On Saturday, UFC 264 is taking place from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and the card is headlined by one of the most highly anticipated fights of the year. UFC legend Conor McGregor faces Dustin Poirier in a trilogy fight, and the winner could get the next title shot against UFC Lightweight Champion Charles Oliveira. Oliveira will reportedly be cageside for the fight, so there could be a face off in the cage after the fight is over between Oliveira and the winner.
- Conor McGregor (-103) vs. Dustin Poirier (-125)
- Gilbert Burns (+125) vs. Stephen Thompson (-155)
- Greg Hardy (+115) vs. Tai Tuivasa (-143)
- Sean O’Malley (-1000) vs. Kris Moutinho (+600)
- Irene Aldana (-120) vs. Yana Kunitskaya (-105)
- Conor McGregor by KO, TKO or DQ (+140)
- Dustin Poirier by KO, TKO or DQ (+175)
- Dustin Poirier by Decision (+550)
- Dustin Poirier by Submission (+700)
- Conor McGregor by Decision (+700)
- Conor McGregor by Submission (+2000)
- Tie (+6600)
To Go the Distance
- Conor McGregor-Dustin Poirier: Yes (+275), No (-400)
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Main Event: Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 3
McGregor’s first fight against Poirier took place in 2014, before McGregor became a mainstream superstar. McGregor quickly finished Poirier, recording a first-round TKO. McGregor’s decisive win over Poirier made him a substantial betting favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook for the rematch, which took place in January 2021. McGregor entered the rematch as over a -300 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook, and he was expected to win by knockout again, with Conor McGregor by KO, TKO or DQ easily the most likely outcome of the fight at -177 odds.
Poirier ended up winning by KO/TKO in a stunning upset. McGregor had never been finished with strikes in an MMA fight before, and this outcome was unexpected, as Dustin Poirier by KO, TKO or DQ carried +600 odds on DraftKings Sportsbook prior to the fight.
McGregor’s fighting style changed between the two fights. McGregor was training for a potential boxing match against Manny Pacquiao before his most recent fight against Poirier, and McGregor’s boxing prep bled into the rematch. McGregor showcased a more traditional boxing stance and style in the rematch, putting his weight on his lead leg and leaning forward in a more stationary stance. This was a noticeable change from his first fight against Poirier, where McGregor was constantly using movement and unorthodox strikes to attack Poirier from unpredictable angles. McGregor did not showcase the same “bounce” in his movement in the rematch, which is something his coach John Kavanagh also pointed out after the fight.
Poirier took advantage of McGregor’s stance and attacked McGregor’s lead leg with calf kicks, which McGregor did not check effectively. These calf kicks quickly crippled McGregor’s base and ultimately contributed to a fight-ending punching combination with strikes to the head after McGregor’s leg was hurt.
McGregor did not perform up to his usual standards in the second fight, but he did have moments of success. McGregor wobbled Poirier with a punch, and Poirier admitted after the fight that had McGregor followed up on the strike, he may have been in big trouble.
The vintage version of McGregor—the one who wasn’t overconsumed by boxing training—is one of the best and most diverse strikers in the sport. McGregor’s left hand is legendary, his distance and range are elite, and his precision and timing are among the best ever.
Peak McGregor is lethal at keeping his range by hammering his opponents with kicks from the outside, then setting traps and baiting fighters to lunge at him, where he can execute his trademark pull-back counter on an overextended and overreaching opponent. McGregor won the UFC lightweight title largely by baiting Eddie Alvarez into lunging in and overextending, where he used his pull-back counter to drop Alvarez three times and win by KO/TKO. McGregor executed a similar retreating left into a lunging Jose Aldo when he won the UFC featherweight title in December 2015.
Peak McGregor does leave his chin exposed in the standup, but he protects his chin with elite distance management. McGregor leaving his chin exposed is also part of his trap to lure opponents into chasing him, where he can create distance and launch a counter into the opening once they overextend.
There are a few paths that stick out as ways to beat peak Conor McGregor—assuming McGregor reverts to his old form and doesn’t let Poirier cripple his leg again. One path is through offensive wrestling and grappling, which is why Khabib Nurmagomedov was such a tough matchup for McGregor. Nurmagomedov has some of the best MMA wrestling ever along with arguably the best top game ever and McGregor was unable to launch his full standup game due to the constant threat of the takedown. Poirier dabbled in this strategy in the rematch, quickly recording a takedown in the opening round and forcing McGregor to expend energy wall-walking back to his feet.
McGregor has publicly tried to dissuade Poirier from going for takedowns in recent weeks, tweeting “first one to shoots a dusty (expletive)”. McGregor further tried to bait Poirier into a striking match, later tweeting “best boxer, my (expletive)! Shooting (expletive), shelling (expletive)”. It is pretty clear that McGregor wants to try to get Poirier to strike with him.
Another path to beat vintage McGregor is to drag McGregor into the later rounds, because McGregor tends to tire in fights and can be more susceptible to absorbing strikes if his movement slows down. Diminished movement did cause McGregor to absorb shots in the rematch, although it was largely due to Poirier’s calf kicks rather than fatigue. If McGregor is prepared to defend his legs this time around, Poirier’s best chance at landing clean may come in the later rounds if McGregor’s movement slows down due to fatigue and he is unable to distance himself properly.
This fight has the makings of a finish. Both fights between McGregor and Poirier have ended via KO/TKO, and both fighters have the skills to repeat their performances. Because there is a good chance this fight ends via KO/TKO, taking a look at prop bets on DraftKings Sportsbook could be fruitful. Dustin Poirier to win by finish (+145) and Conor McGregor to win by finish (+135) both carry plus odds.
The most appealing bet for me is the McGregor moneyline. The odds will continue to fluctuate leading up to the fight, but McGregor is hovering around even money. McGregor should have learned from his mistakes in the second fight and should be better prepared to defend those calf kicks this time. If McGregor doesn’t let Poirier cripple his legs, he will be in a good position to utilize his strengths in the stand up and land the legendary left hand that has finished so many of his opponents in the past, including Poirier.
Pick: Conor McGregor by KO/TKO (+140)
DraftKings Sportsbook bets to consider
- Conor McGregor moneyline (-103)
- Conor McGregor by KO/TKO (+140)
- To go the distance: No (-400)
- Conor McGregor to win by finish (+135)
Rising prospect Sean O’Malley was originally scheduled to face Louis Smolka on this card, but Smolka was forced to withdraw due to an infection. O’Malley will now face Kris Moutinho, who is stepping in on extremely short notice. As a result, O’Malley has surged up to a massive -1000 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook, which makes O’Malley the biggest favorite on the slate by a huge margin. No other fighter is bigger than a -350 favorite for this event.
It is rare that we see a UFC fighter with -1000 odds to win, and DraftKings fantasy owners can take advantage of this in DraftKings daily fantasy MMA contests by plugging in O’Malley at $9,500. O’Malley’s price was set before his opponent was changed, which gives him some value despite the high price tag.
The main fantasy MMA tournament has a massive prize pool of $1 million this week. Enter the contest for only $25 here.
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