UFC 264: Poirier vs McGregor 3 Staff Predictions

UFC 264 is finally upon us! After several weeks of hype, renewed trash talk, and analyses, Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor will finally have their trilogy fight to cap off a sizzling summer card.

Who will emerge as the winner of the trilogy? Will it be Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier, the Louisianan toughman who has paid his dues in full to be in this grand position he is currently in? One where another title shot will await alongside the legacy as the only man to defeat MMA’s biggest superstar twice? Or will Conor McGregor bounce back in emphatic fashion as he prophesizes he will, setting up a megaevent featuring him challenging for the lightweight title once again against new champion Charles Oliveira?

Luckily for you, we have five members of our all-star staff to help you answer that along with the four other burning questions found on the main card, including the question of who will emerge victorious in the high-level co-main event between top-5 welterweights Gilbert Burns and Stephen Thompson. And will Sean O’Malley turn in another majestic highlight, or will newcomer Kris Moutinho cause irreparable damage to O’Malley’s hype train? We’ve got you covered with our staff picks coming at you from below.

UFC 264: Poirier vs. McGregor 3 PPV Main Card

  • UFC Lightweight Title Eliminator Bout (Unofficial): Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor
  • Gilbert Burns vs. Stephen Thompson
  • Tai Tuivasa vs. Greg Hardy
  • Irene Aldanda vs. Yana Kunitskaya
  • Sean O’Malley vs. Kris Moutinho

UFC 264: Poirier vs. McGregor 3 Predictions

MMA News is the place to be for all the latest UFC 264 updates. Staff members Andrew Ravens, Ed Carbajal, Doug Murray, Kenny Lee, and Harvey Leonard have provided predictions for the card, which you can find below.

Sean O’Malley vs. Kris Moutinho

https://www.photojoiner.net/image/4Y2EUEvW

Andrew Ravens: For fans of Sean O’Malley, this fight is perfect. There’s a lot of unknowns about Kris, as this marks his promotional debut with a 9-4 record coming in. Sean is coming off a big win over Thomas Almeida and is looking to make another statement. That chance is here, and I see him getting another TKO win (Prediction: Sean O’Malley).

Doug Murray: Initially, Sean O’Malley was to take on Louis Smolka but now will meet a UFC newcomer in Kris Moutinho. Of Moutinho’s 13 professional wins, 8 came by way of TKO/knockout, so his method of victory is similar to O’Malley’s. With the feints and counterstriking O’Malley brings to the table, it’s hard for me to see Moutinho getting off more than one or two strikes in each exchange without paying severely (Prediction: Sean O’Malley).

Ed Carbajal: Seeing as how Moutinho was signed to replace O’Malley’s original opponent in Louis Smolka in a little over a week out from the fight, it’s easy to pick O’Malley to win here. It should also be noted that O’Malley’s ectomorphic frame has served him well in his fighting career, injuries aside. It would make for a great story for Moutinho to pick up the win, but history has shown last-minute replacements lose more than they win (Prediction: Sean O’Malley).

Harvey Leonard: Sean O’Malley looked back to his best against Thomas Almeida at UFC 260. If his movement is as fast and his striking as slick as it was against the Brazilian, very few bantamweights outside the group of elites would be able to handle it, let alone a short-notice debutant who’s 5-4 in his last nine bouts. O’Malley’s pace and pressure are likely to overwhelm the promotional newcomer.

However, Kris Moutinho is a tough prospect who’s riding high after consecutive finishes in his last two fights. An upset isn’t out of the question, but it would take a brave person to bet against O’Malley in this one (Prediction: Sean O’Malley).

Kenny Lee: Not much to say here except for the fact that “The Suga Show” will be in full effect in this matchup. It’s a good chance for O’Malley to get another highlight-reel KO or another walk-off KO. Whichever he wishes to do, he’ll do it. Hopefully, O’Malley will get a more high-profile name in the future (Prediction: Sean O’Malley).

Consensus: 5-0 O’Malley

Yana Kunitskaya vs. Irene Aldana

https://www.photojoiner.net/image/tx64H4k9

Andrew Ravens:  I really like Yana here, as she has gone 4-1 in her last 5 while Aldana is coming off a main-event loss last October to Holly Holm. I think Yana pushes the pace and uses her skillset to break the will of Aldana to get the unanimous decision win (Prediction: Yana Kunitskaya).

Doug Murray: Kunitskaya has started blending her game together in the last year. Her last two wins were unanimous decision victories, and they showcased her willingness to stick to a game plan. Mexico’s Aldana packs a punch, but I think Kunitskaya is mobile enough to avoid the damaging shots. In the end, I think that career momentum will play a large factor in this fight (Prediction: Yana Kunitskaya).

Ed Carbajal: Aldana is coming off of a loss to Holm, and Kunitskaya is riding a two-fight win streak. Both women have the ammunition to walk away the winner at UFC 264, but Kunitskaya’s résumé is just a little bit better, not just because of the win streak, but she’s a former Invicta FC champion as well. It may go the distance, but Kunitskaya could outwork Aldana here (Prediction: Yana Kunitskaya).

