Featherweight champion Max Holloway is moving up to lightweight at UFC 236 to challenge for the interim title belt. Despite the jump in weight, he enters as a heavy favorite against Dustin Poirier, who also fought at featherweight until 2015.
The odds are not identical across the betting sites monitored by MyTopSportsbooks but they all have Holloway somewhere between -250 and -275, with Poirier hovering around +210 to +225.
At first blush, that might look like good value on the underdog, since Poirier already holds a win over Holloway and is more accustomed to fighting at 155. But it’s important to remember just how long ago the first match-up between these two occurred: February 2012.
That’s seven years ago, when a 20-year-old Max Holloway had just four professional fights under his belt. He couldn’t even legally drink in the United States.
Poirier, on the other hand, was already an established 23-year-old fighter with an 11-1 record. He was the next big thing in the featherweight division at that juncture.
Yet, even then, Holloway showed himself to be the superior fighter on his feet. He was showcasing his varied and dynamic striking to the extent that Poirier realized he had to get the fight to the mat pronto, which he was able to do. From there, Poirier dominated Holloway — then just a BJJ white belt — and secured a swift submission.
Today, Poirier remains susceptible to elite strikers. His last two setbacks were knockouts at the hands of Conor McGregor and the heavy-handed Michael Johnson.
In his last five fights combined, Holloway holds a two-to-one edge in significant strikes over his opponents. In case you forgot, two of those fights were against Jose Aldo, an elite striker in his own right.
The big difference coming into this match-up, seven years down the road, is that Holloway is now a well-rounded fighter. He holds a purple belt in BJJ and has been taken down just twice since 2014. Both of those takedowns came in his last fight against Ortega, who was just 2 of 11 on his shots.
Holloway’s overall takedown defense is 83 percent, according to UFCStats.com. Poirier’s takedown success rate is an uninspiring 41 percent. Poirier is very solid on the ground, but not actually great at getting the fight
to that domain.
Poirier has made his own strides over the last seven years. His stand-up game is certainly more technically sound that it used to be. But he’s also now on the wrong side of 30; count on Holloway being much quicker to the target.
Unless Poirier can put Holloway on his back and keep him there (which is not likely to happen), this fight is going to play out much like the Holloway/Ortega match-up. A game Poirier will be forced to trade with
one of the best strikers on the planet, and it won’t end well for either his face or his win/loss record.
Pick: Max Holloway (-250)