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UFC 236: Breaking down Dustin Poirier’s battle with Max Holloway

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight veterans Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier squared off in pursuit of the interim Lightweight title last night (April 13, 2019) at UFC 236 inside State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.

Holloway entered last night’s rematch riding one of the longest win streaks in UFC history, a series of victories that saw him rise from prospect to dominant champion. The 27-year-old was looking to continue building his legacy last night, both by adding a second title to his resume and avenging an old loss. Meanwhile, Poirier has been forced to do tremendous work to separate himself from the crowded and talent-rich pack at 155 pounds. His recent string of stoppage victories was remarkable and really showed off Poirier’s improvements. “The Diamond” more than earned his title opportunity, interim or otherwise.

A bit unexpectedly, Poirier opened the contest with movement and kicks, showing off some nice boxing defense as well to block Holloway’s early punches. Moments later, however, the two got wild: Poirier landed a big punch and tried to follow up hard, but a counter from the Hawaiian stunned Poirier and saw Holloway land a series of hard straights.

There was a brief respite from the chaos before Poirier rocked the Featherweight champion once more. This time, Poirier was able to follow up with great success, landing more and more power punches as Holloway tried to stand his ground and counter. Despite being badly wobbled, Holloway never hit the mat, recovering by the final minute. All the same, Poirier was landing far too often, doing a ton of damage throughout the opening five minutes.

It was shockingly dominant work from “The Diamond.”

Holloway opened the second round with aggression, backing his opponent up with combinations. The jabs and crosses began to land more frequently for the Hawaiian, who did a nice job to target the mid-section as well. That’s not to say Poirier was inactive, as the Southpaw was landing long jabs of his own, and his reach advantage really helped with accuracy.

In the second half of the round, Holloway began to follow up his punches with the right body kick, which was a smart decision. However, a right hook from Poirier really swung the momentum back into his corner, briefly putting Holloway down along the fence. The “Blessed” fighter popped back up quickly, but the knockdown and follow up blows shifted the round back to Poirier’s side of the equation.

Holloway needed something major in the third round, and for much of the round, it seemed like it wouldn’t come. The two landed at a fairly even clip, but Poirier’s power advantage was apparent. In the final 90 seconds however, Holloway unleashed a massive combination that seemed to do damage, causing Poirier to drive in for a takedown. The shot offered no relief for the Louisiana-native, who absorbed some hard elbows to the side of the head while on the legs.

Holloway was on the board.

After taking a hard cross to open the championship rounds, Poirier secured his first takedown of the fight, only for Holloway to scramble up immediately. Not long after, Holloway surged forward with another big combination, trapping Poirer along the fence and ripping at the body. Poirier answered with a massive left, but it was clear that “The Diamond” was fatiguing. Despite the exhaustion, Poirier hung tough and fired back, landing more left hands and a knee that split open Holloway’s nose.

It was a remarkably close round.

Poirier played it real smart in the final round. Keeping tight defensively, Poirier limited his exchanges with Holloway, giving him fewer opportunities to land well. Holloway sensed he need a big round and pushed hard for it, but Poirier’s jab met him repeatedly, further causing his split nose to bleed wildly. In the final minute of the fight, Poirier jammed Holloway into the fence with a takedown attempt.

Poirier would allow no come-from-behind madness.

This was a really amazing performance from Poirier. His natural power advantage was incredibly important, but “The Diamond” also showed some excellent technique. Poirier’s boxing has come such a long way. Against a dangerous technician, Poirier kept a tight defensive guard throughout exchanges, threw smart combinations that looped around Holloway’s own defense, and overall mixed it up better than the Featherweight champion.

I cannot wait for his showdown with Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Holloway has nothing to be ashamed of in his performance. He dealt with a major power and range disadvantage, two factors which proved an immense hole to start in. All the same, Holloway pushed hard and tried to force the momentum to shift back into his favor. He needed something big to happen — a body kick to sap Poirier’s energy severely or counter punch to stun Poirier and force his foe’s respect. That “something” never materialized, but that doesn’t mean Holloway did not fight hard trying to make it happen.

Last night, Dustin Poirier battled past Max Holloway to be named interim champion. Who wins between Poirier and Nurmagomedov?

For complete UFC 236: “Holloway vs. Poirier” results and play-by-play, click HERE!

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