One of the biggest fights of the year is upon us as Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor will settle their trilogy of bouts.
With the scores tied one apiece, the lightweight contenders will battle it out in the main event of UFC 264 in a PPV card supported by fighters looking to make a statement.
With another title eliminator in the co-main event slot, the majority of UFC 264’s most intriguing and exciting bouts can be found on the preliminary cards with Ryan Hall vs. Ilia Topuria and Niko Price vs. Michel Pereira the standout features.
Dustin Poirier (27-6, 1 NC) vs. Conor McGregor (22-5)
While you’d expect Conor McGregor to only be able to win this fight early, per usual, the adjustments he will undoubtedly make will be fascinating to see.
Relying far too heavily on his hands in their most recent clash, hopefully McGregor’s kicking game will resurface and show a glimpse of the McGregor of old.
It will also be fascinating to see how he deals defensively with the calf kicks of Poirier. I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see ‘The Notorious One’ open up with a few of his own but whether he can check or slide out of the kicks coming his way could be a decisive factor.
While I am expecting the former double champion to certainly offer more looks for Poirier to deal with, ‘The Diamond’ has undoubtedly been one of the best fighters in the sport over the past four years.
With a more rounded skill set as well as a durability and counter striking game that has proven to give McGregor trouble, I do think Poirier will get the job done once again.
Providing a pace that McGregor won’t be able to keep up with and the potential to drag this fight into the later rounds, Poirier should be able to peel away as the fight progresses.
Just like any McGregor fight, it’d be foolish to write him off thanks to his power but it’s exceptionally rare for the fighter who lost the second bout in a trilogy to rebound and make the suitable adjustments in time.
Pick: Dustin Poirier
Gilbert Burns (19-4) vs. Stephen Thompson (16-4-1)
Gilbert Burns certainly has the tools to win this fight inside of the distance but getting in close proximity to Stephen Thompson is a massively tough ask.
While Burns has used pressure, power in his hands and his grappling base to climb to the top of the welterweight rankings, Thompson’s fleet-footed movement allows him to fight on his terms.
In addition to Burns’ struggles against Kamaru Usman once he had established his jab, I can see Thompson peppering away at Burns with kicks and punches while staying on the outside en route to a decision win.
Pick: Stephen Thompson
Tai Tuivasa (12-3) vs. Greg Hardy (7-3, 1 NC)
Both Tuivasa and Hardy clearly have troubles with their cardio but whoever is in the ascendancy by the end of the first round should be able to continue that success forward.
On the feet, Tuivasa should be the cleaner striker as well as offering pressure but Hardy’s athleticism and size could allow him to wear down Tuivasa whether in the clinch or takedowns.
While my head does lean with Hardy’s size being enough, let’s hope Tuivasa can pile on the misery for a despicable person.
Pick: Tai Tuivasa
Irene Aldana (12-6) vs. Yana Kunitskaya (14-5, 1 NC)
This fight mirrors the heavyweight clash between Tuivasa and Hardy stylistically as Aldana is the much cleaner boxer while Kunitskaya has made a habit out of using her size and physicality to control fights in close quarters.
While Aldana did struggle to make weight for this clash, I do expect her to have the movement and ability to fight on the back foot and capitalise on her rangey boxing.
Pick: Irene Aldana
Sean O’Malley (13-1) vs. Kris Moutinho (9-4)
This is yet another fight for O’Malley where we will learn nothing about how good he can be.
Admittedly, I respect his decision for taking the easiest short-notice fighter made available to him as he’s paid the same regardless of who his opponent is at this stage.
Make no bones about it though, this is a fight against someone who is teed up for him to record a flashy KO against and you’d expect him to do just that.
Hopefully his next outing will be against an actual decent calibre opponent.
Pick: Sean O’Malley
(Last Predictions: 3/5, Total: 62/113, 55% Success Rate)
(Success Rate: 2016: 61%, ’17: 60%, ’18: 58%, 19′: 57%, 20′: 67%)