LAS VEGAS, NV — UFC 264 ended in an unexpected manner, with Conor McGregor suffering a debilitating injury to his lower tibia in the closing moments of the opening round. Due to doctor stoppage, the fight was awarded to Dustin Poirier.
Who possibly saw that coming?
Poirier (28-6, 1 NC) looked sharp in the first round, drilling McGregor (22-6) with a vicious array of shots from his ground-and-pound game. McGregor looked to briefly have Poirier in trouble, seeking a risky guillotine submission, but Poirier escaped and then seized control of the round.
It appeared McGregor was in for a long night. Two of the judges awarded the first round, 10-8, in Poirier’s favor, but all McGregor needed was one shot to turn the tide. Unfortunately, the McGregor injury quickly crushed any hopes of witnessing a multi-round classic. Unfortunately for Poirier, the McGregor injury will serve as the focal point of 264, not the stunning first-round offense from Poirier.
The Poirier-McGregor story now, incredibly, continues. After the fight, Poirier claimed McGregor fractured his foot earlier in the round, with McGregor claiming that narrative was entirely false. Poirier claimed that he was in control and going to win the fight, with, naturally, McGregor objecting to those claims.
The passionate dislike between Poirier and McGregor only intensified at 264. After being announced the winner, Poirier mocked McGregor by showing off his own version of the “billionaire strut”, and McGregor then let the insults fly from his post-fight interview while still on the Octagon mat.
UFC 264 was full of action, beginning with an extremely impressive TKO victory from “Sugar” Sean O’Malley, who put on a clinic against Kris Moutinho. O’Malley (14-1) repeatedly drilled Moutinho (9-5) with shots to the face, yet Moutinho kept finding a way to endure and extend the fight. There were 27 seconds left in the third round when the referee stopped the bout, but this was a fight that could have ended a lot earlier. Tougher than a two-dollar steak, Moutinho put on a memorable performance in defeat, and O’Malley now moves on to a much higher-profile fight.
One of the more impressive showings of the night was Irene Aldana laying out Yana Kunitskaya. Aldana (13-6) showed off outstanding boxing in the TKO win, and Kunitskaya (14-6, 1 NC) was clearly in over her head. Yet the big moment for Aldana was stifled by missing weight, turning this bantamweight bout into a catchweight fight. On the subject of momentum, that was seized in the heavyweight bout. Tai Tuivasa knocked out Greg Hardy only 67 seconds into their fight, delighting the crowd and picking up his third straight victory. Tuivasa (12-3) earns himself a high-profile opponent with the victory, while Hardy (7-4, 1 NC) has now dropped two in a row.
A disappointment was the co-main event pitting Gilbert Burns against Stephen Thompson. Burns (20-4) outwrestled Thompson (16-5, 1 NC) in a slow-moving encounter, but he worked the exact pace and style he needed in order to win and hold on to his spot as the number-two ranked contender in the welterweight division. The loss is a tough one for Thompson, and it removes him from any sort of serious title contention.
During the post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White stated that McGregor was scheduled for surgery on Sunday. He suffered a difficult injury from which to recover, but once he does, McGregor’s collision course with Poirier appears destined to continue.
UFC 264 did not serve as the final chapter with its trilogy main event. Instead, it set up Poirier-McGregor IV, with heightened stakes if the title is involved.
LIGHTWEIGHT MAIN EVENT: CONOR MCGREGOR VS. DUSTIN POIRIER -- 12:20 AM ET
The result was not unexpected, though the same cannot be said for the finish.
Following an outstanding first-round fight, Conor McGregor suffered what appeared to be a broken left ankle in the closing moments of the round. McGregor (22-6) missed with a punch and stepped back, which is when the injury occurred.
This was a wild five minutes. McGregor appeared on the cusp of a submission victory, but then the ground-and-pound game from Poirier (28-6, 1 NC) carried him through the remainder of the round.
The win elevates Poirier into a title bout against reigning lightweight champ Charles Oliveira. If Poirier wins the title, his first opponent will likely be McGregor. The vitriol and trash-talk continued after the official announcement, with Poirier unveiling his own billionaire strut and McGregor unleashing a string of insults at his opponent.
Instead of reaching its conclusion, UFC 264 served as another chapter in the ongoing Poirier-McGregor story.
WELTERWEIGHT FIGHT: STEPHEN THOMPSON VS. GILBERT BURNS -- 11:42 PM ET
Gilbert Burns would not allow Stephen Thompson to fight his style.
Burns (20-4) continually forced Thompson (16-5, 1 NC) to the ground, earning himself a unanimous decision victory.
