UFC 276 PPV Main Card on ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):Embed from Getty Images
185 lbs.: UFC Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya vs. Jared Cannonier – The main-event comes in the Middleweight division, as the Champion Israel Adesanya takes on Jared Cannonier. Making his fifth title defense, Adesanya comes into this fight relishing the fact that he’s fighting someone new. Having fought in rematches in back-to-back fights, Adesanya closed a few chapters. Looking to build upon his legacy, he opens a new one against Cannonier. A former Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight, Cannonier has enjoyed success at Middleweight. Winning two straight and four of the last five, at last, Cannonier has his opportunity to prove that he is the best 185 pounder in the world.
These two have been circling each other for quite some time. Cannonier had been close previously, but couldn’t get by Rob Whittaker in a title eliminator. However, with two straight victories since, he got his shot. A striker, with immense knockout power, Cannonier isn’t one to play around with on the feet. Physically strong, he can hold his own wrestling and grappling. The only concern with Cannonier is cardio. Seeing that he went five rounds in his last fight though, it’s possible that it’s not as problematic as we have thought. A non-concern for Adesanya, who has an excellent gas tank. Known for his dynamic and patient striking, Adesanya is one of the more tricky fighters to stand across from. Often calculated, Adesanya rarely makes mistakes and is very defensively sound.
Thus far, nothing other than wrestling has seemed to be an effective measure in defeating Adesanya. Seeing that Cannonier isn’t a wrestler, his chances in this fight grow slimmer. With knockout power in his hands, there is always a chance. However, not one I’m willing to bank on. In a masterclass on the feet, I see Adesanya dragging Cannonier into the later rounds, eventually defeating him via TKO.Embed from Getty Images
145 lbs.: UFC Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway – The co-main event comes in the Featherweight division, as the Champion Alexander Volkanovski takes on the former champion Max Holloway. Coming into this fight as the number two ranked pound-for-pound fighter, Volkanovski has an opportunity to improve his chances at leapfrogging Kamaru Usman. A winner of twenty-one straight, eleven of which have come inside the octagon, Volkanovski is beginning to develop an unbeatable aura. Meanwhile, Holloway comes into this fight off back-to-back wins over Calvin Kattar and Yair Rodriguez. Having regained steam, Holloway seems destined to finally one-up Volkanovski.
Usually the UFC puts the higher weight classes at the top of the pecking order. However, in some instances they don’t. No disrespect to Israel Adesanya and Jared Cannonier, but this trilogy should be the main event. Guaranteed to not disappoint, we have two top-six pound-for-pound fighters squaring off. Volkanovski being number two, has been an absolute juggernaut in the Featherweight division. A well rounded fighter, with nearly no holes in his game, Volkanovski has proven that he has a plethora of ways to defeat his opponents. Of late though, it’s been by sheer dominance. Knocking out Chan Sung Jung in a romp, and battering Brian Ortega for twenty-five minutes, Volkanovski comes into this trilogy arguably on another level. One that Holloway will look prove is not on his. A striker, with refined abilities everywhere but offensive wrestling, Holloway is one of the best fighters we’ve ever seen in MMA. Backed by endless cardio, Holloway has an uncanny ability to rack up strikes. Which is evident by the fact that he is the UFC’s all-time strikes leader. Eclipsing 94 strikes in his last eleven fights, with one fights total being 445, Holloway is not someone many win going toe-to-toe with.
This fight is bound to be exciting and might even be close again. However, I believe Volkanovski is going to close this chapter. Having seen the Aussie look as sharp as ever, he heads into this third fight with momentum and immense confidence. With an ability to mix up his attack, he will have the upper hand in swaying the judges. Given Holloway has never been stopped via strikes, I predict that Volkanovski will win via decision.
185 lbs.: Sean Strickland vs. Alex Pereira – This might be a wild fight in the Middleweight division, as two hopeful contenders in Sean Strickland and Alex Pereira tangle. A winner of six straight, Strickland has emerged as a worthy challenger to the title. Needing to halt the hype that is Pereira, Strickland must do everything in his power to win this fight. Even if means wrestling. Meanwhile, Pereira comes into this on a five-fight win streak. With only two of those wins coming inside the octagon, clearly Pereira has been fast-tracked to a title shot. One that the UFC would like to get behind, as pending Israel Adesanya wins, it would pit former Kickboxing opponents against each other – with the significance being that Pereira not only beat Adesanya twice, but knocked him out once.
