The UFC makes its long-awaited return to a sold-out T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas! UFC 264 not only sold out in seconds but has also recorded the most Pay-Per-View presales in UFC History and is on pace to be the biggest UFC event in terms of PPVs sales ever. The highly anticipated trilogy fight between Dustin "The Diamond" Poirier and "The Notorious" Conor McGregor will cap off this incredible card, so let's get to the fights!
SEAN O'MALLEY (-900) VS KRIS MOUTINHO (+600)
"Sugar" Sean O'Malley has become one of the MMA world's most polarizing young stars. Highlight-reel knockouts, flashy looks, and the ability to get on the mic and captivate an audience that's what makes a star these days, and O'Malley has all of it. While many argue O'Malley lacks true competition due to not fighting any Ranked fighters, O'Malley himself remains Unranked and still holds a 13-1 professional record. O'Malley has finished 10 of his 14 opponents, 9 wins coming from KO and 1 by Submission. His only loss coming in August 2020 against Marlon Vera when he suffered a serious foot injury in the first round and was quickly finished via TKO. O'Malley has sensational KO ability for the 135lbs weight class. He is long and rangy for the class with a 72" reach. He can land shots at different angles and from a distance. O'Malley is also an accurate striker who can land with power, evident by his 58.3% significant strikes landed and his 6.31 significant strikes landed per minute.
Kris Moutinho is stepping in on short notice after Louis Smolka pulled out of the fight last week due to a Staph Infection. Unless you're an MMA purest watching every MMA card and every fight, or by chance a big Moutinho fan, you probably haven't heard of him. Moutinho will be stepping into the UFC Octagon for the first time. He begins his UFC Career with a 9-4 record, 3 wins via KO/TKO, and 1 via Submission. Moutinho has also been stopped in all 4 losses, 2 by KO/TKO and 2 by Submission.
O'Malley will win this fight. However, there's little value to take the line on him. While there is slightly more value at taking O'Malley via KO/TKO (-278) or O'Malley within the distance (-345), opting for a round-based prop will be more favorable. O'Malley in the first (+110) will net you even money. O'Malley is the more experienced fighter who loves his spectacular finishes and possesses a 4" reach advantage over Moutinho. I don't believe Moutinho is ready for UFC-level competition, much less someone like O'Malley.
BET: O'Malley In The First (+110)
*While O'Malley via KO/TKO (-278) may not be particularly valuable, it is a very safe bet.
IRENE ALDANA (-120) VS YANA KUNITSKAYA (+100)
Irene Aldana comes into this bout as the slight favorite holding a 12-6 professional record. Aldana has finished 9 of her 12 wins. With 6 coming from KO/TKO and 3 coming by way of submission. To her credit, she was only stopped twice in her 6 losses, both via KO/TKO. Primarily utilizing her striking, averaging 5.52 Significant strikes landed per minute and landing 42.9% of her significant strikes. The last time she fought was in October 2020 where she was dominated by Holly Holm and lost by Unanimous Decision. Aldana has done a good job beating lesser opponents but has struggled with her more notable opponents, like Holm, who took down Aldana 5 times and controlled her for over 5 minutes. Aldana also weighed in 3.5lbs overweight, claiming "my body just stopped." I'll get more into this momentarily but let's take a look at her opponent.
Yana Kunitskaya comes in holding a 14-5 professional record. Winning 7 of those via KO/TKO, 1 via Submission, and 6 via Decision. She has been finished in 4 of her 5 losses, 2 by KO/TKO, 2 by Submission, 1 by Decision. also primarily employing a pure striking style, Yana lands slightly fewer Significant strikes, just 4.2 compared to Aldana, but Yana is incredibly accurate when she throws them, landing 73.1% of her significant strikes. Yana also comes into this fight with a slight size disadvantage compared to Aldana and not because of Aldana's missed weight. Yana stands 3" shorter than Aldana and a .5" shorter reach.
Even as a slight underdog, I have this fight going to Yana. looking at the matchup itself, I leaned towards Yana until the official weigh-ins, where I went all-in on her. "My body just stopped" those are words no fighter ever wants to say, and I bring you this because it likely signifies that Aldana had a bad weight cut, and her body could be drained, at the very least, isn't at 100%.
