Dustin Poirier beat Conor McGregor at UFC 257. Will he beat him again at UFC 264? | Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for Saturday’s blockbuster UFC 264 main event between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor. The Bloody Elbow staff has made its predictions for UFC 264, and only Lewis McKeever is picking Conor McGregor to win the rubber match against Dustin Poirier. As for the co-main event, Lewis is again the dissenting voice as he believes Gilbert Burns will beat Stephen Thompson in the battle of the former welterweight title challengers.
Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor
Mookie Alexander: It’s hard to see McGregor out-warring Dustin Poirier when none of Messrs Alvarez, Hooker, Gaethje, or Holloway could do it. So that still leaves Conor with about 8 minutes or so to win this fight. He won the first round of the last fight and landed some hard shots that stung Poirier, so can he turn that into a KO? Absolutely! But if he doesn’t? Poirier just has more tools in his arsenal. It’s not just the kicks — it’s just having sharper combination punching and the ability to land more punishing offense on the exit in close quarters. He’s also damn good in the clinch and can fight at a pace Conor absolutely does not thrive in. I sense McGregor will fight better than he did in January but it won’t matter. Conor will wear down, Poirier will hurt him and then he’ll choke him out. Dustin Poirier by submission, round 3.
Lewis McKeever: Conor McGregor sold me during the Stephen A. Smith interview. The Mac is back! McGregor via first-round KO.
David Castillo: I’m really tempted to pick Conor here just because I think he has the higher ceiling in terms of what an adjustment could yield. We saw McGregor do well adjusting, and going the distance with Diaz after losing, so the IQ is there, despite all the hoopla about calf kicks being Stormbreaker or whatever. However, I gotta think that favors Poirier who has the power and technique to break down Conor, unlike Nate, who just didn’t have the power to do so when it looked like Nate might take over in Round 3. Because I expect McGregor to hit a wall, yea. Dustin Poirier by TKO, round 4.
Zane Simon: I hate being the guy that just flips my pick after the most recent result, but McGregor vs. Poirier 2 really felt like it told a pretty complete story of where these two men are right now. Namely that McGregor landed exactly the kind of shots he needed to land to win that fight, and Poirier ate them and came back with his own offense on the counter. Add in some leg kicks that McGregor may or may not adjust to, and you’ve got a recipe for a fight that McGregor will once again likely have a great chance of winning early, but seems like it will be continually turning against him. I’m just not convinced he has any obvious answer for how well Poirier does sliding away out of the pocket on the counter and landing his own offense there. If McGregor’s answer is to hang back and throw less, that only seems more likely to lead to a loss. Dustin Poirier via TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Poirier: Mookie, Dayne, Zane, David, Connor, StephieStaff picking McGregor: Lewis
Gilbert Burns vs. Stephen Thompson
Mookie Alexander: Burns is pretty much the only fighter ranked above Thompson whom I believe Wonderboy clearly matches up favorably against. This may be rendered moot if Burns can take Wonderboy down because Durinho is just that ridiculously talented on the mat. Otherwise Burns’ best chance on the feet is with his powerful hook and it’s easier said than done to consistently catch and hurt Thompson. And watching how easily Burns got flummoxed by Usman’s jab has me thinking Thompson’s diet of kicks at range and flicking that jab out will produce a win on points of Wonderboy… and maybe one more title shot as well. Stephen Thompson by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: The thing about Stephen Thompson is, outside of getting shockingly KO’d by Anthony Pettis in a fight he was otherwise entirely dominating, there’s a real strong argument that ‘Wonderboy’ hasn’t lost a fight since Matt Brown back in 2012. Big punchers who are willing to sit back and wait on him at range can force an incredibly boring point fight out of him that essentially comes down to a judging coin toss, but everyone else who tries to go after him and either out-gun him or take him down ends up with a loss on their record for it. I absolutely don’t think Burns is about to sit back and pull a Tyron Woodley, consistent pressure is too big a part of his game. If he can make his wrestling game happen, obviously the whole equation changes in an instant, but Thompson is a terribly difficult fighter to get in on for double and single legs. It just all spells serious problems for Burns. Stephen Thompson via KO, round 2.
David Castillo: This is just a tough matchup for Burns. I think he’s strictly the better fight threat, but his movement is so binary I just don’t see how he closes the distance in the broad strokes. The saving grace is his quickness. If he can dart in and out, and land that big punch, it’s certainly a possibility, more so than the proverbial “puncher’s chance.” But on a pure, tactical level, I can pick it. Stephen Thompson by Decision.
