The main event of UFC 264 set to take place in Las Vegas on Saturday needs little introduction.
Conor McGregor (22-5) and Dustin Poirier (27-6) square off in a trilogy bout with one win apiece. The stakes are immensely high for both men, but especially for McGregor, who is coming off a relatively stunning TKO loss to Poirier in January in Abu Dhabi.
McGregor was hurting Poirier before the latter’s leg kicks started to break down McGregor, eventually leading to the second-round TKO. According to UFC President Dana White, the winner of this fight is going to face Charles Oliveira for the 155-pound title. A possible McGregor career resurrection is on the line.
Sportsbooks have the moneyline as a near pick ’em. FanDuel has Poirier as a -126 favorite, compared to -102 for the Irishman. DraftKings’ odds are Poirier -130 and McGregor +110. McGregor was more than a 2/1 favorite for their previous meeting.
Fans of McGregor are likely seeing a discount here, but a pick ’em for this five-round fight seems reasonable. Hard to say which side has value. Maybe neither and it’s basically a coin toss. As is said in the poker world, don’t mess around with coin flips unless you have to.
That means this shapes up as a fight for which you’re better off taking a look at the props.
Fight to go the distance?
A good fight to look at in terms of McGregor adjustments heading into a rematch of a fight he lost would be his second meeting with Nate Diaz, in August 2016. McGregor won that fight by majority decision. It was a close fight, but McGregor did just enough to clearly win on the scorecards.
That fight was of similarly high stakes in terms of his MMA career. A loss to Diaz in the rematch would have been devastating, and who knows where McGregor would be right now had he dropped the second fight with Diaz.
McGregor’s key to victory in the Poirier trilogy will once again be making adjustments and not running out of energy early. In other words, it seems much more likely the fight will go longer. How long? Hard to say, but it’s easy-ish to imagine it going the full five rounds.
FanDuel has that bet at +340, far superior to DraftKings’ +250.
Both fighters have plenty of finishes on their respective resumes, and it’s one finish apiece from their previous two meetings. That’s why the fight going to the judges is a clear underdog bet. However, there could be value here due to the extra incentive of McGregor being patient on Saturday night.
Think of it from a purely monetary point of view. Another stoppage loss puts McGregor behind the eight ball in terms of future fights. A close decision loss to Poirier at least doesn’t wipe away all the heat and intrigue behind a potentially lucrative Diaz trilogy.
There’s definitely a chance the opposite happens and McGregor goes out of the gate even harder and tries to finish Poirier even sooner to avoid any chances with leg kicks or takedowns. However, Poirier did eat McGregor’s best shots in the rematch and didn’t fold. McGregor may be thinking that he can’t finish Poirier early, so why not settle in for a longer match? Also, consider that Poirier was 1-for-1 with takedowns in their UFC 257 meeting. He may try to grapple even more, which would increase the chances of a longer fight.
McGregor by points is +850 at FanDuel, while Poirier by the same method is +550.
You could play it safer and bet on the fight going over 2.5 rounds at +106 (-105 at DraftKings). FanDuel’s under 2.5 rounds is -134, with DraftKings at -125. Their second fight ended at about a round and a half. Nothing wrong with betting the over and rooting for a less exciting fight.
Thompson vs. Burns in the co-main event
In the co-main, it’s also hard to find value on the moneyline.
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (16-4-1) is the favorite at -156 at FanDuel, compared to +122 for Gilbert Burns (19-4), who last fought in a title match against Kamaru Usman. DraftKings’ odds are the same for Thompson, with Burns at a superior +135 price.
The MMA community seems to have pegged Thompson as a slight favorite, so the odds look fair here. Like McGregor vs. Poirier, the props appear to be where you should look to find potential value.
The fight, scheduled for three rounds, is also basically a pick ’em for going the distance (-134 at FanDuel).
Out of all the method-of-victory bets on the fight, the value could be in Burns by KO/TKO at +600 at FanDuel (DraftKings has +550). Though Burns is a world-class submission artist, he’s become known for his hands in recent years. He dropped the nearly unbreakable Usman in their fight.
The consensus analysis is that Wonderboy is likely to avoid big shots and win on the scorecards. FanDuel and DraftKings have Thompson at +150 to win on the scorecards, while he’s +350 by KO/TKO at FanDuel (DraftKings +275). Neither option seems that appetizing. Neither does Burns by points at FanDuel’s +390 or DraftKings’ +400, given Thompson’s extraordinary kickboxing.
So, you’re left with the aforementioned Burns by KO/TKO at +600 and Burns by submission at +500, the latter price available at both books. While Burns has eight of his 19 MMA wins by submission, Wonderboy hasn’t been submitted since 2010. He also has elite takedown defense.
Between sub and KO/TKO for Burns, the latter seems like a better play (don’t forget Thompson was knocked out cold in 2019 by Anthony Pettis), but it still doesn’t seem like that great of a bet.
Looking at the method-of-victory combos, people liking Burns here could grab him at TKO/KO or sub at +260. Does this bet have any screaming value? Probably not, but if you are skeptical that Wonderboy at 38 has another title run left in him, that’s probably your best prop bet.
Photo: Handout Photo / USA Today Sports
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