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UFC 264: Poirier vs McGregor 3

#UFC264 MMA Betting Preview

It’s Monday morning, and I stop through the usual 7-Eleven to grab my extra-large cup of joe before hitting the office. As the routine calls, I typically grab two hazelnut creamers to fill the bottom of the cup, but today was different. I reach further to the left for two Irish creams instead. After pouring coffee over the top and securing the lid, I walk to the counter and am greeted by the usual store manager. Before letting him zap my rewards app, I hit him with, “Big UFC fight this weekend!” He scans the rewards code from my phone and says, "Oh, you know I already took Saturday off. I don’t miss the Conor fights.”

After a one-week hiatus, the UFC is back this weekend, and in a huge way. In front of a packed Las Vegas crowd, #5 Conor McGregor and #1 Dustin Poirier takes center stage yet again and looks to settle the score in this much-anticipated trilogy, where we will find out who takes the rubber match from this rivalry which started seven years ago back at UFC 178. Not only will the victor have bragging rights, but it's been vocalized that a title shot is next as well for the winner, and you better believe current lightweight champ Charles Oliveira will be sitting octagon side taking notes.

This has all the makings of the biggest trilogy in UFC history, and fellow fighters sprinkled across the undercard are visibly amped as well to be part of it. UFC 264 is here, so get ready for what will undoubtedly be an epic night.

EVENT DETAILS

  • DATE: SATURDAY 07/10/21
  • BROADCAST: PPV – Prelims: ESPN
  • VENUE: T-Mobile Arena
  • LOCATION: Las Vegas, Nevada
  • MATCHES: 13

MAIN CARD TAKES, PREDICTIONS & BETS

LIGHTWEIGHT (155 LBS): #1 DUSTIN POIRIER (27-6) VS. #5 CONOR MCGREGOR (22-5)

Title implications aside, the T-Mobile Arena will just about explode as Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor make the walk yet again. We are about to find out who takes the rubber match of this trilogy that came out of nowhere. Seven years ago, the first two met. McGregor knocked out Poirier in under two minutes after clipping him with a shot behind the ear, following him to the ground with more of the same. The fight was very close until that point, but it's tough to put much weight into it as the fight barely got going. Earlier this year, the two met up again in Abu Dhabi, and Poirier evened the score finishing McGregor via TKO as well, after an ambush of strikes, after compromising McGregor's leg with some nasty leg kicks, which added up fast. McGregor came into that fight as almost a different fighter than we've seen before and for all the wrong reasons. With millions in the bank and acting as though he were on a charity tour, McGregor packed up the family, did his sightseeing around Abu Dhabi, and made the walk overlooking a very hungry and motivated Poirier. The Diamond made him pay, and it appears he’s awoken "Notorious." McGregor has been very emotional all fight week and is always known for his "black belt" in mind games. He's struggled this week to get into the head of Poirier. His usual press conference tactics fell flat, and Poirier didn’t get sucked in one bit, which resulted in follow-up tweets and social media antics from McGregor as a last-ditch effort. Once clear of the weigh-ins and two prepare for the walk to the octagon, we are in for something special, as McGregor has left all family obligations at home and looks to have put in some quality preparation for the fight. For Poirier, he had the choice to fight for the belt or to set up the trilogy with McGregor, and he didn't flinch at getting us to Saturday night's affair. Knowing Poirier has had this mindset all along, you know he's well prepared, and we will see his best. Poirier is in his prime, and he's looked like a world-beater over the last several years. Along the way, he has wiped out murderers row in the likes of Holloway, Alvarez, Gaethje, Pettis, Hooker, and add McGregor to that list last January. We know what we will get with Poirier, a guy that’s willing to get hit to give you two, with a gas tank for days and a ground game in his back pocket. McGregor will look to land a big shot as early as possible with the intent of hurting Poirier, with all hopes that Poirier doesn’t get into that tool belt he possesses, where he typically takes over fights. Let's look at who has the edge when comparing resumes leading up to this one:

Tale of the tape: Both sit at 5’ 9” though McGregor will have a slight two-inch reach advantage. Both fighters are southpaws, and Poirier has almost three times the fight time than McGregor, though Poirier is six months younger.