Staff picking Burns: LewisStaff picking Thompson: Mookie, Dayne, Zane, David, Connor, Stephie
Tai Tuivasa vs. Greg Hardy
Mookie Alexander: Yeah I’ll be the villain here. My heavyweight prediction history is horrible so consider this a favor. Tuivasa should win this by being the superior striker but Hardy does have power in his own right and is the better athlete. Also he might take Tuivasa down and it’s not like Tai’s takedown defense is great. Whatever. I’m rooting for Tuivasa but I’m dreading Greg Hardy by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Tuivasa is almost definitely going to make a lot of questionable decisions that keep this fight a nailbiter (namely just throwing himself bodily at Hardy over and over again). But, if Hardy can’t knock him cold in the process then I trust Tuivasa to maintain an ugly, brutal fight much more than I trust Hardy to stay poised if things get rough. There’s still a very good chance that Hardy catches Tuivasa rushing in and gets the KO. But I’ll take Tuivasa to turn the tide through constant pressure and brutal exchanges. Tai Tuivasa via TKO, round 2.
Staff picking Tuivasa: Dayne, Zane, StephieStaff picking Hardy: Mookie, Lewis, Connor
Irene Aldana vs. Yana Kunitskaya
Mookie Alexander: That’s a horrible weight miss for Aldana. I wonder what impact it will have for the actual fight. I’d back her to outstrike Kunitskaya but if Yana can make this a grueling, slow grind against the fence then it’ll limit a lot of Irene’s offense. I’ll still take Aldana’s superior boxing to win her the fight but I’m not 100% confident. Irena Aldana by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I’m not sure if Aldana missing weight is a bad sign for her or a bad sign for Kunitskaya. Either way, I get the feeling this will be kind of a non-fight, unfortunately. If Kunitskaya gets her way, she’ll likely spend most of the bout pressing Aldana on the fence. And if Aldana gets her way, she’ll likely spend most of it on the back foot looking to counter as Kunitskaya comes forward. Given the big cage and Aldana’s better boxing, I’ll pick her to stay ahead of Kunitskaya and pick up the win. But, Kunitskaya has a way of drawing really bad fights out of people to pick up decisions, so it’s by no means a sure thing. Irene Aldana by decision.
Staff picking Aldana: Mookie, Zane, Connor, StephieStaff picking Kunitskaya: Dayne
Sean O’Malley vs. Kris Moutinho
Mookie Alexander: Moutinho seems like a fun fighter but he’s beaten no one notable and has been stopped in all four of his losses. This is a showcase fight for O’Malley, which is clearly what they intended to keep intact considering Louis Smolka was the original opponent. Sean O’Malley by KO, round 1.
Zane Simon: Moutinho loves to wade into the pocket behind combinations with his head entirely on-line. Against less dynamic athletes, it makes him a really fun, pressuring whirlwind of striking offense with an active clinch game once he gets inside. In this case, it seems perfectly set up to get him absolutely blasted by O’Malley’s slicker, faster, and more dynamic striking arsenal. Sean O’Malley via KO, round 1.
Staff picking O’Malley: Mookie, Lewis, Dayne, Zane, Connor, StephieStaff picking Moutinho:
Carlos Condit vs. Max Griffin
Mookie Alexander: Griffin doesn’t really resort to this consistently but I think he’ll be well advised to not go strike for strike with Condit and spam takedowns. If he does that I think he’ll get the win and end Carlos’ late career resurgence. Max Griffin by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: This is honestly a pretty interesting bout. Griffin has a very Court McGee-like grittiness and consistency to his striking game, which is a fight we just saw Condit win. But, he’s also an unquestionably more powerful puncher with a bit more natural speed as well. Condit has looked great when he has someone in front of him that he can either out-last for cardio, or who can’t hurt him standing. But otherwise has been way easier to push off his game by big strikes than he used to be. It is worth noting that Griffin almost always tends to lose fights where he wrestles a lot, since it usually means he’s not winning striking exchanges and he’s not holding people down. However, I think I gotta stick with him here. I think he’s probably just a little too powerful for Condit to have a clear striking advantage. And he’s got the gas tank to grind for 3 whole rounds if he has to. Max Griffin by decision.
Staff picking Condit: Lewis, Dayne, ConnorStaff picking Griffin: Mookie, Zane, Stephie
Niko Price vs. Michel Pereira
Mookie Alexander: Honestly this is a coin flip to me. Price is either gonna get a finish out of nowhere or he’s going to be spectacularly knocked out. He only knows how to be aggressive and that should bring out the video game shit that Pereira loves to do. I just don’t trust Price’s durability compared to Michel’s. Michel Pereira by KO, round 2.
