ATLANTA — Pushed to the limit in a hellacious five-round war with featherweight champion Max Holloway on Saturday, Dustin Poirier found an extra gear on the biggest stage of his career.
Finally fulfilling that had long made him a viable contender at 155 pounds, Poirier (25-5, 1 NC) claimed a unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46) to capture the interim lightweight title in the main event of UFC 236 at State Farm Arena.
The fight was all action, nearly all the time and likely would’ve been praised as a contender for best of the year had it not been for the instant classic in the co-main event between Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum for the interim title. But it was Poirier who landed the bigger shots throughout that brutalized Holloway’s face in a rematch of their 2012 bout won by Poirier via first-round submission.
Can’t get enough UFC? Subscribe to my podcast State of Combat with Brian Campbell where we break down everything you need to know in the Octagon.
“This feels amazing. I feel like I’m in a dream right now,” Poirier said. “I just beat the pound-for-pound best in the world. To be the best, you have to beat the best. Damn, I feel good. I’ve earned this with blood. Paid in full, this is mine.”
Most of the blood Poirier was covered in after the fight, however, came from the face of Holloway who had a busted nose, cuts around both eyes and grotesque swelling from the accurate shots absorbed throughout.
“I’m not going to take nothing away from Dustin,” Holloway said. “He beat a world champion and is a world champion. There ain’t no interim shit. He’s a world champion. Congrats, brother.”
In an already crowded and deep division, Poirier became the No. 1 contender for Khabib Nurmagomedov’s lightweight title and called out the champion after the fight, referencing the suspension from a post-fight melee at UFC 229 last year that will leave Nurmagomedov out of action until July.
“In the words of our own Daniel Cormier, get your s— together young man, we have a title to fight for,” Poirier said.
Holloway (20-3) showed tremendous heart and stamina to come forward at a relentless pace throughout. But his power at 155 pounds never seemed to bother Poirier whose only moments of real trouble came when his attempts to finish Holloway left him briefly gassed out.
“He hit me with some big shots but I’m the f—ing champ, man,” Poirier said. “This is a piece of the world title. I’m the f—ing champ.”
The 30-year-old Poirier floored Holloway late in a thrilling opening round in which Holloway later rallied as Poirier began to look winded. Holloway, 27, then controlled most of Round 2 until Poirier dropped him again late.
Holloway had his moments with big flurries in the final two rounds but Poirier’s power proved too much as Holloway’s face began to fall apart.
“Nothing was different [in terms of moving up in weight], I felt good,” Holloway said. “I thought tonight was my night but it didn’t go my way.”
After the fight, Holloway remained noncommittal as to which division he would campaign in moving forward.
“I’m still the champ,” Holloway said. “Whatever weight [class] gets me closer to that pound-for-pound title, I’m here.”
CBS Sports was with you for every punch, kick and submission attempt from Atlanta with our live blog below. If you are having trouble viewing the blog, please click here.
UFC 236 card/results
Dustin Poirier def. Max Holloway via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46)
via unanimous decision (48-46, 48-46, 48-46)
Khalil Rountree Jr. def. Eryk Anders via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
Dwight Green def. Alan Jouban via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 27-30)
Nikita Krylov def. Ovince Saint Preux via second-round submission (rear-naked choke)
Matt Frevola def. Jalin Turner via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Alexandre Pantoja def. Wilson Reis via first-round TKO (punches)
Max Griffin def. Zelim Imadaev via majority decision (29-27, 29-27, 28-28)
Khalid Taha def. Boston Salmon via first-round TKO (punches)
UFC 236 commentary, highlights
Thanks for stopping by.