In the co-main event, top-five welterweights Gilbert Burns and Stephen Thompson look to impress UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. Elsewhere on the main card, heavyweight prospects Tai Tuivasa and Greg Hardy take each other head-on, bantamweights Irene Aldana and Yana Kunitskaya lock horns and Sean O’Malley welcomes promotional newcomer Kris Moutinho.
Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor 3
Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor are tied at one-a-piece and will settle their rivalry in their blockbuster trilogy fight this weekend. In their rematch at UFC 257 in January, Poirier avenged his 2014 loss by finishing McGregor in the second round. ‘The Diamond’s’ calf kicks were the talk of the town then, and they are expected to make an appearance again on Saturday.
McGregor claims to be better prepared to counter them this time around, however and promises a clinical performance. McGregor is one of the finest strikers in the UFC, and there’s no doubt about the fact that he can knock out any person in his division, in the first two rounds. He will try to finish Poirier quickly as well, but it will be a tough ask.
Poirier has improved tremendously over the past few years and is a hard man to put away. He also grows as the fight progresses so he’d want the fight to play out longer if he can’t get a knockout. McGregor should rely on his kicking more this time around, and use his distance management to set up his attacks and bait Poirier into making mistakes.
In contrast, Poirier should look to mix it up in the first couple of rounds, with striking and grappling to put McGregor off his game plan, wear him out, find his range and put him away. The trilogy fight will be similar in many ways to their last fight, but McGregor will definitely be better prepared this time around. Poirier will be buzzing with confidence, however.
Gilbert Burns vs Stephen Thompson
Gilbert Burns vs Stephen Thompson is a good old BJJ vs Karate fight, where both men will like to fight to their strengths. But make no mistake about it, Burns can crack, while Stephen Thompson isn’t a slouch on the mat either.
‘Wonderboy’ is also a tough man to keep on the mat, and has an exceptional takedown defence. He’s also a lot better in the striking department than Burns and will use his distance management and striking to score heavily on the judges’ scorecards, and potentially put Burns away.
Burns will like to take the fight to the mat because that’s where he thrives. But if he fails to do so, he should put pressure on Thompson, push him against the fence, and land his shots. Realistically, it’s a very tough matchup for ‘Durinho’, but he’s up for it, and has the tools to pull off the upset.
Tai Tuivasa vs Greg Hardy
This one has the potential to end really, really quickly. Both Tuivasa and Hardy are hard-hitting heavyweights, who love to stand and bang. They are predominantly strikers and do not entertain grappling much.
Tuivasa is more well-rounded than Hardy. He throws kicks, punches, can grapple and has great endurance. Although Hardy has better boxing than Tuivasa, he’s not much of a kicker or a grappler and doesn’t have a great gas tank. Therefore, if this goes all three rounds, expect Tuivasa to get his hand raised.
However, given the fact that heavyweight fights are often high-octane, this shouldn’t go past the second round, especially when both fighters fight fire with fire.
Irene Aldana vs Yana Kunitskaya
Aldana vs Kunitskaya is another striker vs grappler matchup. Aldana is the better striker, with crisp boxing and movement, and her obvious route to victory is a striking match, whereas Kunitskaya would like to take the fight to the mat and play to her strengths.
‘Robles’ does have a solid takedown defence and will look to stuff the takedowns, and keep the fight at distance. It all comes down to who implements her game plan better.
Sean O’Malley vs Kris Moutinho
Sean O’Malley is a -895 favourite against promotional newcomer Kris Moutinho, which means if he loses, it will be the biggest upset in UFC history. It would also cause a meltdown on the internet if that happens.
However, there are solid reasons to believe that O’Malley would come out on top against Moutinho. Both fighters are predominantly strikers, but O’Malley is a lot more experienced at the top level, is faster, has more variety and is the taller fighter. Moutinho will have a hard time keeping up with him, especially on short notice, but anything can happen in a fistfight, so if he closes the distance quickly and attacks O’Malley aggressively, there is always a possibility.
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