Zane Simon: Pereira definitely more capable of playing the slicker, more controlled striking game if he wants to. And even has some fantastic power takedowns to change things up with. That said, he’s also lost a lot of fights. In part because he’s just not a defensively responsible fighter whether it’s on the back foot, or lunging in behind a grab bag of high risk, high reward flying techniques. Still, I’ll pick him to take the controlled approach here and pick Price off when he’s coming in with devastating accuracy. If, however, he can’t dissuade Price from pressuring with the first few exchanges (or end the fight there) this could get real messy. Michel Pereira via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Price:Staff picking Pereira: Mookie, Dayne, Zane, Connor, Stephie
Ryan Hall vs. Ilia Topuria
Mookie Alexander: I mean Hall may yet just heel hook his way to victory here but Topuria is so fast and powerful that I trust him not to get trapped in Hall’s funky style and to pick up a win. Ilia Topuria by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Hall has absolutely figured out a way to blow up the MMA meta game. But, it’s hard not to feel like his style of surprising spin kicks and imanari rolls and guard pulls is going to have a very real ceiling. Topuria seems like he could absolutely represent that. He’s far and away the more powerful athlete in the cage. He’s got a great wrestling game. And he’s got a deep grappling game that he clearly puts a lot of faith in. If he can take a few risks against Hall and survive, he can probably land the kind of shots that will force Hall to reconsider his approach. There’s always a chance, though, that he wades in with big punches, Hall pulls guard, Topuria follows him down to the mat, and gets instantly heel hooked. I’m not banking on that, but I can see it. Ilia Topuria via TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Hall:Staff picking Topuria: Mookie, Dayne, Zane, Connor
Dricus du Plessis vs. Trevin Giles
Zane Simon: Giles has some problems with his defense when retreating, but I’m not at all convinced du Plessis is the guy to take advantage of that. He was getting cracked by Markus Perez before Perez tried that goofy spin strike that got him clubbed. And otherwise has often had to be the better wrestler to take control of bouts when he can’t land big, fight-changing counters. Giles is a pretty damn good wrestler and a sharp range striker. Just seems like he can stay a step ahead of du Plessis all fight. Trevin Giles by decision.
Staff picking du Plessis: MookieStaff picking Giles: Dayne, Zane, Connor
Jennifer Maia vs. Jessica Eye
Zane Simon: My hope here is that Eye comes out looking fired up and tries to put a lot of pressure on Maia early, and that forces Maia to respond with some consistent, solid boxing. If Eye were a better open-space takedown artist, I might pick her to grind out the win here. But I think Maia will be able to get her back to the cage when needed to stuff shots, and otherwise is just too tough and too consistent with her hands at the ranges where Eye tends to like to strike. Jennifer Maia by decision.
Staff picking Maia: Mookie, Dayne, Zane, ConnorStaff picking Eye:
Brad Tavares vs. Omari Akhmedov
Zane Simon: If Akhmedov can put some solid faith in his hands and just keep the pressure on Tavares, he has a good shot at winning this fight, even without getting a bunch of takedowns. But, when Akhmedov has faced fighters he feels are better strikers lately, he’s tended to just shoot a lot. And unfortunately for him, Tavares is still practically impossible to get to the mat and keep there. He might not throw enough standing to blow Akhmedov out of the water, but I think he can win a narrow decision just by stuffing shots and keeping his 1-2s and low kicks active. Brad Tavares by decision.
Staff picking Tavares: Mookie, Lewis, Dayne, Zane, ConnorStaff picking Akhmedov:
Zhalgas Zhumagulov vs. Jerome Rivera
Zane Simon: Zhumagulov is a bit too low output to be a real top tier flyweight threat (at least thus far in his UFC career), but Rivera’s tendency to fall into the pocket behind his strikes will probably force a better pace out of Zhumagulov than usual. And unfortunately for Rivera, as he clinches up, he’s ripe to be hit really hard. If Zhumagulov were a more consistent big puncher I’d have more faith in him getting the KO, but he’ll definitely have a good chance at it. Zhalgas Zhumagulov via decision.
Staff picking Zhumagulov: Mookie, Dayne, Zane, ConnorStaff picking Rivera:
Alan Amedovski vs. Hu Yaozong
Zane Simon: Amedovski is just clearly the much more coordinated, athletic puncher. If he doesn’t let Yaozong lean on him all fight, that should be enough to make the difference. Alan Amedovski via KO, round 1.
Staff picking Amedovski: Mookie, Zane, ConnorStaff picking Hu: Dayne