When analyzing this fight, it really comes down to Strickland’s willingness to forgo making this an entertaining scrap and trying to knock out Pereira. The Brazilian has only six professional fights, comes from a kickboxing background and notably isn’t well versed in wrestling. Thus far, his takedown defense has held up. However, it’s held up against two strikers. Strickland being well rounded and having shown off his wrestling throughout his UFC tenure, one can only imagine that with a title shot within grasp, he would elect to play it smart. While some might question that notion given his antics, I actually believe that when he’s inside the octagon, he becomes very cerebral. A recent example being his last bout, where he never strayed from an effective jab that practically pieced up Jack Hermansson over five rounds.
IF Strickland decides to strike and hunt for the knockout, Pereira will show him the exit. However, if Strickland plays it smart and wrestles, I believe he will win. Going with the latter, I predict that Strickland wins via decision.
170 lbs.: Robbie Lawler vs. Bryan Barberena – A pair of veterans in the Welterweight division clash, as Robbie Lawler takes on Bryan Barberena. Returning to the octagon for the first time in 2022, Lawler comes into this fight off a victory. A rarity, as Lawler had not won since 2017. Now with an opportunity to win two straight for the first time since 2015-2016, perhaps the former champion can put retirement talk on the backburner once and for all. Meanwhile, Barberena has enjoyed a career resurgence. A winner of two straight and three of the last four, Barberena is awarded with a chance to knock off a former champion. Still only 33 years old, Barberena still has time to make a run.
This pairing of veterans is solid matchmaking at it’s finest. Lawler may be long in the tooth, but he always brings the same tenacity to every fight. A striker, with power and durability on his side, Lawler can knock anyone out. However, he can often be a mixed bag. At Lawler’s best, he is letting his hands go and pressuring his opponent. At his worst, he is hesitant and a punching bag. Luckily though, Lawler won’t have to worry about wrestling. Something in which has plagued him, seeing that he’s been taken down eighteen times in the last six fights. A bonus hunter, Barberena is usually involved in wild fights. Known for his ability to absorb punishment, Barberena is in the mindset that you have to eat a punch to give one back. Not always the smartest of strategies, but thus far a relatively successful one.
This could be a “Fight of the Night” contender, as both men aren’t the quickest of strikers anymore and are known for their durability. Ingredients in which make for a long and entertaining scrap. While I’d like to side with Lawler, given his disruptive power and ability to box, I just can’t trust Lawler to be at his best. There is too much Jekyll and Hyde to his game at this stage of his career. On the other hand, I know what I’m going to get with Barberena. A guy who will rack up strikes, maintain a hard pace for three rounds and continue plodding forward throughout the fight. So with that said, I predict that Barberena wins via decision.Embed from Getty Images
135 lbs.: Pedro Munhoz vs. Sean O’Malley – A pivotal fight in the Bantamweight division see’s a pair of ranked fighters in Pedro Munhoz and Sean O’Malley clash. Still ranked ninth, despite losing two straight and four of the last five, Munhoz heads into this fight urgently needing a victory. Having opportunity after opportunity to rise to a contender, this may be Munhoz last chance to elevate himself. Meanwhile, O’Malley comes into this fight on a three-fight wins streak. Newly ranked and ready to catapult himself into contender ship, O’Malley with a victory, will be within the top ten of the division.
This is an intriguing fight, but one that seems to be favorable for O’Malley. Throughout his UFC tenure, the promotion has done an excellent job building him against formidable foes, that are on the downswing or he has an edge on skill-wise. Considering Munhoz has been a stepping stone in four of the last five fights, yet somehow is still ranked ninth, certainly fits that criteria. Both men are strikers, with O’Malley being the better of the two. Landing with more volume, being defensively sounder and having a five inch height and seven inch reach advantage, O’Malley should be able to have his way with Munhoz on the feet. Even the power edge goes to O’Malley, who has tallied 11 of his fifteen wins via knockout. However, given Munhoz has never been finished and is noted for his durability, I don’t foresee a finish. So with that said, I predict that O’Malley will win via decision.
