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Saturday 13th April the UFC is back on PPV with a big double header in WCW Country - Atlanta, Georgia. PPV MAIN CARD Max Holloway vs Dustin Poirier - Interim Lightweight Title Kelvin Gastelum vs Israel Adesanya - Interim Middleweight Title Eryk Anders vs Khalil Rountree Alan Jouban vs Dwight Grant Ovince Saint Preux vs Nikita Krylov ESPN PRELIMS Jalin Turner vs Matt Frevola Wilson Reis vs Alexandre Pantoja Max Griffin vs Zelim Imadaev Boston Salmon vs Khalid Taha FIGHT PASS PRELIMS Curtis Millender vs Belal Muhammad Montel Jackson vs Andre Soukhamthath Poliana Botelho vs Lauren Mueller Card isn’t complete yet but I wanted to get the ball rolling on this with it only being a month or so away. Guessing there’ll probably be another 4 or 5 fights added yet to fill out the ESPN and Fight Pass bits. Good card so far but could do with at least one more solid main card worthy fight adding to me. Max Holloway vs Dustin Poirier 2 is a fucking fantastic fight. Yeah, the interim title merry-go-round got silly a long time ago but they’re going to keep doing it regardless. You can’t really complain at a fight like this. And in this case, the interim was kind of justified as Khabib might be sitting out a while until his teammates suspensions are up. Plus I think it was a way to appease Poirier who was getting increasingly and understandably frustrated with the title situation. Anyway... Yeah, it’s a rematch. A long time in the making. They first met as relative rookies back in February 2012. Poirier was 23 years old with a 11-1 record, Holloway was just 20 years old, 4-0 and making his UFC debut. The fight was on the FX prelims at UFC 143. Nick Diaz vs Carlos Condit headlined that card. That seems like a lifetime ago now, doesn’t it? Looking up that show now, Josh Koscheck and Matt Riddle were on the card, Renan Barão was still on the rise, and Wonderboy Thompson was the first fight on the Facebook prelims stream! Holloway vs Poirier 1 from 2012 means nothing in relation to this rematch 2019. They’re both completely different fighters now. But I’m firing up Fight Pass to revisit it anyway. Don’t think I’ve seen it since the night it happened so this should make for interesting viewing. Fuck me, Steve Mazzagatti is reffing and Mike Goldberg is commentating. This really is a throwback. Round 1: They don’t waste any time here. Both going after it early but not recklessly. Everything is technical and in combinations. Even at this early stage of their careers, especially Holloway, you can see the potential there. Less than a minute in and Rogan’s already impressed with Magic Max; ”I’ll tell you what, the first views that we’re getting here of Max Holloway, I like his technique. I like the way he holds his hands. His movement is excellent. Looks like a very seasoned striker.” - Joe Rogan Goldberg then compares him to Anthony Pettis, which is funny to hear now as both these guys both went on to beat Pettis. Anyway, Max is looking sharp early and doesn’t appear to have any of the old ‘Octagon Jitters’. Nearly two minutes in and Holloway is clearly starting to get the better of the striking, coming close on a big flying knee at one point. Poirier wisely switches things up and initiates a clinch against the fence to slow Max’s momentum down. Holloway defends the takedown well at first but Poirier picks him up and slams him and almost immediately gets into full mount. Poirier softens him up with some elbows and punches and they go into a scramble. He goes from an armbar attempt to a triangle, then gets into the mounted triangle position and combines that with another armbar... That’s a wrap. Holloway has to tap. Winner - Dustin Poirier by submission. Round 1 - 3:23. Good little fight that was. No doubt the UFC will upload it to their YouTube channel before the show if they haven’t already. They’ve both obviously come a long way since then. Holloway went 16-2 in his next 18 fights. His only losses being a debatable points loss to Dennis Bermudez and a decision loss to Conor McGregor, both in 2013. Since then he’s been unstoppable. Beating the likes of Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens, Ricardo Lamas and Anthony Pettis along