Harvey Leonard: Irene Aldana has been one of the more promising names in one of the weaker women’s divisions. Having lost her first UFC main event against Holly Holm last year, the Mexican will be desperate to return to winning ways this weekend. I think that hunger, coupled with her impressive takedown defense and superior striking volume, will give her the edge over Kunitskaya. But the Russian’s balanced game and accuracy-focused striking attack make this a tight one (Prediction: Irene Aldana).

Kenny Lee: I believe Irene Aldana has the superior striking ability in this fight, which will determine the winner of this fight. If Kuniskaya can bring the fight to the mat, then I believe she can do some damage and possibly even get the submission. She could also use the clinch against the cage to slow down Aldana, which will be important since Aldana is more of a volume striker. Basically, if Kuniskaya can mix it up with striking and grappling, then she has a good chance to get the win. If not, then I see Aldana outstriking and overwhelming her with her punches.

However, I believe Aldana has good enough takedown defense to keep it on the feet and strike effectively to a unanimous decision win (Prediction: Irene Aldana).

Consensus: 3-2 Kunitskaya

Greg Hardy vs. Tai Tuivasa

Greg Hardy, Tai Tuivasa
Greg Hardy, Tai Tuivasa

Andrew Ravens: Tai Tuivasa has caught fire in his last two bouts with wins after going on a lengthy losing streak while Hardy needs to get on the right path. I can see and understand why some people will look over Hardy in this fight; however, I think Tuivasa will control the majority of what will likely be a short fight until Hardy just catches him with the right punch out of nowhere to get the KO win (Prediction: Greg Hardy).

Doug Murray: Can’t have a pay-per-view without a heavyweight fight, right? With a two-fight win streak intact, it seems Tuivasa is getting more comfortable with striking inside the pocket nowadays. Hardy, on the other hand, is coming off a rough ground-and-pound loss to Marcin Tybura. Tybura has been hot recently, though, so it’s hard to say where each fighter stands. I think the overall UFC experience Tuivasa has collected will pay off here (Prediction: Tai Tuivasa).

Ed Carbajal: Greg Hardy is the walking definition of a “puncher’s chance” fighter in MMA. His punches seem to pack more than the average “chance” to keep him on main cards, but he will have his hands full with Tuivasa. Tuivasa’s experience should give him the answers he needs to Hardy’s reach advantage. This one could end early or go all three, but I’m picking Tuivasa here (Prediction: Tai Tuivasa).

Harvey Leonard: Hardy’s defeat to Marcin Tybura was a setback for the 32-year-old, and I don’t think a heavyweight as aggressive and forthcoming as Tuivasa is the ideal opponent to try and rebound against. After three consecutive defeats, “Bam Bam” has looked back to his best over the last year. Having knocked out Stefan Struve and Harry Hunsucker inside the opening rounds, I anticipate Tuivasa will make it a hat trick of first-round finishes when he faces “Prince of War.” Hardy seems to buckle under intense pace and pressure, both of which are mainstays in the attack of the Australian. I’m expecting the return of “Shoeyvasa” at UFC 264 (Prediction: Tai Tuivasa).

Kenny Lee: Heavyweight fireworks! What an explosive matchup we have here. Personally, I don’t think this fight goes the distance because I believe both fighters have the ability to knock the other out. I think if Hardy keeps his distance, he can pick at his opponent from a distance, frustrating the shorter Tuivasa. However, if Tuivasa can utilize feints to get in on the inside, he has a good chance of catching Hardy and landing a hail mary. Tuivasa by 2nd- round KO (Prediction: Tai Tuivasa).

Consensus: 4-1 Tuivasa

Gilbert Burns vs. Stephen Thompson

Gilbert Burns, Stephen Thompson
Gilbert Burns, Stephen Thompson

Andrew Ravens: I’m very intrigued to see the other picks here, but I think Thompson walks away with the win. Yes, he’s an older fighter; and yes, he did have a recent slump; but he’s won his last two against some notable names. I know Burns is the hot prospect right now, even though he just got TKO’d by Kamaru Usman in his last fight. I think the young fighter, who beat out-of-their-prime fighters to get the title shot and is coming off a loss, will come in with the lower confidence. I have Thompson outclassing him (Prediction: Stephen Thompson).

Doug Murray: Despite being a bit older, I still think Thompson has the speed and reflexes to keep Burns at bay. After losing by TKO to the champ, the tentative nature that Burns might bring into the cage will only cause him problems against a striker as puzzling as Thompson. While I see the fight being close, my gut is saying Thompson can pick Burns apart from the outside for the majority of the three rounds (Prediction: Stephen Thompson).