Every time the action picked up, Burns slowed it back down. Edwards connected on a spinning round kick in the third, and a brief brawl ensued until Burns brought the fight back to the mat. This was the type of approach Burns needed to ensure victory, and the win is a big one, putting him back in the victory column after dropping a title bout to reigning champ Kamaru Usman. With the win, Burns has now won seven of his past eight fights.
Usman looks unstoppable as champ, but the welterweight division is full of tough challengers. Colby Covington is the top-ranked opponent in the division, followed by Burns, who remains in contention with the win, and Leon Edwards. Thompson had won two fights in a row entering the bout, but the loss effectively removes him from the title picture.
HEAVYWEIGHT FIGHT: TAI TUIVASA VS. GREG HARDY -- 11:16 PM ET
Tai Tuivasa put together an outstanding finish against Greg Hardy, winning the fight via TKO in only 65 seconds.
Hardy (7-4, 1 NC) tagged Tuivasa (12-3), but Tuivasa then countered with a vicious left hook. It was over from that point, leading to a third straight win for Tuivasa. He should earn himself a top-10 opponent with that win.
This is Hardy’s second straight loss, and the defeat casts a shadow over his UFC future.
CATCHWEIGHT FIGHT: IRENE ALDANA VS. YANA KUNITSKAYA — 10:56 PM ET
Irene Aldana obliterated Yana Kunitskaya, ending the fight via TKO in the first round.
This was originally scheduled as a bantamweight fight, but Aldana (13-6) did not make weight, taking some of the momentum away from the bout—and costing her 30 percent of her fight purse. But it was never a contest, with Kunitskaya (14-6, 1 NC) unable to defend herself against Aldana’s boxing.
Following the victory, Aldana stated her intentions to one day win the women’s bantamweight title. But right now, there is still a great distance between reigning champ Amanda Nunes and every other single competitor in the division, including Aldana.
BANTAMWEIGHT FIGHT: SEAN O’MALLEY VS. KRIS MOUTINHO — 10:23 PM ET
Entering the fight as a more than minus-800 betting favorite, the odds were all in O’Malley’s favor.
And he delivered, winning the bout by TKO following a third-round referee stoppage. From start to finish, O’Malley’s combination of speed and power was too much for Moutinho.
“He’s a tough motherf-----,” said O’Malley (14-1), summing up the fight succinctly. Moutinho (9-5) took an absolute beating, with O’Malley landing shot after shot after shot.
The fight served as an exciting opener, with a pro-O’Malley crowd giving its props to Moutinho, who filled in for this bout less than two weeks ago. O’Malley is in line for a ranked opponent in his next fight.
Conor McGregor seeks to regain his throne atop the MMA world with a victory against Dustin Poirier in the main event of UFC 264.
A win is a necessity for Poirier (27-6, 1 NC) in order to challenge lightweight champion Charles Oliveira. If McGregor (22-5) loses, he can pivot quite easily to a trilogy fight against Nate Diaz (and a victory there may be enough to reinsert McGregor back into title contention). Win or lose against Poirier at 264, McGregor has another big fight looming against Michael Chandler. Poirier, however, takes a step or two down the rung of relevancy with a loss to McGregor.
The co-main event is also a high-stakes matchup, as Gilbert Burns meets Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Burns (19-4) will fight to hold onto his ranking as second in the welterweight division with a win, keeping himself in contention. Currently ranked fourth, Thompson (16-4, 1 NC) needs this win in order to make a play for the title. At 38, he must capitalize upon this opportunity.
The women’s bantamweight fight pitting Irene Aldana against Yana Kunitskaya suffered a severe loss of momentum when it was moved to a catchweight bout following Aldana (12-6) not making weight. A win allows Kunitskaya (14-5, 1 NC) to elevate herself into a top-four ranking in the division. The card also features a heavyweight bout, as Tai Tuivasa looks to win his third straight fight by picking up a victory against Greg Hardy. Tuivasa (11-3) has an explosive style, but one that leaves him open to getting knocked out, and Hardy (7-3, 1 NC) does possess knockout power.
The card opens with an electric fight. “Sugar” Sean O’Malley will attempt to put on a showcase, sending Kris Moutinho home early after accepting this fight only two weeks ago. Moutinho (9-4) would become an immediate part of UFC lore with a win, but the safe bet (and expensive one at over minus-800) is that O’Malley (13-1) continues his ascent in the bantamweight division.
The show offers a complete card, though UFC 264 is centered around the return of McGregor. After getting crushed by McGregor’s nonstop insults, Poirier wants to let his actions do his speaking for him. He’ll have that chance tonight at UFC 264.
Let the fights begin.
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