Final UFC 264 main card preview

January 18, 2020; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Conor McGregor is introduced before fighting Donald Cerrone during UFC 246 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Just hours away from the most anticipated Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view of 2021, here is one last look at the main card tomorrow night, inside Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, in this final UFC 264 main card preview.

Final UFC 264 main card preview: Legacy and contership on the line in Conor McGregor/Dustin Poirier III

ufc 264 main card
Apr 12, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Dustin Poirier during weigh ins for UFC 236 at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Plenty has been said about the main event of UFC 264 on Saturday in Las Vegas. It’ has a star-studded trilogy matchup between former two-weight UFC champion Conor McGregor (22-5 MMA, 10-3 UFC) and former UFC interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier (27-6 MMA, 19-5 UFC).

McGregor, 32, is the sport’s most recognizable figure and the highest-paid athlete across sports, according to Forbes.

Rising to prominence on the strength of an electrifying striking arsenal, highlight-reel knockouts, and viral trash talk, McGregor captured both the UFC featherweight and lightweight titles at his peak.

Losses to retired legend Khabib Nurmagomedov and the aforementioned Poirier–whom he defeated by first-round knockout in 2014–in his last three outings have somewhat dulled the untouchable aura of McGregor. Regardless, he will look to close the book on Poirier and establish himself as the No. 1 contender to new champion Charles Oliveira.

Opposite him will be Poirier, also 32. The Louisiana native has put together one of the most impressive resumes in the sport’s recent memory. Including an interim title victory over then-UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway and a loss to Nurmagomedov.

Poirier was able to be the first to knock out McGregor, doing so in the second round of their rematch in January. The American Top Team product will look to repeat history by defeating McGregor for a second time, effectively securing himself another crack at the undisputed title and solidifying that he is a true superstar.

Gilbert Burns and Stephen Thompson look to jump the welterweight contender line

The co-main event of UFC 264 may not feature the publicity of a McGregor fight, but its stakes certainly mirror those of the main event. Top-ranked welterweight contenders in Brazil’s Gilbert Burns (19-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC) and South Carolina’s Stephen Thompson (16-4-1 MMA, 11-4-1 UFC) face off in the hopes of earning the next place in line to challenge UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman come fight night.

Burns, 34, set the welterweight division ablaze following his move from lightweight back in 2019. Already coming off of two straight victories, Burns added four more decisive Ws against the likes of jiu-jitsu legend Demian Maia and former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley in route to a title shot against a former teammate in Usman.

Though Burns came up short to Usman via third-round TKO, he is confident a win over Thompson places him back squarely in title contention.

Thompson, 38, will look to secure his first shot against Usman. One of the few top welterweights yet to face the “Nigerian Nightmare,” Thompson believes his unorthodox striking style poses a threat to the seemingly impregnable champion’s reign.

A former two-time title challenger during the Woodley era, Thompson has won two straight since a 2019 knockout loss at the hands of one-time UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. One of the promotion’s more renowned strikers, Thompson believes his time for championship gold is now.

“Bam Bam” battles the “Prince of War” at heavyweight

Two of the heavyweight division’s hardest-hitting prospects will square off on the main card when Australia’s Tai Tuivasa (12-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) and former NFL star Greg Hardy (7-3 MMA, 4-3, 1 NC UFC) meet in the Octagon.

Tuivasa, a 28-year-old training partner of the legendary Mark Hunt, has won two straight fights by knockout since suffering a three-fight losing streak to some of the heavyweight division’s more established names. A brawler through and through, Tuivasa has won all of his UFC bouts save for one.

He will look to make it three straight against a dangerous foe in the former Pro Bowl defensive end.

Hardy, 32, was fast-tracked into the UFC. Competing just three times–winning his fights in a combined 127 seconds–before making his Octagon debut. While Hardy’s power is evident, he has suffered a series of odd circumstances, including an illegal knee disqualification and a puzzling no contest due to inhaler usage.

Hardy has won two of his last four bouts, sandwiching those victories between decision losses to top-10 heavyweights in Alexander Volkov and Marcin Tybura. He will look to add another knockout to his resume against Tuivasa.

Top 5 women’s bantamweight clash at UFC 264

ufc 264 main card
Dec 14, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Irene Aldana (blue gloves) walks to the octagon before a bout against Ketlen Vieira (not pictured) during UFC 245 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Top five-ranked women’s bantamweight contenders will clash on the UFC 264 main card when Mexico’s Irene Aldana (12-6 MMA, 5-5 UFC) faces Russia’s Yana Kunitskaya (14-5 MMA, 4-2 UFC).

Aldana, 33, went viral in 2019 for her crushing KO victory over Ketlen Vieira back at UFC 245. Riding a two-fight win streak, she faced former \bantamweight champion Holly Holm in the main event of a 2020 UFC Fight Night in what was essentially a No. 1 contender matchup Dropping a decision to the experienced Holm.

However, Aldana will look to regain her momentum against the surging Kunitskaya, 31.

Kunitskaya has won four of her last five, winning two straight on either side of a 2019 loss to prospect Aspen Ladd. The Russian was signed to the UFC in 2018 after she won the Invicta FC bantamweight title and was immediately thrust into the deep end, facing women’s MMA legend Cris “Cyborg” Justino for the UFC featherweight championship in her Octagon debut.

With back-to-back wins over Julija Stoliarenko and the aforementioned Vieira in her last two outings, a win over Aldana could prove to be enough for Kunitskaya to break into title contention.

Highlight reel moment in the making?

Opening the main card will be an exciting bantamweight tilt. As fan-favorite “Suga” Sean O’Malley (13-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) welcomes promotional newcomer Kris Moutinho (9-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC) to the Octagon.

O’Malley, 26, has electrified fans with his creative striking attacks and devastating knockouts since emerging on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2017. Though he suffered his first loss by TKO at the hands of Marlon Vera in 2020, “Suga” has since added a highlight-reel knockout of Thomas Almeida to his resume.

After original opponent Louis Smolka withdrew due to a staph infection, Kris Moutinho stepped in on just a week’s notice to keep the matchup intact.

Moutinho, 28, is an entertaining finisher who has competed extensively on the New England regional scene. With his fan-friendly style and colorfully dyed hair, Moutinho is likely to endear himself to those who have yet to see him compete.

–Field Level Media