the way. In 2017 he finally got the gold and beat one of the GOAT in Jose Aldo, twice, to become the undisputed UFC featherweight champion and solidify himself as the King of 145. Poirier has had more of an up and down, turbulent run. He’s had more highs than lows but the lows were pretty bad. He’s gone 12-4-1 since beating Holloway. Was finished by Conor McGregor, Korean Zombie and Michael Johnson but beat Anthony Pettis, Jim Miller, Bobby Green, Joseph Duffy and Yancy Medeiros. It’s in Poirier’s last few fights he’s really forced his way into the title picture though. After beating Pettis in November 2017, he was lined up with an April 2018 clash against Justin Gaethje on FOX. What followed was THE fight of 2018. The word ‘war’ is probably the most overused among combat sports fans and media but there’s no better word for what this fight was. I wouldn’t quite put it on the same level as Arturo Gatti vs Mickey Ward because that trilogy is on a pedestal all on its own for me, but Poirier and Gaethje had a good old stab at it. They absolutely battered each other. Both got wobbled and hurt a bunch of times and it was so back and forth with the momentum shifts that you couldn’t look away from it. Gaethje being the fucking cement headed lunatic he is, it seemed he was starting to pull ahead by the end of the 3rd round. He’d been kicking the shit out of Poirier’s legs and it was clearly starting to pay off as Poirier could barely stand and was beginning to grimace with every thudding kick Gaethje threw at his chewed up lead leg. But Poirier dug deep and came out like a man possessed in the 4th round, connected clean with some good shots and swarmed all over Gaethje and got the TKO. One of the most brutal fights you’ll ever see. Poirier coming through that and getting the stoppage said a lot about him. It takes a special kind of scrapper to go nose to nose with Justin Gaethje in Justin Gaethje’s type of fight and come out with the win. It takes a hard, hard man to do that. Poirier followed that up by winning another war against another granite tough opponent in Eddie Alvarez in July. He was supposed to fight Nate Diaz at MSG in November but Nate was being Nate and the negotiations broke down. Holloway had an odd 2018. He was scheduled to defend his 145lbs title against Frankie Edgar in March but pulled out with a leg injury. He then stepped in on just 6 days notice to fight Khabib in April when Khabib vs Ferguson fell apart for the 93rd time. Again, Holloway didn’t end up fighting as the commission were concerned about his health due to the short notice weight cut. Then he was booked to fight Brian Ortega in July but was pulled out AGAIN with concussion symptoms. Holloway vs Ortega finally happened in December at UFC 231 in Toronto. With all his setbacks earlier in the year, plus Ortega looking like a beast knocking out Edgar, a lot of people weren’t liking Holloway’s chances here. But Holloway proper fucked Ortega up. It was a great fight and Ortega certainly had his moments but Holloway just took him into deep water and drowned him. He was non-stop on the offence and eventually overwhelmed Ortega, broke his face up, beat his eye shut and the doctor stopped it after the 4th. This was Holloway’s best performance to date for me. Especially after all the health issues he’d had earlier in the year and having to pull out of three fights. He broke records with this win as well. Most significant strikes in one fight (290), most significant strikes in one round (134) and most wins in UFC featherweight history (15). He wasn’t fucking about. As 2018 ended, I don’t think Holloway vs Poirier 2 was a fight anyone really saw coming. But the lightweight division is so up in the air right now. Khabib sitting out, this McGregor vs Cowboy thing is on again/off again, Nate Diaz is on a milk carton, Tony Ferguson is off being Tony Ferguson somewhere, then you had guys like Poirier and Al Iaquinta just waiting for a shot. Poirier was getting more and more pissed off with all the waiting. Even going so far as asking to be released on Twitter; And... But then a few days later when the UFC finally announced Holloway vs Poirier 2 for the interim belt... And it’s on. However we got here, and whatever