Striking: Very comparable statistics on paper. Both are very powerful and have scored several knockdowns while rarely getting put to the mat themselves. Both fighters land over five significant strikes per minute and possess similar defensive abilities. When hit, Poirier tends to “level up” and welcome the scrap while getting busier with counters, while McGregor visibly does not like getting hit and at times shows his cards. EDGE: Poirier

Leg kicks: McGregor has the skill to land some flashy stuff and at times throws front kicks with intent to control distance. Poirier is more about peppering his opponent with shot after shot which takes the legs from his opponent while eventually bringing his opponents' hands down, opening up shots to the head. We saw what Poirier could do with those shots in the last fight with McGregor. EDGE: Poirier

Grappling: Surprisingly, McGregor holds a better takedown accuracy on paper, landing 55% of his attempts. You can't get sucked into that number because McGregor very rarely attempts takedowns. His last successful takedown was in 2014 against Diego Brandao. Poirier has tons of ability on the mat, and it's quite often when in the clinch, you see him catch his opponent off guard by taking the fight down when least expected. Poirier has seven submissions on his record and sunk in a deep attempt against Khabib in their matchup, which had backers going crazy for a brief moment. McGregor typically panics when an attempt is locked in while Poirier looks for reversals and maintains composure. EDGE: Poirier

Mentality: As I mentioned earlier, McGregor is a black belt in mind games, but also his belief in himself and what will go down is close to unmatched. They call him Mystic Mac for a reason, as he's called the outcome of his fights more than once. He's a big believer in visualization and puts in the homework on his opponents like no other. Poirier does his talking in the octagon and never gets sucked into a rap battle. Credit to Poirier, who weathered the storm this week and didn’t get sucked into McGregor’s tactics, though McGregor will continue chirping through the fight and beyond. EDGE: McGregor

Prediction: Dustin Poirier via finish mid to late rounds. The submission prop holds a ton of value at +800

WELTERWEIGHT (170 LBS): #2 GILBERT BURNS (19-4) VS. #4 STEPHEN THOMPSON (16-4-1)

If you’ve ever been to a card live, you know you have to pick your spots very strategically to hit the restroom and beverage lines, not to miss the big matchups. The later the night goes, the longer the lines. I can just imagine spectators who are overdue for a pit stop trying to figure out what to do at this point. Gilbert Burns vs. Stephen Thompson is not only a fantastic matchup, but there is a bunch on the line. It's highly likely, the winner of this one gets the next crack at the title, and for Wonderboy, he’s been right there at the cusp as next title challenger for several years now, after just barely getting edged out four years ago in a majority decision going in Tyron Woodley’s favor. Thompson is one of the best strikers in the division, and his resume backs up the product he brings. After going 58-0 in kickboxing, he moved to MMA and quickly built up a 5-0 pro record before getting the UFC call. He went 8-1, which earned him his first shot at the welterweight strap, which resulted in a draw against Woodley, and they were immediately rebooked, where Woodley snagged the majority decision in another razor close match. Since Thompson has gone 3-2, though he could very easily be 5-0. His two losses were to Darren Till in Liverpool (we won’t get into that, though I will say 22 of 25 media members scored it for Thompson), and to Anthony Pettis, in a fight where Thompson was up two rounds and then got caught with a shot to the head as the round was wrapping up with just seconds left to tick. The three wins along this latest run were decision blowouts against Jorge Masvidal (BMF vs. NMF), Vicente Luque, and most recently Geoff Neal. Gilbert Burns has been on a tear, where he ran up six wins in a row, earning a crack at Kamaru Usman and the strap. Burns hurt Usman early with a shot, but Usman maintained composure and quickly took the fight over, resulting in a TKO finish of Burns out of the shoots in round three. The winner will call for the next shot, and rightfully so. As you look at the matchup, Burns and his aggressiveness will need to close and hunt for the takedowns. Although Thompson has a respectable takedown defense (78%), Burns should be able to get him down, and Thompson will probably be in a position just to survive rounds. Every round starts on the feet, and this gives Thompson the edge out of the shoots. Thompson and his long-range striking and outstanding ability to control the distance, coupled with the fact that we have the big cage Saturday night, will lead to an offensive onslaught of kicks and punches up top, just as we saw against Luque and Neal, where he averaged 155 significant strikes landed in those fights. Burns has some power on the feet, and both guys live for a knockout. It’s no secret that Burns doesn't want to stand for the duration of the fight, but if he struggles to get Thompson down as he'll have room to get on his bike, it could make for a frustrating couple of rounds for Burns. If Burns can successfully get this one to the mat in at least two of the three rounds, he’s probably on his way to getting the nod. The superior kickboxing, recent uptick in output, takedown defense, and big cage are enough reasons to side with the Wonderboy.

