The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight division’s infinite supply of quality match ups offers an enticing rubber match this Saturday (July 10, 2021) when Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor headline UFC 264, a pay-per-view (PPV) blockbuster that will emanate from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Earlier that evening, Stephen Thompson looks to make his case for another title shot against Gilbert Burns and Irene Aldana meets Yana Kunitskaya in a clash of Top 5 Bantamweights.
We’ve still got the late ESPN “Prelims” undercard lineup to cover (check out the first batch here), so let’s check it out:
145 lbs.: Ryan Hall vs. Ilia Topuria
A fortunate turn of events sent Ryan Hall (8-1) to The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 22 Finale despite a loss to Saul Rogers, and he made the most of the opportunity by dominating Artem Lobov in his debut. He has since won another three fights, becoming the first man to tap B.J. Penn in the process.
This will be his first fight in almost exactly two years.
Georgia’s Ilia Topuria (10-0) stepped up on short notice for an Oct. 2020 Octagon debut, which saw him defeat the red-hot Youssef Zalal on “Fight Island.” He returned to action less than two months later against Damon Jackson, whom he flattened with a vicious right hand midway through the first round.
His seven stoppages include five submissions.
As someone who’s deeply fond of watching ultra-specialized fighters defeat better-rounded opponents, it pains me to say that Hall’s in for it here. Topuria seemingly has all the tools to ruin Hall’s day — excellent wrestling, quality jiu-jitsu and some truly vicious punching power with which to punish Hall’s oddball striking. Hall needs to either land an early Imanari roll or pray that Topuria decides to test himself on the mat, because things will go very poorly for him otherwise.
All that said, Hall’s had two years to tighten up his game, so he might be able to surprise Topuria. Considering how lethal he is on the mat, he really only needs one opening. Still, it’s hard to see him getting one over on someone with this many tools. Respect for Hall’s ground game may stop Topuria from pushing for a finish, but that just means 15 minutes of patient destruction instead.
Prediction: Topuria via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Carlos Condit vs. Max Griffin
Carlos Condit (32-13) — a former interim champion and perennial contender — seemed to be on his last legs after suffering five consecutive defeats from 2016 to 2018. Rumors of his career demise proved exaggerated, however, as he defeated Court McGee and Matt Brown for his first multi-fight win streak since 2012.
He has ended 28 professional fight inside the distance.
Max Griffin (17-8) initially struggled to find his footing in the Octagon, losing six of his first nine in the world’s largest fight organization. The last eight months have treated him a bit better, as he’s stopped Ramiz Brahimaj and Kenan Song in violent fashion.
“Pain” is the shorter man by three inches but boasts a slight reach advantage.
Like the vast majority of mixed martial arts (MMA) fans, I’m fond of Carlos Condit, but beating a decrepit Matt Brown and a Court McGee who refused to shoot a single takedown isn’t enough to convince me he’s back. Griffin — though inconsistent and a bit fragile — is skilled enough to at least stay afloat on the feet and has developed the offensive wrestling prowess to exploit Condit’s historically awful takedown defense.
To Condit’s credit, he’s still more than tough enough to absorb Griffin’s best shots and isn’t likely to get tapped. Still, even with a full 15 minutes to work, it’s hard to see him shutting down Griffin’s grind. In short, “Pain” takes the approach he used against Imadaev and defuses Condit with patient top control.
Prediction: Griffin via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Niko Price vs. Michel Pereira (25-11)
Niko Price (14-4) bounced back from his career-first loss to Vicente Luque with a 4-2 run that saw him score three “Performance of the Night” bonuses along the way. “The Hybrid” enters the cage this Saturday on a two-fight winless streak, however, falling to Vicente Luque in their ultra-entertaining rematch and suffering a “No Contest” against Donald Cerrone due to a failed drug test.
His 13 stoppage wins include 10 by form of knockout.
Though he started his Octagon run with a bonus-winning knockout of Danny Roberts, Pereira struggled to maintain momentum, dropping an upset decision to Tristan Connelly and getting himself disqualified against Diego Sanchez with an illegal knee. Subsequent efforts proved more successful, taking home “Performance of the Night” for his submission of Zelim Imadaev and handing Khaos Williams his first Octagon defeat.
He gives up three inches of reach despite being the taller man by one inch.
Toning down the acrobatics in favor of a mobile, pot-shotting style has turned Pereira from a sideshow into a legitimate threat, and that’ll be on full display here. He’s got the footwork and speed to run circles around Price, who’ll have all sorts of trouble getting his slugging going when Pereira refuses to stay in the pocket. So long as “Demolidor” keeps his composure, he’s got the tools to thoroughly neutralize and punish Price’s free-swinging offense.
Even if Price does manage to turn it into a slobberknocker, I trust Pereira’s chin a lot more than I do Price’s. In the end,. Pereira plays matador until the opportunity arises to shut the lights out.
Prediction: Pereira via second round technical knockout
185 lbs.: Trevin Giles vs. Dricus Du Plessis
Though he got off to a red-hot 2-0 UFC start, Trevin Giles (14-2) left the sport for 1.5 years to become a police officer, then suffered consecutive submission losses upon his return. He’s since put together a three-fight win streak, most recently edging out late replacement Roman Dolidze in March 2020.
He gives up one inch of height and two inches of reach to “Stillknocks.”
Dricus Du Plessis (15-2) claimed titles in both EFC and KSW on his way to the Octagon, splitting a pair of fights with one of Europe’s best in Roberto Soldic in the process. His Octagon debut pitted him against former LFA champ Markus Perez, resulting in the latter’s first-ever stoppage defeat.
He has tapped nine professional foes and knocked out another six.
It remains as difficult as ever to get a proper bead on Giles. Though clearly skilled and capable of impressive feats of speed and power, he’s so prone to boneheaded moves that he could just as easily win or lose any given fight. He’s a far more technical striker than Du Plessis — whose defensive lapses could very easily get him thumped in short order — but “Stillknocks” has a similar blend of heavy low kicks, hard counters and good reactive takedowns that Dolidze used to great effect. If Giles fights as passively as he did last time out, Du Plessis will cruise past him.
While Giles just blasting Du Plessis into oblivion on the feet wouldn’t surprise me terribly, “The Problem’s” tentativeness and self-destructive tendency to engage with better grapplers on the mat look likely to bite him in the rear again. In short, Du Plessis busts up his lead leg and racks up top control for a comfortable decision.
Prediction: Du Plessis via unanimous decision
UFC 264 features a killer main event and some violent tussles from top to bottom, which will make for a quality PPV offering — be sure you don’t miss it. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 264 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 264: “McGregor vs. Poirier 3” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.