The UFC returns from its Independence Day break with a PPV sure to contain plenty of fireworks. The UFC 264 prelims are rich with notable names and compelling matchups.
Unlike a lot of Conor McGregor cards in the past, it seems as if the deck is stacked with exciting fights from top to bottom. Before we can break down the incredible bouts on the main card, it is only right to get into all that UFC 264 has to offer on its undercard.
You can catch the Prelims on ESPN/ESPN+ starting at 8 PM EST / 5 PM PST.
Trevin Giles (14-2) vs Dricus du Plessis (14-2)
To kick off the prelims, the matchmakers have put a post-hype prospect in Trevin Giles, vs the next big thing in the two-time KSW Champion, Dricus du Plessis. Giles has shown a propensity to have mental lapses in the octagon, including moments where he does not push the pace. At other times, Giles shows all the promise of the guy the UFC signed originally at 9-0, as shown in his masterpiece against Bevon Lewis. du Plessis showed some jitters and hesitancy early in his UFC debut against Markus Perez but was able to eventually sit down on his counters against the wild “Maluka", eventually landing a left hook to beat Perez to his “patented" spinning back elbow.
In this matchup, if Giles can set his pace, and make du Plessis dig into his gas tank, I like the chance of Giles to use his defensive movement and counters to land the cleaner shots in the boxing realm. If du Plessis can land his leg kicks early and often, and stuff the takedowns with his Judo and Wrestling background, he may be able to stifle the movement of Giles and land a finish of his own. The longer this fight goes, the more it favors Giles, who has been the distance three times in his career, whereas du Plessis has never been the distance, win or lose. For that reason, I favor the seasoned UFC veteran in Giles to set his pace and find a late finish or decision victory. One thing is for sure, someone"s 14-2 has got to go! Official Pick: Giles R3 KO
Ryan Hall (8-1) vs Ilia Topuria (10-0)
For the next exciting matchup at UFC 264, the UFC has TUF 22 winner Ryan Hall against the high-level Georgian prospect, Ilia Topuria. Hall sports a 3rd-degree black belt in BJJ, while Topuria is the first-ever BJJ black belt of Georgian descent. Hall has an extensive grappling record, with 17 medals in competition between 2006 and 2012. Topuria is a high-level Greco-Roman wrestler to go along with his fluid grappling skills. What remains to be seen, is if this is a classic grappler vs grappler match-up where we see it play out on the feet instead.
If that were to be the case, I believe that Topuria possesses the cleaner boxing technique, and the wrestling to stuff the inefficient takedowns of Hall should he shoot to take this fight to the mat. In fact, Topuria"s wrestling background to go along with his BJJ prowess should be enough to negate the higher-level grappler on paper. If Topuria can"t find a finish on the feet, I expect Hall to pull guard or grapple in desperation, possibly leading to a decision for Topuria.
Official Pick: Topuria by Decision
Niko Price (14-4, 2 NC) vs Michel Pereira (25-11, 2 NC)
Of all the bangers put together on UFC 264, this is potentially the most exciting fight for the whole card. On paper, Michel Pereira is the more impressive striker, with a high-level accuracy and defense, paired with an average number of strikes landed per minute. Niko Price is a high output, low defense, brawler, who is not afraid to engage with any opponent. Pereira"s movement and striking defense mean that he should be landing at a more efficient clip in this fight, but I do envision Price potentially landing more total strikes, similar to Khaos Williams in his matchup against the “Demolidor". The overall level of unpredictability in the movement, process, and combinations of Pereira cause for a fun matchup, let alone against someone with the level of output of “Hybrid" Niko Price.
The difference-maker in this fight may come down to the wrestling and top control of Pereira, who has shown a much more level-headed approach in his recent bouts against Zelim Imadaev and Williams. Price has proven to be dangerous from any position, but Pereira has shown good durability, only being finished once by KO and once by submission in his 38 fight career. Price has been finished a combined four times, for all of his losses, but a more methodical striker like Pereira, who might lean on his wrestling, could end up handing Price his first decision loss, one that almost came at the hands of Vicente Luque before a doctor"s stoppage. Official Pick: Pereira by Decision
Carlos Condit (32-13) vs Max Griffin (17-8)
Well respected UFC veteran Carlos Condit welcomes Max “Pain" Griffin to the octagon for the Featured Prelim of UFC 264. Condit, no stranger to a tough match-up, has proven his Achilles heel in the UFC to be his defensive wrestling and submission defense. When not getting controlled on his back, Condit shows a high output with a diverse arsenal of strikes. Unfortunately, opponents know his weaknesses and actively look to attack them on a consistent basis. Griffin has shown the ability to fight an ugly fight, sometimes to his detriment, where he has been the victim of two split-decision losses. In the past, Griffin has been able to wrestle his opponent and use his movement to avoid takedowns against almost everyone besides Colby Covington. Most recently, Griffin has shown an improved game plan on the feet, using his movement and improved pop on his punches, to sit down and create damage with volume and single strikes.
In this bout, I predict that Condit will not be quick enough to deter Griffin from landing his boxing combinations. If the stand-up isn"t comfortable for Griffin due to Condit"s kicks and range management, I think that Griffin can lean on his wrestling in his back pocket to cover the gap in experience and smother Condit for extended periods on the mat. Condit does not have a submission victory in the UFC, and Griffin has never been KO"d on the feet in his UFC career (I don"t envision a Covington-style ground and pound victory for Condit). If Condit can"t land a clean shot early, Griffin should use his speed advantage and boxing combos to set up his takedowns and make it a very long night for Condit. I envision a KO victory for Griffin when Condit gets overwhelmed by the volume and gasses out. Official Pick: Griffin R2 KO
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