This weekend’s UFC event is stacked and comes complete with bad blood. At the top of the card are two title defences. The main event features Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya fighting veteran and #2 ranked middleweight Jared “The Killa Gorilla” Cannonier. Cannonier is a rare physical specimen and a striker with knock-out power. Yet, no fighter with that description has managed to stop the reigning and defending champion Adesanya. With his loose style, rapid movement, and spectacular precision in striking, Adesanya makes for a very difficult opponent. Many bigger, stronger, more muscular fighters have come out claiming they have the necessary means to defeat him, but so far his championship reign has been smooth sailing. On top of that, Adesanya has height and reach advantage. No wonder bookies have the odds in favour of the champ. But in MMA a one-timer can send the champ to the ground and force Buffer to call out “And new!” This time, I predict, it is highly unlikely.
An eagerly anticipated trilogy awaits in Alexander Volkanovski vs Max Holloway. Holloway is the former featherweight champion, but Volkanovski took the crown by unanimous decision in their first meeting in December 2019. They fought again in the summer of 2020, with Volkanovski defending his title by a split decision. The decisions have been controversial and contested, hence the need for a trilogy fight. Holloway is still ranked amongst the top pound-for-pound athletes and deserves a lot of respect. The odds favour Volkanovski, who has defeated both Brian Ortega and Chang Sung Jong since his last meeting with Holloway. I, however, have a good feeling about Max, and his two unanimous decisions since that July 2020 bout against Volkanovski (which indeed were dubious decisions) speak of a fighter who is on the way back. Don’t count him out, but also don’t count on me to always be right.
Sean Strickland hasn’t lost since 2018. His recent victory over Swedish Jack Hermansson has earned him a place on this weekend’s main card, facing Alex Perreira. Perreira has a background in boxing and came to MMA in 2015, losing his first bout. He joined the UFC only last year, defeating Andreas Michailidis by TKO. Strickland has been at it in the octagon since 2014 and training in MMA since he was 14. Nevertheless, the odds are with Perreira, and whatever the skillset may indicate, the fight promises to be an exciting one.
Just before Strickland vs Perreira Sean “The Sugar Show” O’Malley enters the cage to face Pedro Munhoz. O’Malley has made a name for himself with his loose limbs, eccentric hairstyles, and quick finishes. Yet, his cocky tone and hype earned him a humbling defeat against Marlon “Chito” Vera in 2020. Since then he has redeemed himself but is yet to face more high-calibre competition. Munhoz is a veteran but comes from two recent losses, against Dominick Cruz and Jose Aldo. O’Malley is rightly the favourite. The question is whether he can live up to the hype long-term and whether the hype is justified.
The main card opens with UFC legend Robbie Lawler facing Bryan Barbarena. Lawler has made a name for himself with gruelling and vicious bouts. This weekend is surely no different, facing an opponent who has been in the “Fight of the Night” four times! Lawler is the favourite, and comes off a victory against rival Nick Diaz – everybody remembers their epic showdown in 2004 – but has had some hard times prior to that with a record of 1-4 in the last 5 fights. Perhaps he’s on the way back up before retirement.
The prelims promise some enthralling bouts as a warm-up for the main card. Donald Cerrone, after having his fight with Joe Lauzon cancelled twice, will face Jim Miller. Cerrone has indicated he is approaching retirement and given his recent track record of 5 losses and one no-contest it perhaps comes as no surprise. Cerrone is a fighter with true courage and a record to be proud of, but his best days seem to have passed him by. He is the underdog in the forthcoming bout, but as he heads toward retirement we may all wish him the best in his last fights before hanging up the gloves. Ian “The Future” Garry also fights in the prelims. He is as of yet undefeated and will fight Gabriel Green who lost to Jalin Turner – also fighting on the preliminary card, taking on Brad Riddell.
Three bouts kick off UFC 276. First to get locked into the cage are Jessica-Rose Clark and Julija Stoliarenko. The stats are with Clark, who has a higher TKO/KO win record, more significant strikes, and better defence. Yet, Stoliarenko has a good ground game, having won 8 of her 17 fights by submission. Stoliarenko has a background in lethwei, one of the hardest martial arts, so she will be no easy match for the American. Maycee Barber once hyped to be the youngest champion after Jon Jones, rapidly found herself down in the prelims and now early prelims after losing to Roxanne Modafferi in 2020 and then Alexa Grasso last year. Since then she has had a turn of fortune, winning her last two fights. Jessica Eye, however, has a strong record with a victory over Kaitlyn Chookagian. She has lost her last three fights, so both fighters are surely fighting for the grace of the UFC to stay on with the premier MMA promotion. The early prelims finish with veteran Uriah Hall and Andre Muniz. The bout was previously cancelled and rescheduled for UFC 276. Losing against Strickland, the veteran Hall has won four bouts prior to that, although that includes defeating Chris Wiedman who injured his leg in a shocking fashion at UFC 261, making Hall the first winner in UFC history to win without throwing a single strike. Muniz is on an 8-win streak and is tipped to be the favourite.
More information about the event is available here.