Matches to Make for Winners and Losers from UFC 236
UFC 236 provided two electric interim title tilts in Atlanta on Saturday. The State Farm Arena was home to a night to remember.
UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier ran their 2012 bout back, and Poirier got his hand raised once again. But it wasn't anywhere near as easy as that night seven years ago. Holloway didn't go away and forced Poirier to fight the full 25 minutes.
The co-main event was even better. Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum fought for 25 minutes themselves, and Adesanya came out the other end with the interim UFC middleweight title. Both men had their moments and landed hard shots, but Adesanya pulled away and nearly stopped Gastelum in the waning seconds.
For the new champions, their next fights seem obvious. Unify the interim belts with the undisputed straps. But what about the losers? Which bouts are next for Holloway and Gastelum?
And what about the other fighters who competed on the UFC 236 fight card?
Shall we put on our matchmaking caps and get to work? Grab a pen and pad, and let's look at the full event and select the next fights for each winner and loser coming out of Atlanta. These are the matches to make following UFC 236.
Preliminary Fights: Quick Hits
Brandon Davis def. Randy Costa via submission (rear-naked choke) at 1:12 of the second round
- Randy Costa vs. Boston Salmon
- Brandon Davis vs. winner of Merab Dvalishvili vs. Brad Katona (May 4)
Poliana Botelho def. Lauren Mueller by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Lauren Mueller vs. JJ Aldrich
- Poliana Botelho vs. Jennifer Maia
Montel Jackson def. Andre Soukhamthath by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 29-27)
- Andre Soukhamthath vs. Benito Lopez
- Montel Jackson vs. winner of Said Nurmagomedov vs. Raoni Barcelos (May 11)
Belal Muhammad def. Curtis Millender by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 30-26)
- Curtis Millender vs. Tim Means
- Belal Muhammad vs. Darren Till
Khalid Taha def. Boston Salmon by TKO at 0:25 of the first round
- Boston Salmon vs. Randy Costa
- Khalid Taha vs. Mark De La Rosa
Max Griffin def. Zelim Imadaev by majority decision (29-27, 29-27, 28-28)
- Zelim Imadaev vs. Emil Weber Meek
- Max Griffin vs. Geoff Neal
Alexandre Pantoja def. Wilson Reis by TKO at 2:58 of the first round
- Wilson Reis vs. Eric Shelton
- Alexandre Pantoja vs. Deiveson Figueiredo
Matt Frevola def. Jalin Turner by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Jalin Turner vs. Jesus Pinedo
- Matt Frevola vs. Drakkar Klose
Ovince Saint Preux vs. Nikita Krylov
Nikita Krylov def. Ovince Saint Preux via submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:30 of the second round
Nikita Krylov and Ovince Saint Preux first met at UFC 171 in 2014. Saint Preux took the initial meeting via submission in just 89 seconds. The rematch, five years later, went to Krylov via submission. It was his first win inside the UFC since 2016.
OSP's days as a true contender are probably gone, but he still has a lot of talent to showcase. The UFC needs to give him a hard reset in the division and an opponent way down the ladder. Hu Yaozong meets that criteria.
It's a winnable fight and should set OSP back on the path to being a viable gatekeeper if nothing else.
Krylov should get a Top 10 opponent for his next outing. The biggest name available that makes sense is former champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. The former champ is coming off a big win in December against Tyson Pedro. Was it a fleeting moment for an aging ex-champ, or was it the beginning of a final run?
Krylov would answer that question. It would be a big moment for a cult favorite and help to establish a little order in the light heavyweight rankings.
Alan Jouban vs. Dwight Grant
Dwight Grant def. Alan Jouban by split decision (29-28, 27-30, 29-28)
These are two welterweights who will, more often than not, deliver a fun fight. Grant picked up the victory, but don't expect Jouban to start fighting complete unknowns on UFC Fight Pass preliminary bouts.