Prediction: Stephen Thompson via decision. This prop is offered at +150.

HEAVYWEIGHT (265 LBS): TAI TUIVASA (12-3) VS. GREG HARDY (7-3)

Australian’s own, Tai Tuivasa takes on former Dallas Cowboy Greg Hardy in the night’s only heavyweight scrap on the card. Both guys have had some gas tank issues and find the fight most comfortable standing and trading on the feet. While Tuivasa walks forward and trades in the phone booth, Hardy has shown a more technical striking game and some decent improvement since crossing over into MMA. Due to Hardy’s controversial past personal matters, we will yet once again hear the crowd rooting against him, especially with fan-favorite Tuivasa across the octagon, who's known for heading into the crowd post-fight to down a "shoey" or two during his walkout. Tuivasa will land less, but the crowd will make it sound like much more, though I believe Hardy’s athleticism and mental toughness will shine through. Tuivasa has lost every fight he's been taken down in, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see Hardy close and attempt to take it to the mat at some point as well.

Prediction: Greg Hardy in a 29-28 type fight.

WOMEN’S BANTAMWEIGHT (135 LBS): #4 IRENE ALDANA (12-6) VS. #5 YANA KUNITSKAYA (14-5)

Money continues to come in on Kunitskaya. Both have a lot at stake and are right on the cusp from a title (contender) eliminator with a big win here. Aldana throws much more volume but opens herself up along the way to getting hit. She's pretty readable as well, as she typically circles to the left in her fight, and if Kunitskaya picks this up, it could cause some issues for the #4 ranked Aldana. Kunitskaya throws less volume but is much more accurate while also switching up stances while on the feet. I may be on an island here, but I believe Aldana’s loss to Holly Holm last October has not only lit a fire to get back in the win column, but it exposed some holes she needed to patch up. I believe the work has been done, and we will see a more aggressive approach, pressing the fight and being first to go on the feet as they engage over and over. Another fight where I believe the bigger cage will benefit the better striker (Aldana).

Prediction: Irene Aldana (Note: she missed weight on her first attempt)

BANTAMWEIGHT (135 LBS): SEAN O’MALLEY (13-1) VS. KRIS MOUTINHO (9-4)

Tough luck for Louis Smolka, who had to pull out due to an infection. So in steps, Kris Moutinho, making his UFC debut against the uber-popular Suga Sean O'Malley. O'Malley is a -900 favorite, and for good reason. The seventh-ranked bantamweight in New England, Moutinho is 9-4 and has recently been finished by strikes in two back-to-back fights. Moutinho is a boxer with very limited grappling and has been dropped in many fights. I guess the big question is how long this fight will go? A popular play will be the under 1.5 rounds, though it's pushing -200. O’Malley to win in round 1 is +130.

Prediction: Sean O’Malley (via TKO)

PRELIMS TAKES, PREDICTIONS & BETS

WELTERWEIGHT (170 LBS): CARLOS CONDIT (32-13) VS. MAX GRIFFIN (17-8)

Lots were calling for Condit’s retirement for a bit there as he had lost five straight and six of seven. He then took two years off before opting to return to the cage. He rebounded and won two straight, matched up against two guys really from his era in Matt Brown and Court McGee. Surprisingly, both opted to stand with Condit rather than expose the one weakness that has been there his entire career, that being his takedown defense. Carlos Condit has been taken down more times than anyone in UFC history statistically and has just a 39% takedown defense rate across his career. You'd have to think Griffin and his camp have this in the game plan. Griffin did not land a takedown in either of his last two fights, though he won both via KO. Before those, he had landed 15 takedowns total across his last five fights, losing four of those. I don’t see that happening here, as Griffin has definitely upped his volume on the feet and historically lands more per minute than the vet. If he gets in trouble, I see him closing in for the takedown and top control, which will ultimately score some points in the judges' eyes here if this goes the distance, which I believe it will.

