The biggest trilogy fight in UFC history arguably is finally upon us as Dustin Poirier takes on Conor McGregor to break the deadlock between them at UFC 264.
McGregor knocked Poirier out in their first fight back in 2014, but Poirier got his own back in January at UFC 257 with a knockout win of his own to level it up at 1-1. The winner of this bout is highly likely to challenge for the lightweight title in their next bout, so the stakes could not be any higher.
In the co-main event we have a huge welterweight contender fight too as former title challengers Gilbert Burns and Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson go head-to-head with each other to try and climb towards another shot against Kamaru Usman in the near future.
Also on the card is the return of ‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley as he opens up the main card, while the prelims are full of exciting bouts too.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 30, we went 12/6 with two perfect picks for our selection for a not so good outing. That took us to 352/554 (63.54%) with 160 perfect picks (45.45%) since starting up.
Sean O’Malley (13-1) vs Kris Moutinho (9-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fun fight to open up the main card as ‘Suga’ returns to action against short-notice opponent Kris Moutinho, making his UFC debut. O’Malley bounced back from the first defeat of his career to Marlon Vera at UFC 252 with a stunning knockout win against Thomas Almeida at UFC 260, while Moutinho has won his last two including most recently in May.
O’Malley is a phenomenal striker, with quick kicks and bricks for hands as well as his excellent jiu-jitsu skills too. Moutinho is a good striker too, with good front kicks and a nice right cross to go with it. His issue in this fight is going to be the speed difference, where O’Malley absolutely blows him out of the water.
He’s too fast, too strong and too precise and this is more of a showcase fight for O’Malley than anything else.
PICK – Sean O’Malley via Knockout, Round 1
Irene Aldana (12-6) vs Yana Kunitskaya (14-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A very fun fight in the women’s bantamweight division between two potential title contenders in the near future. Aldana lost her last fight, getting dominated by Holly Holm while Kunitskaya has won her last two in a row via decision against Julija Stoliarenko at UFC Vegas 6 and Ketlen Vieira at UFC Vegas 19.
Aldana is a very good boxer, with a good reach and a great left hook that knocked out Vieira in the past. She’s quite one dimensional though and Kunitskaya is very good at battling against her opponents strengths since she is so well rounded herself. She has good punches and kicks and some good takedown abilities, much better than Holm at least who dominated Aldana on the ground.
That leads me to believe that Kunitskaya will be able to do the same and if she can avoid getting hit clean and hard early on, but I’m not sure she will.
PICK – Irene Aldana via Decision
Tai Tuivasa (12-3) vs Greg Hardy (7-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
The big boys are on the card once again as the heavyweights take up the midway point of the main card. Tuivasa had lost three-in-a-row but has since bounced back with big knockout wins over Stefan Struve at UFC 254 and then Harry Hunsucker at UFC Vegas 22. Hardy on the other hand won two in a row including a KO win over Maurice Greene at UFC Vegas 12 before getting KO’d himself by Marcin Tybura at UFC Vegas 17 last time out.
Tuivasa is a juggernaut who has legitimate one-punch knockout power but he also has a great calf kick to set up his big right hand and okay cardio for a heavyweight. Hardy is ever improving and has good power in his hands too, but is still struggling with pacing himself in fights and often blows his load in the cage. Both guys have the power to put the other away but I trust Tuivasa’s chin more than Hardy’s and he paces himself better too.
Overall it won’t be the highest quality but there will be bombs thrown and I expect Tuivasa to land one on Hardy’s chin that sends him to a new realm of consciousness.
PICK – Tai Tuivasa via Knockout, Round 2
Gilbert Burns (19-4) vs Stephen Thompson (16-4-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
An absolute banger of a bout at welterweight in a real contender bout at 170lbs between Burns and Wonderboy. Burns went on a six-fight win streak to earn himself a title shot against Kamaru Usman at UFC 258 but he was knocked out in the third round by his former teammate. Thompson on the other hand has overcome a bad run to win his last two, including a dominant win over Geoff Neal at UFC Vegas 17.
Burns is a jiu-jitsu fighter predominantly but he has recently fallen in love with his hands and has terrific power in both his fists for a knockout, while Thompson is a karate-style fighter who uses excellent footwork to move and his long range to score points on his opponent. Burns is at a disadvantage in height and reach and that means he has to come forward to close the distance, which is where Thompson is at his best.
He hasn’t been taken down in over four years and his striking looks crisper than ever before, so I think this could end up being quite a one-sided decision win for ‘Wonderboy’.
PICK – Stephen Thompson via Decision
Dustin Poirier (27-6) vs Conor McGregor (22-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The biggest fight of the year so far for the UFC and there isn’t a title in sight as Poirier and McGregor look to end their stalemate once and for all. Poirier is currently on a run of seven wins in nine (one no contest) with the only defeat coming to Khabib Nurmagomedov, and his most recent wins coming over Dan Hooker at UFC Vegas 4 and McGregor himself in January. ‘Notorious’ has actually lost three of his last six stretching all the way back to 2016.
Poirier is a boxer with good grappling skills and some solid kicks too as seen in the most recent bout between the two. McGregor on the other hand is a sensational kickboxer who took a more boxing heavy approach last time out to his detriment. It’s the same fight as six months ago in reality, with the difference going to be who makes the better adjustments from that bout.
The crowd being back will be a boost for McGregor but Poirier is legitimately one of the all-time great lightweights ever and he seemed to be able to take Conor’s left-hand in the first round last time. If he can do that again, the longer the fight goes the better it is for Poirier and I see him taking a unanimous decision win in a scrap that will send fans home happy.
PICK – Dustin Poirier via Decision