UFC 276 Preliminary Card on ABC/ESPN/ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):Embed from Getty Images
155 lbs.: Brad Riddell vs. Jalin Turner – The preliminary card headliner comes in the Lightweight division, as Brad Riddell takes on Jalin Turner. Coming off a defeat, one in which saw a seven-fight win streak snapped, Riddell comes into this fight looking to get back on track. Still ranked fourteenth in the division, the Kiwi is well positioned to make a run to the top ten. Meanwhile, Turner has caught fire. A winner of four-straight, all of which have comes inside the distance, Turner is knocking on the door of the top fifteen. A win here, assuredly would do the job.
A treat of a fight on the preliminary card, this could very well end up as your “Fight of the Night”. Riddell is a striker, who is technical and precise. Backed by solid cardio, Riddell lands with high output. Well rounded, the Kiwi has shown off some wrestling chops too. Landing a takedown in each of his five fights inside the octagon, Riddell isn’t afraid to mix up his attack. He’ll need to be crafty though, as Turner is beginning to look like a real problem for the Lightweight division. Standing at 6’3 and with a 77 inch reach, Turner towers over the competition. In this particular fight, he will hold a eight inch height and six inch reach advantage. Two edges in the fight that will compliment his striking. Which is powerful and precise. Landing 6.51 significant strikes per minute and with a 100% finishing rate, Turner is not someone you want to stand in front of for long.
Notoriously a slow starter, Riddell has lost the first round in four of his five UFC fights. A tendency that will not go unnoticed by Turner, who is going to bring the heat early and often. With a huge size advantage, power and some sneaky submission abilities, it’s only a matter of time before Turner connects with something that stuns Riddell. So with that said, I predict that Turner will win via TKO.
170 lbs: Ian Garry vs. Gabe Green – The Welterweight division plays host to an intriguing fight between Ian Garry and Gabe Green. Looked upon as a future contender, Garry thus far, has lived up to the hype. Undefeated and with already two victories inside the octagon, Garry is beginning to climb the ladder. At 24 years old, time is on the Irishman’s side, but with another victory, he could find himself fast-tracked into fighting a top fifteen foe. Meanwhile, Green has rebounded nicely since dropping his UFC debut. Proving that a full camp is the difference, Green has rattled off back-to-back wins. With an opportunity to knock off a hyped young upstart, Green has a chance to create some buzz for himself.
This is going to be a fun fight, as both men have proven themselves to be solid strikers. Garry is far advanced above his age. Technical, precise and powerful on the feet, Garry can be a handful to deal with on the feet. Excellent in distance management, Garry has no issues picking apart opponents and chopping them down with leg kicks. Not many might know either, Garry has wrestling and grappling abilities that are up to par with his striking. He’s truly a complete package. However, Green will be his toughest task to date. An active striker, Green is more offensively based than defensively. Perhaps due to his toughness and iron chin, Green isn’t afraid to eat punches in order to get off his offense. Good with combinations and landing leg kicks, Green makes sure he gets off his offense. Oddly enough, Green is a dangerous submission threat. Although that part of his game is limited due to his willingness to strikes.
As for a prediction, I have Garry winning. While Green may be the more active of the two on the feet, his defensive woes will be his downfall in this fight. Absorbing 6.61 significant strikes per minute, Green is going to have to do a lot more work offensively to sway the judges. Something in which I just don’t see, as Garry is going land the more accurate and impactful strikes. So with that said, I predict that Garry will win this fight via TKO.Embed from Getty Images
155 lbs.: Donald Cerrone vs. Jim Miller – A rematch culminating nearly eight years later, Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller will once again lock horns. This time however, the stakes are higher, as the victor of the fight will become the UFC’s all-time wins leader. Cerrone comes into this fight looking to halt an ugly 0-5 and one no contest skid over the last six fights. Having fought whoever and whenever throughout his career, Cerrone is at a stage in his career where fighting fellow veterans makes sense. At 39 years of age and given this tough stretch, this could very well be Cerrone’s last stand. Meanwhile, Miller has apparently found the fountain of youth. A winner of two straight, against younger foes, Miller seems to be destined to stand the test of time. Or at least until UFC 300, which he has stated is a goal of his. Staring a three-fight win streak in the eyes, something in which Miller hasn’t done since 2016, perhaps he might just have a few more years in the tank.
