UFC 264 features one of the most highly anticipated fights of the year, as MMA superstar Conor McGregor faces Dustin Poirier in a trilogy fight. The matchup is tied 1-1, and the DraftKings Sportsbook betting odds for the third fight are incredibly close.
UFC 264 also has several other compelling fights, including a welterweight bout between former title challengers Gilbert Burns and Stephen Thompson. Rising prospect Sean O’Malley and former NFL player Greg Hardy are also on the card. O’Malley was originally scheduled to face Louis Smolka, but Smolka was forced to withdraw due to injury. O’Malley will now face Kris Moutinho.
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Date: Saturday, July 10
Time: 10:00 p.m. ET (Main Card), 8:00 p.m. ET (Prelims)
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
- Conor McGregor (+108) vs. Dustin Poirier (-130)
- Gilbert Burns (+125) vs. Stephen Thompson (-155)
- Greg Hardy (+110) vs. Tai Tuivasa (-137)
- Sean O’Malley (-835) vs. Kris Moutinho (+525)
- Irene Aldana (-125) vs. Yana Kunitskaya (+100)
- Conor McGregor by KO, TKO or DQ (+140)
- Dustin Poirier by KO, TKO or DQ (+175)
- Dustin Poirier by Decision (+550)
- Dustin Poirier by Submission (+700)
- Conor McGregor by Decision (+700)
- Conor McGregor by Submission (+2000)
- Tie (+6600)
- Conor McGregor-Dustin Poirier: Yes (+275), No (-400)
Main Event Preview
Conor McGregor is one of the biggest stars in the history of mixed martial arts. McGregor is a rare two-division UFC champion, winning the title at featherweight and lightweight, which made him the first fighter to hold UFC titles in multiple divisions at the same time. McGregor’s star power extends beyond his success in the octagon, as he is one of the most compelling talkers and promoters in UFC history. Dustin Poirier is also a highly accomplished fighter, winning the interim title at lightweight and holding wins over several top-ranked fighters.
McGregor’s first fight against Poirier took place back in 2014, before McGregor had ascended into a mainstream superstar. McGregor made quick work of Poirier, recording a first-round TKO. McGregor’s decisive win over Poirier made him a substantial betting favorite for the rematch, which took place in January 2021. McGregor entered the rematch as over a -300 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook, and he was expected to win via KO/TKO again, with Conor McGregor by KO, TKO or DQ easily the most likely outcome of the fight at -177 odds.
Poirier ended up winning the rematch in a stunning upset, finishing McGregor by strikes. McGregor had never been finished with strikes in an MMA fight before, and this outcome was unexpected, as Dustin Poirier by KO, TKO or DQ carried +600 odds on DraftKings Sportsbook prior to the fight.
McGregor’s fighting style changed dramatically between the two fights. Before his most recent fight against Poirier, McGregor was training for a potential boxing match against Manny Pacquiao. McGregor’s boxing prep bled into his fight against Poirier, and McGregor showcased a more traditional boxing stance and style in the rematch, putting his weight on his lead leg and leaning forward in a more stationary stance. This was a big change from his first fight against Poirier, where McGregor was constantly using movement and unorthodox strikes to attack Poirier from unpredictable angles. McGregor did not showcase the same “bounce” in his movement, which is something his coach John Kavanagh also pointed out after the fight.
Poirier took advantage of McGregor’s more boxing-related stance and attacked McGregor’s lead leg with calf kicks, which McGregor did not check effectively. These calf kicks quickly crippled McGregor’s base and ultimately contributed to a fight-ending punching combination with strikes to the head after McGregor’s leg was deadened.
While McGregor did not perform up to his usual standards in the rematch, he did have moments of success and was not far from victory. McGregor wobbled Poirier with a punch, and Poirier admitted after the fight that had McGregor followed up on the shot, he may have been in big trouble.
The vintage version of McGregor—the one who wasn’t overconsumed by boxing training—is one of the best and most diverse strikers in the sport. McGregor’s left hand is legendary, his distance and range are elite, and his precision and timing are among the best ever.
McGregor has been lethal at keeping his range by hammering his opponents with kicks, then setting traps and baiting fighters to lunge at him, where he can execute his trademark pull-back counter to an overextended and overreaching opponent. McGregor won the UFC lightweight title largely by baiting Eddie Alvarez into lunging in and overextending, where he used his pull-back counter to win via TKO:
McGregor executed a similar retreating left into a lunging Jose Aldo when he won the UFC featherweight title in December 2015:
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Vintage McGregor does leave his chin exposed in the standup, but while he doesn’t protect his chin with his hands, he protects his chin with elite distance management. McGregor leaving his chin exposed is also part of his trap to lure opponents into lunging at him where he can create distance and launch a counter into the opening once they overextend.
There are a few paths that stick out as ways to beat peak Conor McGregor—assuming McGregor reverts to his old form. One path is through offensive wrestling and grappling, which is why Khabib Nurmagomedov was such a tough matchup for McGregor. Nurmagomedov has some of the best MMA wrestling ever along with arguably the best top game ever and McGregor was unable to launch his full standup game due to the constant threat of the takedown. Poirier dabbled in this strategy in the rematch, quickly recording a takedown in the opening round and forcing McGregor to expend energy wall-walking back to his feet.
Another path to beat vintage McGregor is to drag McGregor into the later rounds, because McGregor tends to tire in fights and can be more susceptible to absorbing strikes if his movement slows down. Diminished movement did cause McGregor to absorb shots in the rematch, although it was largely due to Poirier’s calf kicks rather than fatigue. If McGregor is prepared to defend his legs this time around, Poirier’s best chance at landing clean may come in the later rounds if McGregor’s movement slows down due to fatigue and he is unable to distance himself properly.
The lead-up to this fight should be intense. McGregor is a master at getting under the skin of his opponent, and McGregor and Poirier had an incident related to a charity donation a few months ago. Prior to their rematch, McGregor said that he would donate $500K to Poirier’s charity, which would help underprivileged children in Poirier’s hometown in Louisiana. Poirier later publicly accused McGregor of not following through on his promise to donate to his charity, which enraged McGregor. McGregor’s explanation was that he was awaiting details for how the money would be spent, and attempts to contact Poirier’s team to get that information were not successful. McGregor was so angry about this accusation that he threatened to cancel the trilogy fight with Poirier, which would cost Poirier a substantial payday.
The trilogy. This Saturday. You think you know what’s going to happen? So do I. Put your money where your mouth is on the @DraftKings with a FREE swing at their UFC 264 pool for your share of $25K. Do it...if you know what’s good for ya. https://t.co/UOOOib2ZcG #ad pic.twitter.com/aSqAgfZsfs— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) July 8, 2021
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