UFC 264: Poirier vs. McGregor 3 Predictions
Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor
Poirier gained revenge for McGregor’s 2014 TKO defeat at the Irishman’s hands when they locked horns again in January, stopping him via TKO in the second round, setting the stage for this blockbuster trilogy fight six months later.
The big talking point heading out of their first encounter was the success of Poirier’s calf kicks, which was the catalyst for him to gain the upperhand on the feet, so naturally McGregor vowed to shore up that weakness and will be looking to check those attempts this time around.
Still, Poirier exorcised some demons by not only stopping McGregor, but also surviving punches from him beforehand, so he’ll come into this fight high on confidence. As the more well-rounded fighter of the two he also holds an ace here in terms of strategy, as with the TKO win in his back pocket and McGregor focused on his calf kick defense, ‘The Diamond’ could now flip the script by seeking to show off his ground skills instead.
It’s an area McGregor is obviously wary about as he dared Poirier not to take him down last time, and he’s done so again ahead of this third encounter, perhaps mindful of the fact that while he’s been enjoying his vast riches and getting distracted at times by his boxing ambitions, Poirier has been diligently developing his skills in all areas, and so he certainly has what it takes to pose real problems for ‘The Notorious’ on the mat.
Poirier also holds a big advantage in terms of his reliable cardio, even while fighting at a high tempo, and that’s amplified further by the fact that it’s as that’s an area that has often been a weak point for McGregor, whose fights rarely go to the scorecards.
So, on the mat the fight favors Poirier and beyond the second round the odds generally start swinging in his favor, but it’s a credit to McGregor’s talent on the feet that this remains such a challenging fight to the feet with the precision, potency and timing of his punches early in the bout remaining a potential game-changer here.
As such it’s certainly tempting to pick him here to deliver another moment of magic in the early rounds and silence his doubters, but I find it hard to look past Poirier’s better conditioning, broader skill-set – which it should be noted does include the fact that he too is a very talented striker – and more ways to win.
Add in the fact that McGregor’s wariness regarding both his opponents calf kicks and possible takedowns will keep him on edge in the stand-up department also benefits Poirier and so I favor him to take McGregor into the later rounds utilizing a high-paced mix of striking and grappling, before securing a fourth round finish via submission.
Prediction: Dustin Poirier to win by submission in Rd4.
Gilbert Burns vs. Stephen Thompson
Two former 170lb title contenders clash in the co-main event, with Burns looking to rebound after being TKO’d by the champ Kamaru Usman last time out, while ‘Wonderboy’ is coming off back-to-back decision victories.
At his core, Burns is a top-flight BJJ practitioner who excels in the grappling department, but what’s helped him become one of the welterweight elite is the fact that his striking has also developed very nicely over time, and that helped propel him to a title shot after six wins in a row over the likes of Tyron Woodley, Demian Maia and Gunnar Nelson.
Thompson simply can’t match Burns as far as a well-rounded skill-set goes, but at 38, Thompson is still in great condition and remains one of the UFC’s most technical strikers.
Coming from a karate base, his point-fighting instincts make him a master of managing distance, keeping out of his opponent’s range until he’s ready to dart forward with pinpoint accurate offense, including lightning-quick, non-telegraphed kicks.
When you also factor in that Thompson is 2″ taller and has a 4″ of reach over the former lightweight, that poses real problems for Burns, though he will do his best to apply a lot of pressure as he attempts to close the distance on his elusive opponent.
This is a fight that’s fraught with danger for Thompson given that one takedown from Burns could well lead to him being submitted soon afterwards, but I think his slick footwork and clinical striking, together with a smart fight IQ will help him frustrate Burns and secure a decision victory.
Prediction: Stephen Thompson to win by decision.
Tai Tuivasa vs. Greg Hardy
After a three-fight losing streak at heavyweight, Tuivasa has regrouped and put together back-to-back first round wins via strikes in the past year, while Hardy saw a two wins in a row brought to a halt via a TKO loss against Marcin Tybura in his last Octagon outing.
With 11 fights under his belt, and the majority of those being in the UFC, Hardy is no longer a novice, but he’s not really blossomed into an unstoppable force either despite his athletic pedigree as a former NFL star.
He’ll have a 3″ height and 5″ reach advantage in this fight and will make use of that with some solid boxing fundamentals, often utilizing the jab from range, while also possessing speed and decent power, alongside some basic wrestling chops. On the other hand, he doesn’t have great cardio and slows down as the fight goes on and doesn’t have much to offer off his back.
He won’t have to worry about Tuivasa taking him down here, but he will have to be on high-alert as far as Tuivasa’s striking threat as he’s a durable, heavy-handed slugger who should also hold the advantage in terms of his kicking game and moves well for his size.
This is heavyweight MMA, so with two big strikers like this either man could win. However, I think Tuivasa’s kicks to the legs will take their toll if the fight goes beyond the first round, which will only add to Hardy’s problems as he’s generally less dangerous by that point anyway. Meanwhile, I believe the Aussie wields the greater power and also takes a punch better, so I like his chances to emerge with a TKO win by the second round.
Prediction: Tai Tuivasa to win by TKO in Rd2.
Irene Aldana vs. Yana Kunitskaya
Aldana didn’t get off to the best of starts in the UFC, losing her first two fights in a row, but she’s since compiled a 5-2 run, albeit with her most recent outing being a unanimous decision loss to Holly Holm.
Meanwhile, Kunitskaya had a very tough debut against Cris Cyborg back in 2018, but she’s went 4-1 since and is coming off back-to-back wins, leaving her ranked No.5 in the division, one place below Aldana.
Aldana is a striker who stays active offensively, demonstrating solid boxing and she has some power in her punches, as evidenced by her KO victory over Ketlen Vieira in late 2019, though on the other hand she is quite hittable in return.
Aldana also has good takedown defense, and that could be vital here as Kunitskaya is the more well-rounded off the two and can mix it up on the feet, but also utilizes clinch work and wrestling.
This one could go either way, but I’ll take Aldana to fend off Kunitskaya’s grappling attempts and get the better of the striking exchanges to emerge with a decision victory.
Prediction: Irene Aldana to win by decision.
Sean O’Malley vs. Kris Moutinho
O’Malley was originally scheduled to open up the main card against Louis Smolka, but when his opponent dropped out due to a staph infection recently, the UFC had to scramble for a short-notice opponents.
There were plenty of offers from notable bantamweights to take his place, but in the end the matchmakers opted to go further afield and drafted in Moutinho, who holds a 9-4 record and will be making his UFC debut on Saturday night.
Needless to say O’Malley is an overwhelming favorite here in what’s likely to be a striking battle in which he’ll enjoy a considerable 4″ height and 5″ reach advantage.
Moutinho is a capable volume striker who will do his best to make an impression here, but it’s going to be tough to close the distance and find the mark against the crisper, faster, harder-hitting O’Malley and I could see this one ending sooner rather than later with a first round TKO stoppage for ‘Sugar’.
Prediction: Sean O’Malley to win by TKO in Rd1.
UFC 264 Prelims
(Predicted winners in bold)
Carlos Condit vs. Max Griffin
Niko Price vs. Michel Pereira
Ryan Hall vs. Ilia Topuria
Trevin Giles vs. Dricus Du Plessis
Jennifer Maia vs. Jessica Eye
Omari Akhmedov vs. Brad Tavares
Zhalgas Zhumagulov vs. Jerome Rivera
Hu Yaozong vs. Alen Amedovski
Ross Cole is one of the most prolific mixed martial arts writers in the world, having written more than 17,000 MMA news stories for MMA Insight, which he founded in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts, and reaching millions of die-hard MMA fans in the process.
You can read more of Ross’s work at MMAInsight.com.