Back in 2014, when these two fought, Cerrone got the best of Miller. Arguably too, both men were in their prime and among the very best Lightweights. Fast forward to today and clearly neither man is the same. However, Miller seems to have more in his tank. On the feet, Cerrone is dynamic and overall the better striker. What he lacks is durability, something in which is a strength of Miller’s. As far as grappling, both are exceptional and have dangerous submission abilities. Miller though is the better wrestler and more willing grappler. Seeing that Cerrone has only been submitted once in fifty-four fights and Miller only three times in sixty-one fights, I’d say that it’s highly unlikely this fight ends via submission.
While both men are fairly comparable, I’m going to side with Miller. Seeing his success of late, combined with his knowledge of treating his Lyme disease better and ambitions to fight on UFC 300, Miller seems to me like a fighter who’s above his age. Obviously father time has stripped down some of his abilities, but at the core, Miller is still a durable fighter who’s going to give anyone a tough fight. Also, with Cerrone having cut down to Lightweight twice in the last five weeks, only to see his fight cancelled on fight day, mentally and physically has to have taken a toll on him. So with that said, I predict Miller to win via TKO.
185 lbs.: Brad Tavares vs. Dricus du Plessis – The Middleweight division plays host to a pivotal contest between Brad Tavares and Dricus Du Plessis. Returning to the octagon for the first time in 2022, Tavares comes into this bout on a two-fight win streak. Battling inactivity, this will be Tavares’ fifth fight in the last four years. Despite that, Tavares is still ranked eleventh and has an opportunity to crack the top ten with a victory. Meanwhile, Du Plessis has stormed into the UFC with back-to-back first round finishes. Seeing four fight cancellations momentarily halt his momentum, the South African comes into this fight still with a golden chance. One that would see his name among the top fifteen of the division with a victory.
After the debacle of UFC 273, that saw three separate fighters pull out against Du Plessis, the South African has to be chomping at the bit to get back in the octagon. Luckily too, it comes against a ranked foe. A former K-1 kickboxer, Du Plessis has showed off quickness, power, wrestling and good combinations. What he hasn’t showed off due to the nature of starching two opponents in round one, is his submission ability. Given nine of his sixteen wins have come by such, perhaps in due time we will see it come to light. Just not in this fight. Tavares has a solid base and is notably hard to takedown. A striker, Tavares doesn’t pack a punch as some might think. His striking is very fundamental, and backed by good cardio, has led the Hawaiian to outpointing many foes. In fact, Tavares is the all-time leader in the Middleweight division with twelve decision victories.
As for a prediction, I’m going with Du Plessis. While the South African came into the UFC with notably defensive issues, thus far, they have been relatively mitigated by the fact that he is stopping his foes inside the first round. Impressively I might add. The reason however why I like Du Plessis in this fight, is that despite his flaws, Tavares isn’t the one to capitalize on them. In his twenty UFC fights, the Hawaiian has only two knockout victories. In his last twelve fights, he has only landed three takedowns. With the concern level lowered, I believe Du Plessis will be able to get off his offense and eventually knock Tavares out.
UFC 276 Early Preliminary Card on ESPN+ (6 p.m. ET):Embed from Getty Images
185 lbs.: Uriah Hall vs. Andre Muniz – A pivotal fight in the Middleweight division takes place on the preliminary card, as Uriah Hall takes on Andre Muniz. Ranked ninth in the division, Hall returns to the octagon for the first time in 2022. Coming off a defeat to Sean Strickland, that saw a four-fight win streak halted, Hall will look to rebound over a fellow ranked fighter. Meanwhile, Muniz has taken the UFC by storm. A winner of eight straight, four of which have come inside the octagon, Muniz has quickly stamped his name as someone to keep an eye out for in the Middleweight division. With a victory here, assures that Muniz will be in the top ten.
