Best bets for UFC 264: Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 3ESPN PLUS ($ MATERIAL)
There isn't even a title on the line, yet this is hands down the biggest fight of the year. The Dustin Poirier versus Conor McGregor trilogy matchup could decide who fights Charles Oliveira for the lightweight title. The post-Khabib Nurmagomedov era is still young but could see a new dominant champ. But again, title implications don't really matter to make this fight interesting.
What matters is whether Poirier can prove his knockout of McGregor was no fluke and that he has emerged as the future lightweight king. McGregor, on the other hand, has revenge on his mind. Even if he wins, his future as a fighter is always in doubt. Who needs to enter a cage when you've already become the richest fighter in MMA history? Poirier wants to secure his future, McGregor wants to wash away a blemish of the past.
Divergent motivations are certainly relevant, but for now we'll just look at the performance stats. We'll also look for value before the main event goes down.
Odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.
Featherweight main event: No. 5 Conor McGregor (+105) vs. No. 1 Dustin Poirier (-125)
Tale Of The Tape
|DUSTIN POIRIER||CONOR MCGREGOR|
|Last fight weight class||Lightweight||Lightweight|
|Stand-up striking offense|
|Total knockdown ratio (scored:received)||12:2||13:1|
|Distance knockdown rate||1.8%||5.4%|
|Head jab accuracy||40%||29%|
|Head power accuracy||44%||42%|
|Total stand-up strike ratio||1.1||1.2|
|Total head strike defense||67%||68%|
|Distance knockdown defense ("Chin")||99%||99%|
|Wrestling and grappling|
|TD attempts per min standing/clinch||0.39||0.11|
|Advances per takedown/top control||0.5||1.3|
|Opponent takedown attempts||67||31|
|Share of total ground time in control||52%||41%|
|Submission attempts per trip to ground||0.43||0.00|
With odds that have floated for months, the market still hasn't really taken a significant side in this one. McGregor's odds have historically seemed inflated due to his popularity, and in this space nearly six months ago, we took the underdog value on Poirier. Now, with the benefit of having seen them fight for seven and half minutes, the once long odds on Poirier have drawn close to even. With such affordable odds, we're left with a simple question: Who has the better chance to win?
On paper, it's still close to a coin flip, but Poirier gets a slight edge this time. That again ignores which man did more in the interval since the last meeting to improve his game. On one side, McGregor's motivation of revenge is the stuff of legends. On the other, Poirier's heart and constant improvements may be more than McGregor can muster in his quasi-retired state of mind.
Numerically, Poirier's striking has become some of the best in the division, while he was already a competent and dangerous grappler. Despite falling to the wrestling onslaught of Khabib (but who didn't?), Poirier remains the better ground threat in this matchup. He now also looks to be at least as dangerous a striker, if not more.
McGregor is still capable of finding an advancing chin and possesses the power to capitalize on small openings. But Poirier's experience should weather the early storms, and his multileveled striking attacks can wear down the most durable and energetic opponents (see fights vs. Max Holloway, Justin Gaethje, Dan Hooker, etc.).
E+ recommends: Money line lean on Poirier at near even odds, but keep an eye open for whenever his price might flex into plus money.
Best bets elsewhere on the cardGetting a veteran former champion at plus money against a fighter the same age who has yet to win against highly-ranked talent certainly seems like a bargain. Carlos Condit's (+160) performance metrics have never been stellar, but he has run a gauntlet of top talent, including three title fight appearances (and one win). Strength of schedule for him has been brutal, and yet still he persists.
Condit prefers high-volume combinations that keep opponents on the defensive, and he combines that with an aggressive style of grappling. That could help him win rounds in an otherwise close matchup with Max Griffin (-190). Griffin's recent KO wins are impressive, but Condit has faced and survived elite strikers before. And if Griffin isn't getting the finish, it plays to Condit's cardio and dual-level abilities.
E+ recommends: Money-line lean on Condit at plus money.
For a worthy favorite to back, consider women's flyweight Jennifer Maia (-195), who is coming off a five-round loss to current champ Valentina Shevchenko. Though she only won a single round against a dominant champion, that's a more impressive performance than the two consecutive losses for Jessica Eye (+165).
Several areas of performance stats are actually identical. But the career trajectory and recency of performances favors Maia as the upside fighter with the brighter future. Even as a 2-1 favorite, Maia looks like the right side to back.
E+ recommends: Money-line play on Maia.