It's not hyperbole to say UFC 264 contains not only a great overall card, but one of the biggest fights in the history of the sport. For the third and final time, "The Notorious" Conor McGregor will take on Dustin "The Diamond" Poirier in the Lightweight main event. As for the rest of the night, it's filled with intrigue and expectations. "Sugar" Sean O'Malley looks to build off his victory over Thomas Almeida in spite of his questionable decision-making.
Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson returns to the octagon for the first time in 2021 since his win over Geoff Neal. Irene "Robles" Aldana makes her 2021 debut and is chasing her first win since 2019. Finally, the current "big-bad-villain" Greg Hardy faces a first-round knockout specialist in Tai Tuivasa, who has four first-round KO/TKOs dating back to 2017. This night will be an epic showing of talent, power, entertainment, and one gigantic main event.
"Sugar" Sean O'Malley vs. Kris Moutinho
After O'Malley's original opponent Louis Smolka withdrew from the UFC 264 bout due to a staff infection, Kris Moutinho got the call to take the fight instead. Going up against "Sugar" Sean O'Malley is a tough task to overcome in your UFC debut. He's looking to make a big statement to the entire world and if he gets a victory over Sean, he'll do just that.
Sean is coming off a nice KO/TKO win over Thomas Almeida in March, but it doesn't come without controversy. He had Almeida finished twice, or so he thought. Sean began to walk away from the fight thinking the referee would stop it and when he didn't, Sean rushed back in to finish Almeida.
Then, he almost did it again, but actually finished Almeida with a huge right hand. It was a strange series of events and surely Sean has learned from the odd moment. The man has style, there is no debate there, but he needs to stop chasing the highlight-reel finish and just fight to win.
Irene "Robles" Aldana vs Yana "Foxy" Kunitskaya
Yana "Foxy" Kunitskaya hasn't lost in the UFC since her KO/TKO loss to Aspen Ladd. Irene Aldana's only fight in 2020 was her five-round loss to "The Preacher's Daughter" herself, Holly Holm. This is a big fight in the Women's Bantamweight division. If Irene learned anything from her fight against Holly, then now is the time to utilize it and pull off the win. All of Yana's wins in the UFC have come by decision and her only two losses have both come by KO/TKO. Irene may need to finish Yana to avoid letting the judges make the call.
Greg "Prince of War" Hardy vs. Tai "Bam Bam" Tuivasa
Greg Hardy's last showing was in 2020 when he lost due to KO/TKO to Marcin Tybura. Given his personal history, Hardy is an easy person to root against. Most of the intrigue with him is watching him transition from NFL football to MMA all while hoping he loses. He sports a 7-3-0 record and faces a first-round knockout artist in Tai Tuivasa. Hardy's chin was already tested against Tybura and it will be again by Tuivasa at UFC 264. Tuivasa's last fight didn't last one minute. He won by KO/TKO over Harry Hunsucker at the 0:49 mark of the very first round.
This fight isn't that difficult to predict. Hardy needs to avoid Tuivasa's power at all costs and Tai needs to end the bout quickly. The longer the fight goes, the lower the chances of Tuivasa securing the win.
Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson vs. Gilbert "Durinho" Burns
Wonderboy has had a rollercoaster career. Now at age 38, he will take on Gilbert Burns who was just put away by the Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman by KO/TKO in February. Many fans have asked the question of when Wonderboy will retire? It seems that the Kind-Karate-Kid has no intentions of hanging up the gloves any time soon. Gilbert will look to regain his confidence in the octagon and inch his way back into title contention. At this point, Wonderboy's chances at winning a championship belt are pretty slim. His love for the sport is his sole driving force and he needs to go out on a high note. If UFC 264 is one of Wonderboy's final showcases, then hopefully it's one hell of a fight.
"The Notorious" Conor McGregor vs. Dustin "The Diamond" Poirier 3
The main event of UFC 264 is one of the biggest fights, possibly ever. Conor McGregor beat Dustin Poirier by KO/TKO in under two minutes of the first round in their first fight back in 2014. It was obvious that Conor was too much for Dustin to handle at that point in his career. Dustin had no answer for Conor then.
Their second fight wasn't for another seven years and just took place this past January. Dustin had become a much different fighter now. He fully utilized Conor's wide and staggered stance to chop away at his lead-leg with the low calf kick.
This game-plan effectively made Conor's leg useless and that allowed Dustin to move in, albeit dangerously, to Conor's comfort zone. Dustin knocked Conor out for the first legitimate time in Conor's career and shocked the world. Both fighters will of course make adjustments to their style ahead of this fight. The real question becomes: who resorts back to old habits? Will Dustin underestimate Conor's striking power and move into dangerous territory again? Can Conor use mobility against Dustin and not rely on his wide stance exposing the lead-leg?
I have no prediction for this fight because frankly, I don't believe anyone knows how this is going to go down. Each respective fighter is amongst the top of their division and only their individual corners know what they will do. UFC 264 is July 10 on ESPN+ PPV and is most definitely going to revitalize the MIXED part of MMA.