The show must go on in the Lightweight division. With current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov still serving a nine-month suspension following the incidents of UFC 229, Featherweight champion Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier will battle for the interim Lightweight Championship at UFC 236.
In the co-main event, 'The Last Stylebender' Israel Adesanya will face No.4 ranked Kelvin Gastelum for the interim Middleweight Championship.
The UFC is bringing one of the best cards of 2019 to Atlanta for UFC 236, and the landscape of the Lightweight and Middleweight division will be forever changed.
Here is how the UFC VIP Experience sees things playing out at UFC 236.
MAX HOLLOWAY VS. DUSTIN POIRIER
Dustin Poirier holds a special place in Max Holloway's story as the man who welcomed the Hawaiian into the UFC. The two then-Featherweights faced off at UFC 143 in Holloway's debut for the promotion. Poirier made quick work of the newcomer, submitting Holloway via mounted triangle armbar within the first round.
Seven years later, we know that the loss to Poirier was paramount to Holloway's development and career arc.
Currently riding a UFC-best 13-fight winning streak, Holloway has taken out every obstacle in his way for over the past half-decade and claimed the Featherweight championship in the process. After defeating Anthony Pettis and finishing Jose Aldo twice, Holloway turned in one of the best performances of his career in a dominant showing against then-undefeated contender Brian Ortega at UFC 231.
Following the Ortega fight, questions about whether he champion would move up to Lightweight arose. Now we know the answer.
For Poirier, the well-deserved title shot comes after three consecutive finishes over the murderers' row of Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez. While he's 8-1 (1 NC) since moving up to Lightweight, this is Poirier's first title shot in the UFC.
It's rare for a rematch to have no distinct similarities to the original bout, but that's the situation we find ourselves with in this main event. Both Holloway and Poirier have gone through complete career evolutions since the first fight in 2012 and are both better off for it. Holloway has become one of the UFC's most feared strikers and Poirier has proven to be dangerous in every aspect of his game.
While Holloway is moving up to a more natural weight class, we don't know if his striking power will carry over with him. However, the Hawaiian has always been more of a volume striker than power hitter, so the output and cardio should be similar to what we've seen from the Featherweight champion.
An efficient striker in his own right, Poirier will choose to stand with Holloway early to test out his chin after moving weight classes. Holloway doesn't shy away from absorbing strikes, which could get him in trouble given the increased power at Lightweight.
This fight could be decided by the one or two times that Poirier goes for the takedown. Holloway is rarely on his back, thanks to an 83-percent takedown defense, and his jiu-jitsu defense isn't well-tested.
But this fight will predominantly stay on its feet, and as it currently stands it doesn't look like anyone can handle the output that Holloway dishes out when standing right in front of him.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Holloway via TKO
KELVIN GASTELUM VS. ISRAEL ADESANYA
After defeating Derek Brunson at UFC 230, Israel Adesanya predicted that he would become the Middleweight champion by the end of 2019.
Following a unanimous decision victory over Anderson Silva at UFC 234, the prophecy was set into motion with an interim Middleweight title shot against Kelvin Gastelum.
Gastelum gets another shot at gold after his UFC 234 title fight against Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker was called off day-of due to Whittaker dropping out with a hernia.
This fight will be all about distance management. The lanky Adesanya has an eight-plus inch reach advantage over Gastelum and will need to use every bit of it to keep the wrestler from getting him into the clinch. Expect Adesanya to throw feints often throughout the bout just in an attempt to keep Gastelum from getting within his reach.
If this fight stays on its feet, Adesanya will be at a strong advantage. As the taller fighter possessing a kickboxing pedigree, Adesanya will be able to overwhelm the stockier Gastelum.
But Gastelum will look for the clinch early and try to shoot often. If he gets his way, expect cage control to be a huge part of his game plan. He won't win this fight on his feet, so overwhelming Adesanya with a multitude of takedown attempts will be on the menu.
This fight is a battle of two very different skill sets, and it will lead to long stretches of inaction as both fighers readjust over the span of 25 minutes. But unless Gastelum can take control of the ground game, expect Adesanya to point fight his way to victory throughout the five rounds.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Adesanya via Decision
ERYK ANDERS VS. KHALIL ROUNTREE JR.
Eryk Anders is moving up to Light Heavyweight in hopes of getting back on track following a two-fight slide.
Across the cage from him will be Khalil Rountree Jr., who himself is trying to get back on track after a knockout defeat to Johnny Walker back in November.
Rountree is an absolutely vicious striker, and while Anders has proven durable in the past, the return back to Light Heavyweight may have an effect on his durability and stamina.
Expect Rountree to go for the kill early and get it.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Rountree via KO
ALAN JOUBAN VS. DWIGHT GRANT
After over a year away from The Octagon, Alan Jouban has returned. The 37-year-old welterweight is slated to collide with the winner of Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series winner, Dwight Grant.
Grant is coming off of a knockout win over Carlo Pedersoli Jr. in February and is taking a big step up in competition by accepting the fight with Jouban.
Both men are known to stand and throw, so expect a high volume fight with an exciting finish guaranteed.
While this fight is a chance for Grant to make noise at 170, he may be climbing the mountain a little too fast. Even with the layoff, Jouban's skills are sharper than Grant's and the experience difference should show.OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Jouban by KO
OVINCE SAINT PREUX VS. NIKITA KRYLOV
The main card headlined by a rematch will also kick off with a rematch.
Ovince St. Preux and Nikita Krylov first met at UFC 171, where St. Preux submitted the Russian with the rare Von Flue choke.
The bout was quick, with St. Preux locking in the submission less than 90 seconds into the first round.
Five years later, Krylov is a much more equipped opponents on the ground, but this bout is more predictable than the rematch in the main event.
Krylov still struggles against stronger opponents on the ground if he isn't in the dominant position. Expect OSP to pressure early and go for a similar gameplan as the first time the two met.
While Krylov will be prepared for the Von Flue choke, OSP will still try and grind his opponent down and wait for that small opening to lock something in.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: St. Preux via Submission
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