In fact, there is a fun fight for Jouban to take this summer. Mickey Gall has failed to show progression but has not failed to entertain. A scrap with Jouban would be a perfect Fight Night main card addition. It's a great tone-setter for the UFC to use to get the fans on their feet.
Grant will get a similar fight, but it'll be against someone coming off a victory.
At UFC on ESPN 3, Alex Oliveira and Mike Perry will throw heavy leather at each another. The victor on that night, April 27, would be perfect against Dwight Grant.
Jouban is coming off a loss, and there isn't an appropriate ranked fight available for Grant. These fights ensure they are not shoved down a card and still given an opportunity to shine in front of a crowd.
Khalil Rountree Jr. vs. Eryk Anders
Khalil Rountree Jr. def. Eryk Anders by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
In what would start the theme of showing why the UFC has weight divisions, light heavyweight Khalil Rountree Jr. outclassed former middleweight contender Eryk Anders. The difference in power was just as evident as the difference in technical experience.
Anders should return to 185. Will he? Who knows. Let's give him a fight in each division and allow the UFC and Anders to pick their route.
At middleweight, Hector Lombard is the best option. Anders was making waves at middleweight before losing his third straight, and Lombard has also fallen on hard times. This matchup will get the best out of both men and allow the winner to get a ranked opponent in his next outing. At light heavyweight, Marcin Prachnio is as good of an opponent that he deserves at 205.
Rountree looked the best he ever has inside the cage. He should get another crack at a ranked opponent, and No. 15-ranked Misha Cirkunov looks to make the most sense.
Both men lost to Johnny Walker by knockout, and pitting them against each other will help establish some order in the back end of the division. Both the American and the Latvian are off the pace to enter the fray toward the top, and it serves the division better to let them work it out in the cage before pushing them any further up the ladder.
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Israel Adesanya
Israel Adesanya def. Kelvin Gastelum by unanimous decision (48-46, 48-46, 48-46)
It is clear what is next for new interim champion Israel Adesanya: undisputed champion Robert Whittaker.
Everything about that fight is enticing. The stylistic encounter that is bound to happen to unify the two titles instantly becomes one of the top fights to watch in 2019. And as Whittaker lives in Australia (and represents both Australia and New Zealand) while Adesanya represents New Zealand, it would be a travesty to have this fight happen anywhere else than in Australia when Whittaker is healthy.
Given the muddled state of the division, choosing Gastelum's next opponent is a bit more difficult.
Gastelum's performance shows he is still at the top of the division and shouldn't fall far. The name that pops out is Chris Weidman. The two met in 2017, when Weidman dominated the action. It is Weidman's only win since 2015.
It gives the division another solid bout of contenders but also puts Weidman's back against the wall. Gastelum would get a chance at redemption. The matchup remains compelling with the stakes high.
Dustin Poirier vs. Max Holloway
Dustin Poirier def. Max Holloway by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46)
Max Holloway was game, but it was evident from the start that he lacked strength and power at lightweight. He either needs to return to featherweight or make a full-time move up to 155 so that he can dedicate time to acclimating his body to the weight class.
It's not an easy choice. Holloway has had some rough-looking weight cuts to make 145. But he is the champion, and that belt deserves to be defended. There are only two options at featherweight for him: the winner of Jose Aldo vs. Alex Volkanovski (May 11) and Frankie Edgar.
Edgar is the right choice. It's an interesting fight with the most notable name Holloway hasn't beaten at 145 yet. This is especially true if Aldo dispatches Volkanovski. The Australian will have a great case for the shot with a win, but he lacks the name recognition when compared to Edgar.
Win or lose, only after the next featherweight title defense should Holloway again flirt with lightweight.
As for the new interim lightweight champion, the common logic would put a unification with Khabib Nurmagomedov bout on the table. The undisputed champion tweeted after the fight that he would see him September.
There is no reason to overthink the unification fight.