Beautiful technique on that standing guillotine choke by Zhumagulov. His arm was in deep.
Time for the first fight of the night: the flyweights Zhalgas Zhumagulov and Jerome Rivera are in the octagon. The early prelims were supposed to start a bit earlier but with a bout canceled because of the virus, it has taken a little while to start the action.
Just before the start of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s biggest event of the year, the coronavirus caused a small hiccup.
One of the early fights on the U.F.C. 264 card, a preliminary bout between the middleweights Hu Yaozong and Alen Amedovski, was canceled because of Covid-19 protocols, U.F.C. officials said.
ESPN was first to report the development. The card, headlined by a highly-anticipated trilogy fight between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, will continue with 12 scheduled bouts.
U.F.C. 264 takes place Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The early preliminary fights start at 6 p.m. Eastern, and the main pay-per-view card will begin at 10 p.m. McGregor and Poirier most likely will not fight until around midnight.
At a news conference Thursday, the U.F.C. president, Dana White, said the event had already generated the most pay-per-view buys in the company’s history, and he expects more the night of the fight.
It will be televised by ESPN+ with a purchase price of $69.99. Fans who do not already have an ESPN+ subscription can buy a bundle that includes the fight and a year of the service for $89.98.
The early prelims, starting at 6 p.m., will be carried by ESPN+ and UFC Fight Pass and include four bouts. The preliminary card of four fights starts at 8 p.m. and will be carried on ESPN and ESPN+. The main card includes five bouts.
The two men first fought in 2014 at 145 pounds. It was McGregor’s fourth fight in the U.F.C., and experts viewed Poirier as his toughest opponent at that stage. But McGregor won almost effortlessly, striking Poirier with a left hook and then exerting finishing punches while Poirier lay on the ground, stopping only when the referee, Herb Dean, intervened.
Eight years later, the two fought at 155 pounds, at “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in January. This time, McGregor landed clean shots but Poirier absorbed them. Poirier viciously attacked McGregor’s legs, wobbling his base. By the end of the first round, McGregor’s lead leg looked red and swollen.
Poirier used that strategy again in the second round and backed McGregor against the fence. He landed a hook to McGregor’s nose, causing him to fall to the ground, where Poirier finished him with punches.
White said the winner of the third fight would be next in line to challenge the lightweight champion, Charles Oliveira.
McGregor entered the U.F.C. in 2013 and quickly garnered attention through his trash talk, confidence and flashy style. He backed up those characteristics in the octagon by quickly dispatching most of his opponents, usually by delivering a powerful blow to his victim’s head with his left hand.
McGregor, of Ireland, became the first athlete in U.F.C. history to hold two belts simultaneously, winning the featherweight and lightweight championships through knockouts and prompting others to chase similar dual-belt aspirations.
He and Floyd Mayweather completed a crossover boxing match in 2017, which profited McGregor a guaranteed $30 million. He has fought in the U.F.C. only three times since, losing two of those contests.
During McGregor’s long layoff from U.F.C., Poirier competed against some of the toughest fighters in the lightweight division. Poirier, who entered the U.F.C. in 2011, captured the interim lightweight championship in 2019 and earned wins against quality competition in Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje and Max Holloway.
Poirier, a native of Louisiana who trains in Florida, started a charitable organization with his wife, Jolie, called the Good Fight Foundation, to help underserved communities in Louisiana.
The co-main event features two stout 170-pound welterweight contenders in Gilbert Burns and Stephen Thompson. Burns boasted a six-fight win streak, then in February challenged the champion Kamaru Usman for the title. Burns landed a solid strike in the first round, but Usman won via technical knockout in the third round.
Thompson earned two title fights against the then-champion Tyron Woodley, but lost in a decision and had a draw. Since then, he has won three of his last five fights, including two in a row. The matchup pits Burns, a jujitsu specialist, against Thompson, who is known for his karate striking.