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Superman has kryptonite. Max Holloway has Dustin Poirier.
Poirier laid claim to the interim Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight title with a stellar, career-defining performance, as he took a unanimous decision from the Hawaiian in the UFC 236 headliner on Saturday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 49-46 for Poirier (25-5, 17-4 UFC), who expects to face undisputed 155-pound champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in a blockbuster unification bout later this year. He has now beaten Holloway (20-4, 16-4 UFC) twice in as many meetings, having submitted him with a triangle armbar in 2012.
Sharp boxing and a noticeable advantage in punching power buoyed Poirier’s efforts. The Lafayette, Louisiana, native set the tone with a dominant first round, where he buckled Holloway’s knees with hooks from both hands. A lesser fighter may not have survived. However, the indomitable Holloway endured, zeroed in on the American Top Team star’s body and put the pedal to the floor. He pieced together one of his patented punching bursts in the third round, mixed in a brutal knee to the body and countered a takedown attempt from the weary Poirier with elbows to the side of the head.
Not to be outshined, Poirier opened a gruesome gash between the featherweight champion’s eyes in the fourth round, sent split flying with an overhand left in the fifth and pinned Holloway to the fence in the waning moments, denying his bid for a comeback.
Adesanya Claims Interim Title in ‘Fight of the Year’ Contender
Israel Adesanya captured the interim middleweight championship with a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter 17” winner Kelvin Gastelum in an electrifying co-main event. Adesanya (17-0, 6-0 UFC) swept the scorecards with 48-46 marks from all three judges, “The Last Stylebender” emerging as the last man standing in a clear frontrunner for “Fight of the Year.”
Their 25-minute engagement was marked by wild shifts in momentum. Gastelum drew first blood in the first round, where he had the City Kickboxing cornerstone reeling with a sneaky but powerful right hook. Adesanya answered in the second, first with a chopping right hand that resulted in a knockdown and later with a spinning back elbow that revved the crowd’s engines. As they headed to the championship rounds, it appeared to be anyone’s fight.
Gastelum opened a cut under the New Zealand-based kickboxer’s right eye and staggered him badly with a head kick, driving forward with punches in a bid to finish late in Round 4. Still, Adesanya refused to wilt. He did his best work over the final five minutes, as he threatened Gastelum with a standing guillotine, transitioned to a triangle choke and scrambled to his feet. Adesanya knocked down the fading Kings MMA rep three times in the last half of the fifth round and was closing in on a stoppage when the horn sounded, an audible buzz rippling through the audience.
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Improved Rountree Tortures Anders
Murderous leg kicks and clean power punches spurred “The Ultimate Fighter 23” finalist Khalil Rountree to a lopsided unanimous decision over Eryk Anders in a featured light heavyweight pairing. All three cageside judges scored it 30-26 for Rountree (8-3, 4-3 UFC), who rebounded from his knockout loss to Johnny Walker five months ago.
Anders (11-4, 3-4 UFC) was under fire from the start. Rountree tenderized the inside of his lead leg throughout the first round, turned him into a stationary target and unleashed his hands. He knocked down Anders four times in Round 2, where referee Jason Herzog appeared to be on the verge of calling for the stoppage on more than one occasion. Unable to score the finish and showing signs of fatigue, Rountree eased off the gas over the final five minutes but nevertheless strung together punches and continued to hammer the inside and outside of the former Legacy Fighting Alliance champion’s leg.
The 31-year-old Anders now finds himself on a three-fight losing streak.
Grant Nets Split Verdict
American Kickboxing Academy export Dwight Grant curried enough favor on the scorecards to walk away with a contentious split decision over Alan Jouban in a surprisingly uneventful welterweight feature. Judges Derek Cleary and Ken Coffey saw it 29-28 for Grant, while Anthony Maness sided with Jouban by a 30-27 margin.
The three-round encounter was marked by short bursts of offense and long periods of inactivity. Grant (10-2, 2-1 UFC) connected with a majority of the consequential strikes but spent virtually the entire fight in a backpedal looking to counter the oncoming Louisianan. Jouban (16-7, 7-5 UFC) kept his frustration at bay, pecked away with leg kicks and made his most significant move late in the third round, where he scrambled onto the Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series alum’s back and peppered him with ground-and-pound. His efforts fell short.
Grant has rattled off nine wins across his past 10 outings.
Krylov Choke Submits St. Preux
Former Fight Nights Global champion Nikita Krylov submitted Ovince St. Preux with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their light heavyweight showcase. St. Preux (23-13, 11-8 UFC) conceded defeat 2:30 into Round 2, as he lost for the third time in four appearances.
Krylov (25-6, 7-4 UFC) withstood a takedown-centered assault from the Knoxville MMA rep in the first round, where he maintained his composure despite being mounted at one point. St. Preux’s efforts were effective but compromised his cardio, and at the start of middle stanza, Krylov was clearly the fresher man. The Ukrainian stuffed a St. Preux takedown, answered with one of his own and climbed to mount, forcing “OSP” to surrender his back. Krylov threaded his hooks, softened his counterpart with elbows to the side of the head and cinched the fight-ending choke.
The 27-year-old Krylov, who avenged his 2014 submission defeat to St. Preux by repaying the favor, has won five of his last six bouts.
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