Ed Carbajal: There’s a pretty cool poster floating around posing this match-up as “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs. Karate.” It screams of shadows of UFC 1, where it all started. And while jiu-jitsu may have won back then, fighters are better prepared for various styles now, regardless of their base. Burns brought in karate-based kickboxer Raymond Daniels to prepare for this, but one fight camp might not be enough to prepare for Thompson. Thompson has fought ground fighters before, so he is likely already prepared for this fight (Prediction: Stephen Thompson).

Harvey Leonard: Not many co-main events come as good as this. Gilbert Burns has risen to the top of the welterweight division and looked close to taking the title early on against Kamaru Usman. Thompson, meanwhile, is a perennial contender who’s looked as good as ever in his last two fights. Thompson will clearly be superior on the feet and inferior on the ground, but Wonderboy’s takedown defense is impeccable, and I find it hard to envision “Durinho” being able to control him and keep him down. I expect Thompson to keep the fight standing and outpoint Burns across three rounds (Prediction: Stephen Thompson).

Kenny Lee: I believe Stephen Thompson will have the edge in this fight if it stays on the feet. However, if it goes to the ground, Burns will have the considerable advantage since he has one of the best BJJ skills in the UFC. Burns needs to take this fight to the ground and submit or ground n’ pound Thompson. However, I think Thompson will be able to stay on the feet and use his karate to outpoint Burns to a unanimous decision win (Prediction: Stephen Thompson).

Consensus: 5-0 Thompson

Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor

Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor Faceoff
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Andrew Ravens: McGregor is going to win this fight. History shows that McGregor looks at the tape of his past fights and knows what he did wrong, so I think he corrects the mistakes that he made in their rematch. He has to avoid those leg kicks, though. He won the rematch with Nate Diaz, and I see that happening here with Dustin, who is a better fighter than Nate. No doubt it will be a close fight that goes the distance, and I could even see it being so close that it ends in a split-decision ruling (Prediction: Conor McGregor).

Doug Murray: The battle of the southpaws. I don’t see a ton of changes coming out of the McGregor camp fast enough to combat the well-rounded approach “The Diamond” brings into each fight, regardless of the opponent. Poirier is well-rounded and can adapt in live time, as we saw in his Fight of the Year candidate bout with Dan Hooker. I don’t think the first round will be as close, either (Prediction: Dustin Poirier).

Ed Carbajal: This one is for all the marbles in the UFC lightweight division. It seems the winner of this fight will get the next title shot, even though there’s a certain former WSOF champ waiting. Best two out of three and looking at the evolution of both men in the UFC, Poirier seems more focused and more evolved since the first time the two men met. Sure, McGregor’s still selling this one to casual fans, but Poirier is hard not to pick (Prediction: Dustin Poirier).

Harvey Leonard: Despite many pushing forward a narrative that McGregor is “washed,” until I’ve seen actual evidence to support that, I can’t predict against the Irishman. Against Cerrone in 2020, he looked sharp and dominant in all aspects of MMA. For large parts against Poirier at UFC 257, he looked to be the more clinical striker. I believe John Kavanagh and the SBG Ireland team are too talented and smart to allow McGregor to follow the same strategic error that led to his defeat last time out.

I expect the return of McGregor’s fluid style, and that’ll make him extremely difficult to beat. The longer the fight goes, the more confident Poirier will get; but in front of a sold-out crowd and with his reputation on the line, I think McGregor will prove a lot of people wrong in this weekend’s headliner (Prediction: Conor McGregor).

Kenny Lee: McGregor needs to bring back his karate stance because that will enable him to keep his distance against Poirier. Fighting Poirier in boxing range enables the Lafayette man to be inside-fighting, which is his strength, and get easier takedowns plus clinches, which will slow down McGregor since he is usually so explosive at the start. Keeping distance against Poirier enables McGregor to use his kicks. KICKS, KICKS, KICKS! 

I believe McGregor is a better kickboxer than Poirier, so he has to use his kicks to trap him against the fence as a set-up to his deadly left hand. People are mentioning the cardio issue for McGregor and that if it goes to the third, fourth, or final round, then Poirier will have a significant advantage. I disagree with this statement. I think McGregor has worked on his cardio these last couple of years and can last as long as, if not more than Poirier.

In their last fight, McGregor’s cardio looked better than I had ever seen, and it seemed like Poirier was the one who was slightly more tired after the first round. Regardless, I think McGregor gets it done by Round-3 TKO (Prediction: Conor McGregor).

Consensus: 3-2 McGregor

UFC 264 Undercard

Preliminary Card

  • Carlos Condit vs. Max Griffin
  • Niko Price vs. Michel Pereira
  • Ryan Hall vs. Ilia Topuria
  • Trevin Giles vs. Dricus Du Plessis

Early Preliminary Card

  • Jennifer Maia vs. Jessica Eye
  • Omari Akhmedov vs. Brad Tavares
  • Zhalgas Zhumagulov vs. Jerome Rivera
  • Hu Yaozong vs. Alen Amedovski

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