UFC 264 may not have a title on the line but it does see a much anticipated trilogy as a headliner, as the Notorious Conor McGregor looks to enact revenge on Dustin Poirier. In the co-main Stephen Thompson faces Gilbert Burns in a title eliminator in what is an exciting clash of styles. Also on the main card is a Heavyweight slog between Tai Tuivasa and Greg Hardy, an intriguing women’s Bantamweight clash and a much loved and hated Sean O’Malley who is set to face newcomer Kris Moutinho on short notice. We take a look at two plays on the main card and one on the undercard in this week’s preview.
UFC 264 Betting Picks
Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor
Who would have thought that we would see Conor McGregor as the underdog against Dustin Poirier but here we are. The pair meet for their trilogy bout after Dustin used a leg kick heavy game to derail the Notorious one and put him away in the second last time out.
This fight is for the next title shot and McGregor has a lot to prove and when his back is to the wall he has been known to come out and shut down the critics and that is what I am backing him to do once again. So let’s look at what went wrong for the Irishman last time out. The leg kicks were heavily blamed for the loss and I tend to agree but I put it down to McGregor’s boxing stance.
McGregor went into the Poirier fight with sights set on a title fight and a Manny Pacquiao boxing bout and I believe that is why he abandoned his traditional karate stance. However, I would be shocked if McGregor doesn’t return to the karate stance as it is effective at nullifying the effect of leg kicks and allows him to get reads on Poirier’s timing before drawing him in and landing a check left hook to put him away.
I do fear for McGregor’s gas tank if Poirier gets through the first couple of rounds though but I am hoping he has fixed the cardio issues somewhat that has plagued his career. McGregor has the more diverse striking arsenal and the timing to cause Poirier a massive headache.
The Irishman wins this fight if he still is anything like his prime (Alvarez McGregor). If the Irishman comes out in a karate stance I will be very pleased with this selection, if not I will be hedging live on Poirier at the end of round 1.
Gilbert Burns vs Stephen Thompson
I am still angry I haven’t seen Stephen Thompson face the champion Usman as I think his style is a serious problem for the Nigerian, however, a win here surely gives him the shot. His opponent, Gilbert Burns is regarded as one of the best submission grapplers in the UFC.
The former Jiu Jitsu world champion has also added a powerful striking arsenal to his game that saw him climb the ranks and gain a title shot. Last time out he enjoyed early success against Usman but was ultimately dismantled by the Nigerian’s jab.
If he can get Thompson down here he is a great chance of putting him away, despite the American actually having some solid submission defense. However, I don’t see him being able to figure out the ‘puzzle’ that is Wonderboy, especially over three rounds. Thompson’s traditional karate background allows him to hit his opponents without being hit himself, all while controlling the centre of the Octagon.
He showcased he’s still got it despite nearing 40 dismantling Vicente Luque and Geoff Neal in his last two fights. Burns will need to use lateral movement to enter and exit swiftly against Thompson and he hasn’t showcased the ability to consistently do that in his UFC tenure. Wonderboy picks him apart at range and gets the win by unanimous decision.
Omari Akhmedov vs Brad Tavares
Omari Akhmedov was impressive last time out against Tom Breese winning by second round submission. He has fought mostly mid-tier Middleweights and Welterweights in his UFC career that spans back to 2013 and most notably fought Marvin Vettori to a draw in 2017. Ultimately though he needs repeated takedowns and to mount up top control time, which he will be unable to do here.
Brad Tavares has fantastic takedown defense and well drilled boxing that should punish Akhmedov every time he closes the distance. Tavares also has a deep gas tank which means the fight will only become increasingly dominant in Tavares’ favour. The American will run away with this fight, earning himself a dominant decision victory or a late stoppage on a badly fading Akhmedov.