Prediction: Max Griffin via decision.

WELTERWEIGHT (170 LBS): NIKO PRICE (14-4) VS. MICHEL PEREIRA (25-11)

Don’t miss this one. This will be a wild fight. Price is 100 mph out of the gates, not afraid to get into wars, and kind of a nut in there. If anyone can out-crazy him, it's his opponent Michel Pereira. During interviews this week, Pereira was asked if he had the choice to end his career as the greatest fighter or greatest showman ever in there, and he quickly opted for the latter. Pereira has calmed his awkwardness a bit as of late, but the guy will backflip or bounce off the cage walls at any given moment of a fight, and usually when it makes no sense. Pereira says he has some new stuff he’s been working on, which makes me worry for his backers, especially against Niko Price. Price has looked better than his latest run would tell you. His no contest (draw) against Cowboy Cerrone was a gift in a fight where I thought Price won clearly. Before that, he lost via TKO to Vicente Luque when the doctor stepped in and waved off the fight due to eye damage, even though Price was begging to continue. Price could have been winning that fight as well at the point of the stoppage. Anyhow, Price is always live for a knockout, but it's unlikely here as Pereira has only been knocked out once across 38 fights. I can see Price outworking Pereira just enough on the feet across the three rounds, fending off the awkward offense from Pereira. I also can’t trust Pereira’s fight IQ. This will be a fun one to watch.

Prediction: Niko Price

FEATHERWEIGHT (145 LBS): RYAN HALL (8-1) VS. ILIA TOPURIA (10-0)

Finally, Ryan Hall is back after all the drama of other fighters not accepting fights, along with a few cancellations over the last year. Facing him this week is the undefeated prospect from Spain, Ilia Topuria. Not only does the 24-year-old Topuria have ice in his veins, he's looked amazing his entire pro career, but notably two fights into his time with the UFC. In his debut, he cruised through Yousseff Zalal, winning a clear decision, and followed that up with a quick knockout of Damon Jackson just a couple of minutes into the first round of their fight. That fight brought him to 10-0, with nine of those wins coming via finish. Hall has a ton of hype behind him after winning eight straight, including four straight during his UFC stint. Hall is fresh off a decision win against a very durable Darren Elkins, and prior he beat vets Artem Lobov, Gray Maynard, and the shell of MMA legend BJ Penn, where he handed Penn the first submission loss of his career. The difference here for Hall is that Topuria doesn't have the years of damage these other opponents have. He's gone to a decision against all his UFC opponents except Penn. His best days were long gone. Most have been very hesitant to follow Hall to the mat. He's a third-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has won several medals (including worlds) in BJJ/grappling tournaments over the years. I believe Topuria is uber-confident here and will follow Hall to the mat if it goes that way. Standing, Hall has some great kicks but mediocre boxing in comparison to his opponent. As dangerous as Hall is at any given moment of a fight, I see a ton of value in him as a 2:1 underdog, though Topuria, I believe, is the rightful favorite.

Prediction: Ilia Topuria

MIDDLEWEIGHT (185 LBS): TREVIN GILES (14-2) VS. DRICUS DU PLESSIS (15-2)

Dricus Du Plessis began competing at 15 years of age as a K-1 kickboxer and became the Amateur K-1 South American Champion. A few years later, he became the first-ever WAKO K-1 World Champion from South Africa. From there, he ventured into MMA, putting together a 15-2 record as a pro. In his UFC debut, he KO’d Markus Perez in just over 3 minutes, handing Perez his first KO defeat in 16 fights. He's very well-rounded, has a good wrestling base, and although he is known for his striking, he has nine wins via submission. All 15 of his victories are via finish. One Achilles heel for him is that he's hittable with his style, as he inches in getting to his range before pouncing. With that said, and in this spot, Trevin Giles can get through with his speed. Giles has won three straight since losing two consecutive, both of those L’s via submission. Giles has fought some dangerous guys along the way, proving his durability as well, as his last six fights have entered the third round. Du Plessis knowing Giles has lost twice recently via guillotine choke, makes me wonder if he goes for the same. (Du Plessis has won via submission nine times, with his last four via the guillotine) Giles's speed and UFC experience against Du Plessis and his finishing ability make for an intriguing matchup here.

