UFC 264 undercard preview: Former NFL star takes on gritty Australian heavyweight while charismatic fan-favourite who smoked WEED with Snoop Dogg takes to the Octagon… the best of the rest before Conor McGregor takes on Dustin Poirier
- All eyes will be on Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier at UFC 264 on Saturday
- However, there are a legion of fighters looking to steal the show in Las Vegas
- Sportsmail profiles the best of the rest on the undercard at UFC 264
All eyes will be on Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier as the lightweight stars bid to settle their thrilling rivalry in a third, and likely final, battle at UFC 264.
McGregor, 32, was handed his first career defeat by knockout on Fight Island in January, with fans and pundits torn as to whether the Irishman has enough to overcome his game American rival.
However, there are plenty of other intriguing battles in Las Vegas this weekend, with two welterweight hopefuls looking to make their case for a shot at Kamaru Usman’s title, an intriguing heavyweight affair and a star of the future hitting the octagon. Sportsmail profiles the best of the rest at UFC 264.
All eyes will be on Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier but some stars will try to steal the show
Gilbert Burns v Stephen Thompson
These two have seen their welterweight championship chance come and go before, but UFC 264 represents a fantastic opportunity to put themselves in the frame for another tilt at the 170-pound title.
Usman has vowed to ‘lap’ his competition, having swept aside all manner of rivals, including Gilbert Burns, in emphatic fashion.
Gilbert Burns tries to get his 170-pound title charge back on track against Stephen Thompson
Thompson, 38, will prove a stern test and is eyeing another title shot in his twilight years
The Brazilian lost to his former team-mate in February and is looking to bounce back against a man who has proved a tricky customer throughout his storied UFC career.
Of all the top welterweights vying for Usman’s belt, the champion has yet to face Stephen Thompson. Wonderboy was involved in two gruelling fights with Tyron Woodley, losing out by small margins in both contests, but he remains confident that he can get another shot at the title.
The 38-year-old has won his last two fights and enters UFC 264 with strong momentum. He will need to keep this fight on the feet, though, with Burns’ world class jiu jitsu a real threat for the American.
Things are unsettled at the top of the division, with it unclear who Usman will face next. A win and a standout performance could go a long way for either man.
Tai Tuivasa v Greg Hardy
In the middle of Saturday’s main card sits an intriguing contest between two heavy hitters.
Tai Tuivasa is on the comeback trail. The charismatic Australian was viewed as a likely contender for the heavyweight title before a three-fight skid saw the 28-year-old take a one-year break from the sport.
Former NFL star Greg Hardy has been on a steep learning curve since changing careers
However, his return to the octagon has seen him register back-to-back wins and he arrives in Las Vegas hoping to add a big name to his list of victims in Greg Hardy.
Hardy has certainly had the attention of the UFC masses since making his debut three years ago. The former NFL defensive linesman has been thrown in the deep end and currently boasts a record of four wins, and three losses.
His UFC journey has proved a steep learning curve and he comes into Saturday night’s contest off the back of a TKO defeat to Marcin Tybura last time out.
Both men have the potential to really fly as UFC stars but that does not happen without wins. This one promises to be an explosive blockbuster.
Tai Tuivasa has bounced back from a three-fight skid and is on the up again heading to Vegas
Irene Aldana v Yana Kunitskaya
Two bantamweights placed in the top five will lock horns on Saturday as they jostle to improve their chances of taking on the all-conquering Amanda Nunes.
Irene Aldana is looking to bounce back after falling to a unanimous points decision defeat to Holly Holm last time out.
Meanwhile, Yana Kunitskaya is looking to put herself in pole position to face Amanda Nunes
She faces Irene Aldana, who lost last time out to bantamweight stalwart Holly Holm
The Mexican veteran struggled to close the range on her taller opponent, and having enjoyed a run of five wins from six, was stopped in her tracks by The Preacher’s Daughter.
Meanwhile, Yana Kunitskaya arrives at the T-Mobile Arena in strong form. The 31-year-old has notched back-to-back decision wins over Julija Stoliarenko and Ketlen Vieira to enter UFC 264 in confident mood.
Nunes has already seen off the top two contenders in the bantamweight division, so the victor of Saturday night’s contest could put themselves in pole position to challenge the Brazilian after her bout against Julianna Pena.
Sean O’Malley v Kris Moutinho
Sean O’Malley does not do boring fights. The flamboyant bantamweight’s fighting style matches his appearance – colourful.
The 26-year-old has been touted as a future star and his personality has certainly resonated with fans ever since he smoked marijuana with Snoop Dogg following his appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series.
Sean O’Malley is destined to be a superstar and will be tough to stop in Sin City on Saturday
O’Malley is the king of highlight reel knockouts, although his nonchalant attitude has seen him criticised by the likes of Michael Bisping, who implored him to find a killer instinct.
The American bounced back from his shock loss to Marlon Vera almost 12 months ago with a Performance of the Night victory over Thomas Almeida last time out and will expect to register another convincing victory over Kris Moutinho.
Moutinho makes his promotional debut on Saturday night after stepping in for Louis Smolka, who had originally been scheduled to face O’Malley before pulling out with an injury.
The 28-year-old is in good form having won his last two fights, but with a record of nine wins, four losses, it would be a major upset if he can get one over O’Malley in Vegas.
A post shared by Sugar Sean O’Malley (@sugaseanmma)
Carlos Condit v Max Griffin
Just when almost everyone had written Carlos Condit off, the welterweight veteran has come back with all guns blazing.
The 37-year-old took a two-year break from the sport after enduring a five-fight losing streak, with many fearing that The Natural Born Killer would call it a day on his illustrious UFC career.
However, the former welterweight champion has returned in fine shape, earning back-to-back wins over Court McGee and Matt Brown.
He faces a stern test in Max Griffin, who is also enjoying a two-fight win streak and looking to break into the top 15 of the welterweight division with a win over the veteran at the T-Mobile Arena.
Welterweight veteran Carlos Condit bids to extend his two-fight win streak against Max Griffin
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