Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier settle their rivalry with a third fight on Saturday night at the main event of UFC 264 at the T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Las Vegas.

McGregor knocked out Poirier inside one round seven years ago when they first fought at UFC 178. The Diamond returned the favor by stopping McGregor in their rematch at Fight Island last January. Now they settle their feud with the winner expected to get the first crack at new lightweight champion Charles Oliveira who will be at cageside.

Let’s take a look at the fights at the UFC 264 main card and make our predictions.

“Fighting" Conor McGregor vs Dustin Poirier

Since moving up from featherweight, McGregor has a 3-3 record, including 1-2 as a lightweight. However, there’s no denying he still has an impressive mark of 22-5 with 17 knockout wins and all five of his losses via stoppage.

McGregor connects on 5.32 significant strikes per minute and he averages less than one takedown per 15 minutes so you know that he has no plans of taking this fight to the ground. The Irishman has exceptional timing and impressive footwork. Most of all, he has that left-hand punch that has put to sleep most of his opponents.

The issues with McGregor are Poirier’s leg kicks and the Irishman’s conditioning. Poirier slowed him down in the rematch by throwing a lot of leg kicks. He also has a questionable gas tank.

While McGregor has struggled at lightweight, Poirier has been impressive here with a record of 11-2 with one no contest at this weight class. The Diamonds is a very well-rounded fighter, averaging 1.47 takedowns per 15 minutes and 5.59 significant strikes per 15 minutes.

What Poirier has to watch out for is McGregor’s killer left hand early. But the longer this fight goes, Dustin has the advantage because he has always had better conditioning.

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We’ve seen these two fight before. In fact, we’ve seen them twice before. McGregor won the first bout by KO and Poirier returned the favor with his own knockout in the rematch.

Poirier is obviously the safer bet because he has been more active and has looked sharper in his last couple of fights. He was also in control of their rematch and handled McGregor pretty well there.

McGregor hasn’t fought as many fights as Poirier has recently and if we look back at the second fight, he’s going to struggle again here if he is unwilling to check Poirier’s leg kicks. However, we don’t get to see the plus money on McGregor often. That’s happened only against Khabib and Aldo.

Conor has more to prove here than Poirier. He asked for this third fight to redeem himself. Poirier took it because it paid better than a title fight with Oliveira. I’m not saying that Poirier isn’t out to win here. It’s just that McGregor needs the win more badly.

Unless McGregor didn’t train seriously, I’m taking the Notorious at plus money.

Prediction: Conor McGregor

“Fighting" Gilbert Burns vs Stephen Thompson

Burns was on a six-fight winning tear before he ran into Kamaru Usman in his last bout and got knocked out. Overall, Durinho has a record of 19-4 with 14 of his wins coming via stoppage.

Originally a BJJ specialist, Burns averages 2.08 takedowns per 15 minutes and has high-level submission skills. However, he’s developed his striking game as of late and has displayed tremendous punching power. He is aggressive on the feet and he can afford to do this because he won’t mind getting taken down.

Wonderboy went 0-1-1 in two attempts at UFC gold against Tyron Woodley. But after winning back-to-back fights, he could put himself in a position to fight for the title again, but if he beats Burns convincingly.

Thompson has the reach and the point-fighting skills to win this fight from a distance. He has the ability to keep the shorter Burns from getting close with his jabs and karate kicks. He has great footwork and conditioning. And his takedown defense of 78% isn’t easy to overcome.

What are the Moneyline Odds?






Odds from BetOnline as of 07/08/2021

There’s no question why Wonderboy is favored here. He is the more experienced fighter and he is more fundamentally sound than Burns. Thompson has the longer reach and knows what to do with it. He also has the good takedown defense to prevent Burns from turning this into a grappling match on the ground.

However, remember that Burns won six in a row before losing to Usman. He was such on a dominant run that you don’t expect him to lose it all after getting beat by perhaps the best fighter out there today. Not only does Burns have elite submission skills, but he’s also discovered that he has natural punching power and he’s developed his finishing skills on the feet.

I won’t blame you if you pick Wonderboy here. But I like the plus money on Burns because his punching power is legit.

Prediction: Gilbert Burns

“Fighting" Tai Tuivasa vs Greg Hardy

Tai Tuivasa is looking to win three straight bouts after a recent three-fight skid. He enters this bout with an 11-3 record with 10 knockouts.