you think about Ferguson being left out or Khabib sitting out or whatever, at least something is happening now. And this is going to be some fight. Holloway vs Poirier 2 promo; Goosebumps. So how does this go? Is Max just too dialled in right now? Is Poirier beat down after his last few slobberknockers? Will the move up to 155 effect Holloway for better or worse? Kelvin Gastelum vs Israel Adesanya co-headlines. Like the main event, this is a brilliant piece of matchmaking pitting two young fighters at the top of their game against each other with high stakes and 5 rounds at their disposal. You can’t go wrong with this. Gastelum really is one of the very best middleweights on the roster. He’s bounced between middleweight and welterweight throughout his career but if you look through his record, he’s only lost once at 185. That was the Chris Weidman fight in 2017. Aside from that, as a middleweight he’s won TUF, stopped Nate Marquardt, twatted Tim Kennedy, smashed Vitor Belfort, KO’d and retired Michael Bisping and beat Jacare Souza, in Brazil, in a great fight. I’ve always liked him better as a middleweight myself. He seems to have a different energy about him at 185, more aggression and speed and power. Adesanya is one of the new names on everyone’s lips right now. He came into the UFC with some hype due to his Kickboxing background, his undefeated MMA record and his overall swagger and charisma. He’s carried himself as if he’s the champ from day one. He’s 5-0 in the UFC now, 16-0 overall. It was February’s UFC 234 in Melbourne where the seeds for this fight were first planted. Gastelum was all set to challenge Robert Whittaker for the gold in the main event. While Adesanya was booked in an old school vs new breed dream match against Anderson Silva in the co-headliner. Of course, plans went tits up when Whittaker was pulled out on the day of the show due to a hernia and a twisted/collapsed bowel, which sounds absolutely fucking horrific. Whittaker was out and Gastelum was also off the card as a result. Didn’t stop Gastelum from borrowing Henry Cejudo’s belt and parading about in the crowd and backstage with it though, proclaiming himself the new middleweight champion via forfeit, I guess. Adesanya vs Silva was now the main event. The expectation going in was that Adesanya was probably going to walk through old Anderson. It went the distance and turned out to be a really fun 3 rounder that was pleasantly surprising in its competitiveness. Adesanya clearly won but Anderson didn’t disgrace himself by any means and many, including me, had him winning the second round. It got FOTN, Anderson came out of it looking decent and Adesanya stayed unbeaten and got that big name win on his record. All positive vibes coming out of that one. Which was nice to see as it was widely expected that it was going to be sad to watch. In the post-fight, while Adesanya was hugely respectful to Anderson, he couldn’t help but have a pop at Gastelum who was sat front row with the belt that wasn’t his, looking smug as fuck. ”Kelvin, put that belt down. Seriously.” - Israel Adesanya That was February 9th. By February 19th there were already reports that Gastelum vs Adesanya for the interim title was in the works. They made it official and it’s on. Love this fight. Hopefully Whittaker heals up and comes back 100% to fight the winner because either way that’s an awesome fight. But this one we’ve got here is mega interesting to me. As much as everyone’s on Adesanya’s cock right now, Gastelum is the more proven of the two in the UFC and he’s definitely the toughest test yet for the Stylebender. Adesanya has looked great so far but you can make the case that Anderson is finishing up and Derek Brunson has form for getting reckless and rushing in. Gastelum is the first guy Adesanya will have faced in MMA who’s a) young and in his physical prime and b) has mixed with and beaten top level guys. It should answer most of the remaining questions we have on Adesanya. On the flipside, I don’t think Gastelum has faced a puzzle quite like Adesanya before. I guess the closest would be Uriah Hall but he’s got obvious flaws and is kind of like a discount Adesanya. We also haven’t seen how Gastelum reacts to fighter