After being dubbed the next Anderson Silva after competing on the Ultimate Fighter, Hall hasn’t quite lived up to those expectations. Of late though, he has resurged himself into the top ten of the division. A dynamic striker, who is quick and uses distance well, Hall is a threat to stand and trade with. Not exactly active on the feet, Hall resorts to being technical and precise with his strikes. With thirteen of seventeen wins coming via knockout, usually that approach leads to success. The opposite can be said about Muniz, who is a ground specialist. Not one to strike much, Muniz looks to get the fight to the mat. An area in which he has absolutely dominated, as fifteen of his wins have come via submission. Impressively enough, one of those submission victories was over Ronald Souza. A highly regard BJJ black belt who had never been submitted (broken arm) in his career up until that fight.
As for a prediction, I have Muniz winning. While Hall clearly has the edge on the feet, Muniz isn’t someone who will stick around long enough for Hall to pick him apart. Throughout Hall’s career, he has been relatively mediocre in fending off takedowns. In fact, despite his takedown defense being 65%, he has lost six of the nine fights he was taken down in. Make it seven, as I predict that Muniz takes Hall down and wins via submission.
125 lbs.: Jessica Eye vs. Maycee Barber – A pair of ranked women in the Flyweight division lock horns, as Jessica Eyes takes on Maycee Barber. Hoping 2022 brings about better fortune, Eye will look to put a halt to a three-fight losing streak. A former Bellator Champion and UFC title contender, Eye is going to need to turn around things quickly. Otherwise, her time in the sun may have past. Meanwhile, Barber has rebounded nicely since her two-fight losing streak. Winning back-to-back fights, Barber finds herself in the top fifteen of the division. With Eye checking in at tenth in the division, a victory would assuredly catapult Barber into the top ten.
In fighting, often we see an old lion need to fend off a younger one. This fight is exactly that. Eye is a veteran of twelve years in the game, and has climbed to the top. With three straight losses though, her career may hang in the balance. An active striker, Eye looks to pepper opponents over the course of the fight. Not one to wrestle much, Eye is averaging roughly half a takedown per fifteen minutes. Perhaps a mistake throughout Eye’s career, is not developing that aspect of her game to compliment her already sharp striking abilities. On the other hand, Barber can wrestle and strike. Preferring to be on the feet, Barber has a rare blend of volume and power. The latter being a huge asset, given the division lacks fighters who can stop opponents via strikes.
As for a prediction, I have Barber winning. Eye is going through a tough stretch and is tasked to rejuvenate her career against a well rounded and rising talent in Barber. A fight that quite frankly is Barber’s to lose. Being the more active, accurate and powerful striker alone gives her an edge. Throw in her wrestling against Eye’s mediocre takedown defense and this should in essence be a dominant performance by Barber. However, given Eye’s toughness, I don’t see a finish. I see Barber winning via decision.
135 lbs.: Jessica Rose-Clark vs. Julija Stoliarenko – The Women’s Bantamweight division features a clash between Jessica-Rose Clark and Julija Stoliarenko. Having dealt with several injuries, Clark has been limited to one fight per year, for the last three years. However, when Clark enters the octagon on Saturday, she will have made her second appearance of 2022. Despite faltering in her last fight, Clark has won two of the last three. A victory here would not only get Clark back on track, but reposition her an opportunity at a bigger name. Meanwhile, Stoliarenko comes into her fourth UFC appearance, still seeking her first victory inside the illustrious octagon. Undoubtedly feeling the pressure, Stoliarenko must win this fight. Otherwise, her less than two year tenure with the promotion will likely end.
This fight all comes down to if Clark can avoid grappling with Stoliarenko. As we’ve seen in the Lithuanian’s three fights, her route to victory is on the ground. With eight of her nine wins coming via submission, Stoliarenko isn’t someone you want to test your grappling abilities with. Seeing that Clark was submitted by armbar in her most recent fight gives me pause for concern. However, before evolving her wrestling abilities, she was known for her standup. That alone will get the job done in this fight, but Stoliarenko is known to pull guard. It would be upon Clark to avoid that situation and/or immediately get up if it does happen. In a fight that could end on a dime or see Clark outpoint Stoliarenko, I’m going with the latter. So with that said, give me Clark to win via decision.