BamBam likes to throw leg kicks from a distance before letting his heavy hands fly. He has legit power and loves that overhand right in the pocket. With a reach of only 75 inches, Tuivasa eats some punches in order to dish out his punishment.

Greg Hardy has never lost back-to-back fights and he hopes to keep it that way with a win here. He is 7-3 overall with six knockouts and only one of his losses was via KO.

The Prince of War is a big heavyweight at 6-5 with an 80-inch reach and is a former NFL player so he is athletic. As a relatively new mixed martial artist, Hardy’s game is limited but he’s added leg kicks to his arsenal and still has one of the longest jabs out there.

What are the Moneyline Odds?






Odds from BetOnline as of 07/08/2021

Tuivasa comes from a kickboxing and boxing background so this bout should start and end on the feet. His opponent is equally powerful but when you compare their striking, Tuivasa puts together his offense better. And with his experience, he is the toughest fighter that Hardy has faced.

There’s no question that Hardy has made strides since beginning his MMA journey. However, he has yet to prove himself against top and quality level opposition. He also has the reach advantage against Tuivasa but I’m not convinced that he’s at this level yet.

Unless Hardy became a submission artist overnight, I’m picking Tuivasa to knock him out.

Prediction: Tai Tuivasa

“Fighting" Irene Aldana vs Yana Kunitskaya

Aldana saw her two-fight win streak end the last time out when she was outclassed by Holly Holm. She has a record of 12-6 with six knockouts and three submission wins. Aldana has not lost back-to-back fights since 2017.

The Mexican has a high striking output at 5.52 significant strikes landed per minute and has only completed two takedowns in her UFC career. She has long legs and utilizes them to lead with leg kicks before unleashing her punches.

Kunitskaya is looking to win three straight fights for the first time in nine years. The 31-year old has a record of 14-5 with seven knockouts and one submission loss. She has good leg kicks and is effective when he pins opponents against the cage and batters them with short punches and knees.

She averages 1.62 takedowns per 15 minutes and is a better grappler than Aldana. She also lands 4.22 significant strikes per minute and absorbs only 2.62. Kunitskaya has been dominant in her last two bouts landing a total of 90 significant strikes while absorbing only 13.

What are the Moneyline Odds?






Odds from BetOnline as of 07/08/2021

Aldana loves to take the fight to her opponent and that always gives her a chance to win any fight. However, she has been more effective as a counter-puncher than being the aggressor.

Kunitskaya is the more balanced fighter between the two. She has good pop in her punches and has a more proven ground game. If Aldana’s takedown defense will hold, Kunitskaya will oblige in a stand-up war as she throws the cleaner punches.

This will likely be fought on the feet but regardless of where it goes, I expect the more well-rounded fighter to emerge victorious. Take the cheap price on Kunitskaya.

Prediction: Yana Kunitskaya

“Fighting" Sean O’Malley vs Kris Moutinho

Suga bounced back after his hype train was halted against Marlon Vera. O’Malley is 13-1 with nine knockouts and one submission victory. O’Malley has earned Performance of the Night honors in four out of his last five bouts.

O’Malley is an entertaining fighter who uses plenty of movement and unorthodox strikes. He is very big for this weight class, with a good reach advantage, and also has explosive knockout power. O’Malley’s switching style keeps his opponents guessing.

Moutinho 9-4 with two KOs and two submission wins but his four losses have been via knockout as he loves to fight in a good old-fashioned brawl. As a southpaw, he uses his kicks to set the distance and then suddenly lunges forward with his punches.

He can be a good point-fighter but more often than not, he is easily lured into a brawl and when he is against a bigger puncher, that’s where the problem has usually been. Could be that story here.

What are the Moneyline Odds?






Odds from BetOnline as of 07/08/2021

This looks like a match tailor-made for O’Malley to look good and win a second straight fight after his hype took damage two fights earlier. O’Malley looks like he’s just a showboat, but he’s an excellent striker with unorthodox moves and has a lot of pop in his punches.

Moutinho’s southpaw style could pose a problem. He also throws a nice jab and has some decent punch combinations. However, he is easily lured into a brawl and that’s where he gets in trouble.

Moutinho took this fight on less than two weeks’ notice it’s going to be more of a disadvantage for him than O’Malley. I don’t think Unce Dana will put his prospect in harm’s way here. Unless he underestimated Moutinho, O’Malley wins in dominant fashion.

Prediction: Sean O’Malley

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