BET: Yana Kunitskaya (+100)
TAI TUIVASA (-150) VS GREG HARDY (+125)
Tai "Bam Bam" Tuivasa comes into this fight holding a 12-3 record, with 11 wins coming via KO/TKO, 1 via Decision and has suffered losses by KO, Submission, and Decision. Tuivasa, at times, looks like a killer, all finishes coming in the first round, all 3 losses coming in the second round or later. The Australian definitely lives up to his nickname with his powerful strikes. The stout Aussie Southpaw averages 4.38 significant strikes landed per minute and lands 52.8% of his significant strikes. He likes to utilized kicks heavily into his arsenal, deploying leg kicks and body kicks early to wear down opponents and open up his punches. Due to his heavy hands and quick finishes, Tuivasa doesn't see the mat much, but with the small sample size we do have, his ground game is a place for improvement. He has also shown the ability to absorb heavy shots early in fights.
Staring down the Australian is former NFL Defensive Lineman Greg Hardy. Hardy enters this bout with a 7-3 and 1 No Contest professional record. Hardy has earned 6 wins via KO/TKO and 1 via Decision. He has also suffered 2 KO/TKO losses, 1 via Decision and 1 No Contest because he used an inhaler between rounds. He is also coming off a 2nd round loss in December. Hardy transitioned to MMA after finding himself without a job in the NFL after dealing with some severe off-the-field issues. While still new to MMA, Hardy has done a ton of work since coming into the sport. Even after winning his first three bouts by KO/TKO, all within 1 minute, and a total of 5 wins coming in under a minute! Hardy started his MMA career looking very green but has improved tremendously since the beginning. Hardy's game is still not polished, and by no means is he perfect, and he has room to grow, but he has been one of if not the most improved fighters in the last couple of years. He lands an average of 4.83 significant strikes per minute and lands 52.7% of his significant strikes. Striking is definitely his strong suit; he does have the ability to take down his opponents too. Hardy also has huge size advantages against Tuivasa, 3" height advantage, and 4.5" reach advantage. Some concerns about Hardy will be how his cardio holds up after seeing him fade as the fight's progress, and that reportedly was 340lbs before camp and had to cut all the way down to 264lbs.
This is a fight I will most likely not be betting on a fighter; however, I want to offer you this, when it comes to cutting weight, it's all about dehydrating. Fighters cut their water weight to reach the weight limits. After initial weigh-ins, fighters will start putting back on that water weight and technically fight "overweight," with some fighters gaining 20 or more pounds between the weigh-ins and the fight itself. Hardy will be coming into this fight potentially a little drained, but he also had the ability to lose 80lbs in just one camp. that weight was definitely not all, just water weight. Now cardio may be an issue, but after this camp, the one thing I'm certain of is Hardy won't give up in this fight. Now I offer this because in back-to-back fights, we have fighters with potential weight and cutting issues, but I believe Hardy will fair better because yes, he pushed his body, but above all, Hardy is also an elite athlete. Now I bring all this about Hardy; this isn't to overlook Tuivasa but to tell you this will be a fight and one that might not be a technically sound fight but one that will have two guys throwing bombs and giving it their all. I will be shocked if it goes the distance.
*Finish In The Distance (-190) is intriguing
CO-MAIN EVENT WELTERWEIGHT:
GILBERT BURNS (+135) VS STEPHEN THOMPSON (-160)
Gilbert "Durinho" Burns is heading into this contest with a 19-4 record, coming off a loss to Kamaru Usman in February. Prior to that, Burns enjoyed a 6-fight winning streak with wins over Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley. Burns has 6 wins via KO/TKO and 8 via Submission. Burns can deliver massive power shots that can stagger and take out most in the division, even knocking down Usman early in their fight. Burns can mix it up between his punches and kicks, but where he can be really dangerous is his grappling. he averages just over 2 takedowns per fight. Once he has you down, he can control the ground, he can deal damage, and of course, he can make you tap. one thing with Burns is he likes to move straight ahead, throwing his powerful shots and mix in his wrestling. Gilbert Burns is no easy fight for anyone and will be looking to get his name back in the win column and work back towards title contention.
Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson has been a fan favorite for a long time and has been a very exciting fighter throughout his career. Coming in with a 16-4-1record. Wonderboy is a world-class kickboxer and has made his mark on the UFC with his ability to mix his strikes and kicks and hit opponents at any level with any strike. He lands 4.2 significant strikes per minute and has a 46.6% accuracy rating. However, wonderboy has shown signs of being on the wrong side of his prime at the age of 38, having a 3-3 record since 2017, and all wins being Decision victories while 2 losses coming from Decision and 1 via KO/TKO. While some of the power and accuracy behind Wonderboy's shots might be starting to regress, one thing to note is he has remained durable and still has a big gas tank and can still go the distance. Wonderboy has always relied on his kickboxing, and for more than good reason, that's not to discredit his grappling, either, more so his takedown defense, which has been elite, earning a 78% takedown defense efficiency. Now I would give Burns the edge when it comes to grappling, but that doesn't mean count out Wonderboy immediately if Burns gets his hands on him.
This will be one of the better fights on the card. Burns has the power; Wonderboy has the technique. Even with the power and the volume coming from Burns, Wonderboy has always been good at keeping distance with his opponents and landing the shots he is given, whether to the legs, body, or head. Wonderboy has his eyes set on Usman and the title now, so he's coming into this fight with more purpose than just wanting to win. Wonderboy can keep the distance, pick his shots, accumulate points, and stuff a couple of takedowns; I think this fight goes to the judges and ultimately to Wonderboy.
BET: Wonderboy by Decision (+160)
MAIN EVENT LIGHTWEIGHT:
DUSTIN POIRIER (-125) VS CONOR McGREGOR (+110)
Previous Fight: Poirier via KO
Time for the fight we're all here for. Dustin 'The Diamond' Poirier comes into this bout with a 27-6 record, with 14 wins coming from KO/TKO and 6 via Submission. Poirier has been rather overlooked for a lot of his career before establishing himself as a top contender, especially with his KO win over McGregor. Poirier will stand and trade shots on his feet all day and excels while grappling with his strong Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu background. He can deal a lot of damage while standing and deal it efficiently, landing 5.59 significant strikes per minute and landing 54.5% of his significant strikes. He also now has the MMA world transfixed on his calf kicks which were ultimately what did in McGregor setting Poirier up for the KO. with the strong grappling background, Poirier lands about 1.4 Takedowns per fight and has a 36.49% takedown efficiency. Once he has his opponents down, he has the ability to keep control, deal damage, and open up possible submission attempts. this also heavily plays into when Poirier is on the defensive side of grappling; he's able to work his way out and get to a position where he's more comfortable. Poirier has also been incredibly durable throughout his career, only being Knockout twice. Poirier will look to win the Trilogy fight and move on to fight for the World Title next.
"The Notorious" Conor McGregor will make just his third UFC appearance since 2018. McGregor has been a long time fan favorite and has become the UFC's biggest draw of all time since he took the UFC by storm with his highlight-reel KO's, predicting the outcomes of his own fights with almost another worldly accuracy, his trash-talking ability to dissect his opponent verbally, and of course all his press conference antics. The trash-talking has always been one of Conor's biggest weapons. He gets into his opponent's heads and throws off their game before they ever step foot in the Octagon. Then once in the Octagon, Conor had an amazing ability to set up lethal combos from any and every angle with pin point accuracy and has a left hand that could put anyone to sleep. Now 32, and only having a handful of fights over the past few years with nearly 2 years off between some fights, critics are beginning to question if Conors best days are behind him and if he's now just a flashy name to get ticket sales. Whether you think Conor will return to the elite level he once was at or not, it's hard to say he's completely done. with a record of 22-5 and 19 coming from KO; it's hard to write off Conor. Conor averages 5.32 significant strikes landed per minute and lands with 55.48% accuracy. Conor has also utilized a range of kicks in his arsenal to help set up his combos. The biggest knock on Conor has always been his ground game. Conor never looks for takedowns, and when he is takedown, he tends to struggle to get back to his feet.
This is the money fight; the one everyone's coming to watch. while Poirier has emerged as the guy, it's hard not to look at Conor and say he's done. However, Conor looks like he's back, putting in consistent training and returning to his antics during press conferences, verbally tearing down Poirier even going as far as to throw Poiriers own branded hot sauce across the venue. Conor even made his claim the only way Poirier is leaving T Mobile Arena will be in a body bag. The biggest concern is that in their most recent fight Poirier scored a takedown, and Conor wasn't able to do anything after that; however, I think Conor is back and will be watching for the leg kicks and the takedowns and will be a smarter fighter. The biggest issue last fight was Conor's extended time off; now back with a real fight under his belt again, Conor will take the Trilogy. This will also 100% end within the distance.
BET: Conor McGregor (+110) Conor To Win By Finish (+135)
*LINES SUBJECT TO CHANGE