Prediction: Dricus Du Plessis (If he gets this one to the mat, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him lock in a choke. +500 is out there.)

WOMEN’S FLYWEIGHT (125 LBS): #4 JENNIFER MAIA (18-7-1) VS. #7 JESSICA EYE (15-9)

Jessica Eye, fresh off promoting her Only Fans site, takes on former fellow title contender Jennifer Maia. This will be Maia's first fight back since her five-round decision loss to Shevchenko, while Eye has dropped two straight, most recently to Joanne Calderwood and Cynthia Calvillo. Eye just seemed flat in both of those fights and was considerably outstruck and taken down on multiple occasions. Maia will have the stamina edge, and although Eye is known for some decent boxing, Maia should land the cleaner shots and have the edge on the mat if it goes there.

Prediction: Jennifer Maia via decision. A prop is available at +110.

MIDDLEWEIGHT (185 LBS): #13 OMARI AKHMEDOV (21-5-1) VS. #15 BRAD TAVARES (18-6)

Tavares is looking to get in, get out, throw on his cowboy boots, and head over to the Garth Brooks concert. Before finding his seat at Allegiant Stadium, he has a tough test in front of him in the likes of Omari Akhmedov. The Russian is known to press the fight, looking to secure takedowns and ground control, which he has done successfully in four of his last five fights. Tavares' great takedown defense will cause some problems for Akhmedov the longer the fight goes. I could see Tavares dropping the first round and Akhmedov slowing the longer the fight goes, with Tavares technical standup taking over. Tavares is 6-3 since 2015 and has only lost to big strikers (Shahbazyan, Adesanya, Whittaker), two of which have held the belt. I like Tavares in a close one.

Prediction: Brad Tavares in a close decision

FLYWEIGHT (125 LBS): ZHALGAS ZHUMAGULOV (13-5) VS. JEROME RIVERA (10-5)

The biggest favorite on the card, aside from Sean O’Malley, Zhumagulov should out-style Rivera on the feet. His volume and movement should be visibly in his favor, though Rivera will attempt to stay just as busy, though with limited accuracy. Zhumagulov should be able to control where this one goes and do enough to get the nod, even with Rivera’s massive height and reach advantage. Big pass on making a bet.

Prediction: Zhalgas Zhumagulov

MIDDLEWEIGHT (185 LBS): HU YAOZONG (3-2) VS. ALEN AMEDOVSKI (8-2)

If there is any fight on this card to schedule first out of the shoots, while most are still at their hotel rooms or the craps table, it's this one. Both guys are coming off of pretty lengthy layoffs, and neither are ranked inside the top 100 in the division. Amedovski got the UFC call after a short Bellator stint and has since gone 0-2, with a decision loss to Krysztof Jotko and a 17-second knockout loss to John Phillips, giving Phillips his only win in his last six fights. Trying to one-up him in all the wrong ways is Yaozong Hu, who went 3-0 to start his pro career and since has also gone 0-2 in his UFC run. In this matchup, Yaozong will be the much bigger fighter, having fought previously at heavyweight and light heavyweight, and will have a five-inch height advantage to boot. I expect both to come out wild, validating the lower-level tier they reside on, with Amedovski winging shots, while Yaozong closes as he must with his very short 72-inch reach for his frame. I’ve heard working against Yaozong because he won’t have his coaches in his corner for this one with struggles making the trip. That said, the move to 185 should prove out here, and if he can’t touch Amedovski’s chin, he should be able to out grapple and leverage his size, grinding this one out.

