat?