The UFC returns with another blockbuster card for UFC 264, topped by the trilogy fight between longtime rivals Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor. With one win apiece, both by knockout, the winner of this third fight will hold bragging rights until the end of time - not to mention earn a title shot at 155lbs.
With an amazing main event to go along with four other intriguing main-card fights, @MMAdamMartin takes a closer look at the UFC 264 card.
Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor - Lightweight (five rounds)
Dustin Poirier to win 1.79: One of the top lightweight fighters in the world today, Poirier is coming off of a career-best win over McGregor in his last fight. “The Diamond” has fought and defeated many of the best fighters in the sport, including Max Holloway, Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez, as he has transformed into one of the elite fighters in MMA.
Poirier is incredibly well-rounded with terrific striking skills to go along with slick submissions and all the intangibles you want from a championship-level fighter. Although he lost his first fight to McGregor back in 2014 at UFC 178, he showed by winning at UFC 257 that he is incredibly dangerous and much improved. If he can go out there and beat McGregor in the trilogy, it seems likely that Poirier will be fighting for the belt later this year.
Conor McGregor to win 2.15: One of the greatest superstars in MMA history, McGregor is a former two-division champion in the UFC. The Irishman has had some amazing performances over the years, with wins over the likes of Jose Aldo, Eddie Alvarez and Nate Diaz, and of course Poirier. McGregor is one of the biggest punchers we have ever seen in the sport and he also has extreme confidence, which allows him to defeat many of his opponents mentally. Although McGregor is coming off of a tough loss to Poirier in his last fight, he still has the ability to knock anyone out with one punch, and so you can’t count him out.
Total rounds: The total rounds for this bout has been set at 1.5 rounds. Given that this is a scheduled five-round fight in the lightweight division, I’m a bit surprised that the total didn’t open at 2.5 rounds, especially as the last fight went just over 1.5 rounds. There is certainly the possibility of a quick knockout here given how much power both men possess, but overall I am leaning a bit towards the Over (1.48) in this fight. I see Poirier being able to survive the early storm and then come back and win in the second or third rounds, so I’ll back Poirier here and take the Over.
Betting tips: Dustin Poirier/Over 1.5 rounds (1.95)
What do they other guys think?
Gilbert Burns vs Stephen Thompson - Welterweight; co-main event
Gilbert Burns to win 2.34: One of the top welterweights in the UFC, Burns fought the champ Usman in his last fight and suffered a knockout loss for his first defeat at 170lbs. Prior to the Usman loss, Burns had won four straight fights and was looking like a serious title contender.
A grappler by trade, Burns has really improved his striking over the years, making him a very well-rounded fighter at this point in his career. He has the grappling skills and striking abilities to be competitive with everyone in the division, and a win over Thompson would be big for him.
Stephen Thompson to win 1.66: A long time contender in the UFC welterweight division, Thompson might be 38 years old now but he’s still fighting at a high level. “Wonderboy” has won his last two fights by decision over Vicente Luque and Geoff Neal to prove that he still has what it takes to beat the next batch of UFC welterweight contenders.
A striker by trade, Thompson is extremely difficult to fight on the feet, and he has the takedown defense to keep the majority of his fights standing. Thompson is hoping to fight welterweight champion Kamaru Usman next - and if he can defeat Burns, a title shot is a distinct possibility.
Total rounds: The total rounds for this fight has been set at 2.5 rounds. Given that Thompson’s main path to victory in this fight appears to be a decision on points - just like his last two wins - my lean here is towards the Over (1.72), especially as I side towards a Thompson win. If you are on the Burns side here, then perhaps looking at the Under has value given that his path to victory would likely be a stoppage win. But if you are a believer in “Wonderboy”, go with the Over 2.5 rounds.
Betting tips: Stephen Thompson/Over 2.5 rounds (1.72)
Also on the main card....
Greg Hardy vs Tai Tuivasa - Heavyweight
The heavyweights square off when Tai Tuivasa fights Greg Hardy. Like most heavyweight bouts, this is unlikely to go the distance. Tuivasa is coming off of a great win over Harry Hunsucker, where he showed off his brilliant hand speed, while Hardy is coming off of a TKO loss to Marcin Tybura. If you look deeper into Hardy’s UFC record, the majority of his opponents who he beat are no longer in the UFC - at least Tuivasa has some wins over fighters still on the roster. I’m not completely sold on Hardy at this level, and until he beats a top-15 talent like Tuivasa, I can’t back him. Tuivasa to win this fight via TKO.
Betting tips: Tai Tuivasa (1.78)/Under 1.5 rounds (2.50)
Yana Kunitskaya vs Irene Aldana - Bantamweight
Given that both Irene Aldana and Yana Kunitskaya are two fresh contenders for the UFC bantamweight belt, the winner of this fight may well get a title shot. This is very much a clash of styles as Aldana prefers to stand and bang during her fights, while Kunitskaya likes to wrestle and grind her opponents out on the mat. The winner of this fight will be the one who manages to get the fight in their wheelhouse and keep it there. Although Aldana is a very good striker - and the favourite here - she does get taken down in many of her fights, and Kunitskaya is just relentless with her wrestling. It should be interesting to watch this fight play out, regardless of who emerges with their hand raised - but with her grappling advantage, Kunitskaya to win by decision.
Betting tips: Yana Kunitskaya (2.10) /Over 2.5 rounds (1.33)
Kris Moutinho vs Sean O’Malley - Bantamweight
The bantamweights open up the main card with popular prospect Sean O’Malley taking on UFC newcomer Kris Moutinho. It should be noted that O’Malley was supposed to fight Louis Smolka, but he was forced to withdraw due to a staph infection and Moutinho filled in on super-short notice. Moutinho is making his UFC debut against a top-15 talent in O’Malley and he doesn’t even get a full training camp to prepare for it.
These are really tough circumstances for Mounthino to make his debut - O’Malley already beats the majority of bantamweights in the UFC and now is up against someone with durability issues. This should be an easy fight for O’Malley - as reflected clearly in the betting odds - and I fully expect him to land the knockout blow, likely in the first round.
Betting tips: Sean O’Malley (1.12)/Under 1.5 round (1.61)
Money Talks - Probability vs The Action
By Cloudbet staff
Cloudbet's proprietary Money Talks feature offers a direct representation of the odds on an event (the Probability line) and of the action taken so far by Cloudbet - shown by the Money Talks line.
It's important to realise that the Money Talks line represents the number of bets taken, not the amount taken from bets so far. The result - we can immediately see if bettors are toeing the odds-implied favoured outcome or not.
Poirier vs McGregor: Poirier is slightly favoured to win - with pretty tight odds of 1.79 and 2.15 - but the action so far looks pretty much split down the middle. There's not an awful lot of divergence from the odds-implied outcome of the fight
Kunitskaya vs Aldana: The same can't be said in the women's bantamweight fight. The odds-implied likelihood of a Kunitskaya victory far outweigh the amount of action that she's drawn from Cloudbet bettors. Or to put it another way, bettors have backed Aldana to a far heavier extent than the odds of her winning suggest they should.
Moutinho vs O'Malley: The heavy favourite has seen the lion's share of the action taken by Cloudbet so far, but not quite to the extent that the odds suggest. Perhaps some bettors see value in backing a chance win at 6.99.
All odds are correct at the time of writing, but please make sure to check the live site for the latest numbers.