taunting him like Adesanya does either. Or someone who moves like Adesanya. It’s a fascinating clash of very different styles. I’m guessing the majority will be picking Adesanya here but I’m really 50/50 on it. Eryk Anders vs Khalil Rountree is ***WAND’S ONE TO WATCH*** for 236. Unless something amazing gets added it’ll stay that way. @WeeAl did a really good post previewing this fight in the ‘Upcoming Fights You Should Be Watching’ thread the other day and I agree wholeheartedly. It’s a great fight this, that probably won’t get that much attention under those two title fights. But I could genuinely see this stealing the show and bagging FOTN. Two heavy hitters who have something to prove. Anders is coming off a split decision loss to Elias ‘Poundland Rockhold’ Theodorou and a stoppage loss to Thiago Santos. And Rountree got wiped out by Johnny Walker’s elbow in his last fight in November. I don’t think the loser gets the sack but you never know. Both could be fighting for their place on the roster here. Sometimes you’ll see guys play it safe in that situation but I can’t see it here. They both hit too hard to play the cautious game. Can’t see it going past a round or two myself. Ovince Saint Preux vs Nikita Krylov might be a sleeper actually. OSP has been pretty entertaining to watch over the last couple of years, win or lose. He’s coming off that loss to Dominick Reyes were he was almost knocked out in the dying seconds of the fight but he’d managed to finish Tyson Pedro, Corey Anderson, Yushin Okami and Marcos Rogério De Lima in some of his fights before that. Krylov’s UFC return on the Russia card last year didn’t go to plan. He’d racked up 4 wins and 4 finishes outside the UFC but he was welcomed back by Jan Blachowicz, who submitted him with an arm triangle. Krylov is 24-6 now and still only 27 years old. He’s definitely got some skills. Not sure OSP is the best matchup for him coming off the Blachowicz loss though. Wilson Reis vs Alexandre Pantoja could be a good one. The UFC still continues to book these flyweight fights. The division isn’t dead and buried just yet. I like Reis. He’s not a world beater but I like his style. Top class grappler, BJJ black-belt and world champion. 23-9 in MMA and beat Ben Nguyen in his last fight, snapping a 3 fight losing streak. Pantoja is 20-3 and has gone 13-1 in his last 14. Submitted Ulka Sasaki in his last outing and also subbed Neil Seery in a great fight in Seery’s swansong. He’s a quality grappler himself so this could turn out to be a bit of a ground war. Montel Jackson vs Andre Soukhamthath is a fight I’m kind of into just to see Jackson again. He’s 7-1 with 6 finishes and stopped the usually durable Brian Kelleher quick in his last fight. He looked good so I’m interested to see what he’s got here. Soukhamthath I know mostly for losing to Sean O’Malley in O’Malley’s UFC debut but he does have a TKO win over Luke Sanders. . Boston Salmon vs Khalid Taha is a fight where I know pretty much sod all about either man. Seems like I’ve been hearing and reading the name Boston Salmon for ages now but I’ve still never seen the cunt fight. Boston Salmon. This fight was apparently scheduled for the TUF Finale in November but fell apart for whatever reason. Anyway, Boston ‘Boom, Boom’ Salmon is Hawaiian, 28 years old, 6-1 with 4 stoppages. Was on Dana’s Contender Series. Taha is German, 27 years old and 12-2. He actually fought on last year’s UFC card in Germany but he lost and I have no recollection of him. Poliana Botelho vs Lauren Mueller was originally meant to be Botelho against Paige VanZant. Would’ve been a big opportunity for Botelho but Paige pulled out with a broken arm. Lauren Mueller stepped in. She’s 5-1, 1-1 in the UFC and lost to Wu Yanan last time out. I quite like Botelho. She’s a Muay Thai black-belt with a 7-2 MMA record. She was on a nice 5 fight win streak before getting submitted by Cynthia Calvillo in November. She TKO’d Syuri Kondo in just 33 seconds with a body kick before that though. Clearly needs to tighten up her grappling but I think she gives most of the flyweight girls all kinds of problems on the feet. There you go. The UFC in Badstreet Atlanta, GA... If someone doesn’t walk out to that I will be fuming.