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UFC 264 PRELIM CARD
Middleweights open the card as Yaozung Hu takes on Alen Amedovski. Despite his current losing streak, Amedovski should get the win over Hu who holds just a 3-2 record.
Flyweights are on deck as Zhalgas Zhumagulov meets Jerome Rivera. Expect a comfortable win for Zhumagulov as the betting odds have him as a huge favorite.
Two vets in Omari Akhmedov and Brad Tavares will look to establish winning streaks when they compete at 185 pounds. The Hawaiin last fought on UFC 257: Poirier vs. McGregor 2 in January and hopes to secure another win.
Former women's flyweight title challengers in Jennifer Maia and Jessica Eye will battle. Both fighters are looking to return to the win column, and Maia is more favored to do so with Eye likely to go on a three-fight losing streak in the process.
More middleweights are in action as Trevin Giles faces Dricus Du Plessis in this pick em’.
Nobody wanted to fight Ryan Hall. With his funky style and devastating submissions, Hall will finally compete again when he faces rising featherweight Ilia Topuria. Surprisingly, Topuria is favored to come out on top which only shows how high his stock is. Hall’s inactivity will also likely have played a role with his last fight being in July 2019.
A potential Fight of the Night takes place as Niko Price collides with Michel Pereira in a welterweight contest. Both fighters like to bang and entertain the crowd. Don’t expect this to go the distance.
Former interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit headlines the prelims when he faces Max Griffin in a 170-pound encounter. For the first time in years, Condit is on a two-fight winning streak, but still an underdog in this one.
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UFC 264 MAIN CARD
Sean O’Malley (13-1) v Kris Moutinho (9-4)
Sean O’Malley will still remain on the card after his original opponent in Louis Smolka had to pull out of their bantamweight encounter during fight week. Instead, Kris Moutinho will step in on short notice and make his UFC debut.
Many have criticized O’Malley for not fighting ranked opponents that called him out and turning to the unkown Moutinho. O’Malley is the biggest favorite on the card and should get the knockout victory to make it four wins in his last five.
Irene Aldana (12-6) v Yana Kunitskaya (14-5, 1NC)
Irene Aldana will look to return to the win column against Yana Kunitskaya. Aldana was on a two-fight winning streak and looked set for the next bantamweight title shot with one more win. However, she would end up getting outpointed by Holly Holm in October last year.
She now has a chance to get back on track against the streaking Kunitskaya who has won her last two in addition to four of her last five outings overall. This should be a good fight on the main card, with Aldana get back in the winning column.
Tai Tuivasa (12-3) v Greg Hardy (7-3, 1NC)
Heavyweights collide as Tai Tuivasa battles Greg Hardy. Tuivasa recently returned to the UFC with a first-round knockout win over Harry Hunsucker. He will look to use that momentum and go on a winning streak against Hardy, who is coming off the first TKO defeat in his MMA career after his setback against Marcin Tybura back in December.
While Tuivasa isn’t ranked, he is still one of the more high-level opponents that Hardy will have faced and so, it’s not surprising to see that the Australian is a slight favorite. Expect a stoppage here, and likely for Tuivasa to get the win and celebrate with a shoey on his way out of the cage.
Stephen Thompson (16-4-1) v Gilbert Burns (19-4)
Stephen Thompson and Gilbert Burns will meet in a welterweight bout that could have major title implications. Thompson is on a two-fight winning streak after impressive shutouts over Vicente Luque and Geoff Neal.
He has since called for a title shot repeatedly and there can be no denying the former title challenger if he delivers another impressive performance against Burns.
Burns, meanwhile, will look to rebound from his last fight. The Brazilian unsuccessfully challenged for the welterweight title against former teammate Kamaru Usman as he went on to suffer a third-round TKO defeat.
While a win over “Wonderboy” would be unlikely to give him an immediate rematch, it would put him at another win away from doing so at the very least. That said, oddsmakers are still siding with Thompson’s elite striking ability and footwork to get him the win.
A unanimous decision win for Thompson looks a very good bet, and hopefully takes him to an intriguing matchup with Usman for the title next.
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Dustin Poirier (27-6, 1NC) v Conor McGregor (22-5)
The main event will see Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor compete in a rubber match. They collided earlier this year in a rematch at UFC 257 that saw McGregor get knocked out for the first time in his MMA career after a relatively competitive first round.
A major factor that led to the knockout was the leg kicks Poirier dished out as well as mixing things up with takedowns and clinchwork early on. McGregor has since stated that he is prepared for all facets of mixed martial arts and that he’s also in the best shape of his life.
He will have to find a way to defend those calf kicks that also left him a non-mobile target.
Poirier, meanwhile, chose this fight rather than going for the lightweight title as it naturally put more money in his bank account. Some believe he’s lacking motivation as a result, but the same can be said for McGregor who hasn’t looked anywhere near the same fighter that dominated the sport in 2016 ever since he made hundreds of millions.
With many also simply believing Poirier is the better fighter at this stage of their careers as well, it’s not surprising to see “The Diamond’ being a slight favorite. Conor has always been able to step up on the big stage, and has he was able to get the victory in the Nate Diaz rematch after making proper adjustments.
I’ll go with Mystic Mac to get the decision victory.
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About Ryan O’Leary
Ryan O’Leary is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist and commentator. The Swedish-based writer is the founder and editor at MMAViking.com, which is the premier source for Nordic mixed martial arts news since 2008.