Prediction: Lean Hu Yaozong (not sure this fight goes the distance either way)

BET RECAP

  • Poirier (but wait for the McGregor money to pour in late)
  • Poirier/McGregor: Fight won’t start round 4 -170
  • O’Malley/Moutinho UNDER 1.5 rounds -187
  • Du Plessis -115 (consider submission prop at +500)
  • Maia -180 (consider decision prop at +110)
  • Parlay: O’Malley ITD, Topuria, Maia +186

FULL CARD PREDICTIONS

  • DUSTIN POIRIER defeats CONOR MCGREGOR
  • STEPHEN THOMPSON defeats GILBERT BURNS
  • GREG HARDY defeats TAI TUIVASA
  • IRENE ALDANA defeats YANA KUNITSKAYA
  • SEAN O’MALLEY defeats KRIS MOUTINHO
  • MAX GRIFFIN defeats CARLOS CONDIT
  • NIKO PRICE defeats MICHEL PEREIRA
  • ILIA TOPURIA defeats RYAN HALL
  • DECIUS DU PLESSIS defeats TREVIN GILES
  • JENNIFER MAIA defeats JESSICA EYE
  • BRAD TAVARES defeats OMARI AKHMEDOV
  • ZHALGAS ZHUMAGULOV defeats JEROME RIVERA
  • HU YAOZONG defeats ALEN AMEDOVSKI

UFC PREDICTION BET SUMMARY

  • 2021 predictions: 138-102-5 (58%)
  • 2021 wagers: 71-71-2 (50%)

Overall record on SI

  • Predictions: 519-301-16 (63%)
  • Wagers: 281-158-8 (64%)

DFS PLAYS & STRATEGIES

  • Choose active fighters. Coupling an active fighter on their way to a unanimous decision will give you key points for your team. Just like any other DFS traditional sport, you want the active, offensive player that scores. Key metrics here are SLpM and TD AVG/15min.
  • Play the heavyweights. The approximate overall finish rate in the UFC is 54%. Most weight divisions range from 40%-60%, while the heavyweights push a 75% finish rate. You will receive bonus points for finishes inside the distance.
  • Try always to include the main event or title fights. Five-round fights mean more time to rack up points if you pick the right fighter. In some cases, even if you have the loser, the points can be more than a three-round winner.
  • Don't get excited and rush a pick based on stats; consider sample size. Some fighters have limited fights compared to their opponents when looking at metrics. Stats could be exaggerated. Do your research. Watch for spots with debuting fighters as well. Always check the records of the opponents they faced on their way to the UFC. Always pull fight tape as well. You’d be surprised at what you will find.
  • Review methods of victory. I supply the finish rates within this article, and as you dive in, you can compare method of victory to method of loss for the matchups. For example, you can find matchups where Fighter A has a high % of submission victories matched up with Fighter B, with a high % of submission losses.

As mentioned in the tip sheet above, here’s my MMA DFS Heat Chart for UFC 264. As you can see, the chart is ranked based on fight finish odds. Fight finishes are where the points are at in MMA DFS. Take a glance at the stack, and we will break down the individual matchups below.

Screenshot

Two key offensive metrics are strikes and takedowns. They get off on their opponents; watch your points rack up quickly. Here's my Offensive Output Meter for the card. With this chart, you can compare historical fighter averages in these two key metrics as I rank all fighters participating Saturday.

Screenshot (1)
Screenshot (2)

Below is the differential for strikes landed vs. strikes absorbed per minute.

Screenshot (3)

Here is the takedown average per 15 minutes, along with the opponent’s takedown defense percent.

Screenshot (4)

UFC DFS RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Fighters that typically press the action, land takedowns, and/or high finish rates matched up against those that get finished, roster. (see my charts above)
  • Fights projected to NOT go to a decision
    • Poirier/McGregor -350
    • Hardy/Tuivasa -200
    • O’Malley/Moutinho -450
    • Pereira/Price -175
    • Topuria/Hall -162
    • Du Plessis/Giles -137
    • Amedovski/Yaozong -225
  • For the main event, both are live and should get shares. I side with Poirier, but McGregor is always in the mix. Multi lineup players get shares of both.
  • Top-tier fighters to build around include: O’Malley, Topuria
  • Mid-tier fighter considerations are: Du Plessis, Thompson, Maia, Aldana
  • Live dogs that could score: Poirier, Yaozong, Price, Hardy
  • Highly owned fighters: O’Malley, McGregor, Poirier

Good luck, everyone. I hope to see some of you cashing after Saturday night! Follow me on Twitter @Y2CASEY

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