UFC 276 Preview & Predictions

UFC 276 Preview & Predictions

By Cathal Geeney

Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya v Jared ‘The Killa Gorilla’ Cannonier

Israel Adesanya will look to defend his UFC middleweight strap against Jared Cannonier in the UFC 276 headliner. The New Zealander has looked incredible at 185-pounds to date and remains undefeated in this weight class, so it is no surprise he will enter the octagon as the significant favourite.

The champion’s game is built around his incredible striking precision and speed. Transitioning from a kickboxing background, the Izzy utilises every bit of his 80-inch range to pick his opponent off with an array of punches and kicks. While if you try and negate his reach advantage by rushing him, his movement and counter punches land with devastating effect.

Adesanya suffered his first taste of defeat inside the UFC octagon in March of last year, when he came up short against Jan Blachowicz as he ‘dared to be great’ by stepping up to light-heavyweight. The main talking point post fight was regarding the grappling abilities of Adesanya, as he was taken down in each of the final two rounds, playing a major role in his decision loss.

The Lagos-born fighter handled the loss in exemplary fashion. He was humble in defeat and returned to the middleweight division where he put together back-to-back victories over top contenders in Marvin Vettori and Robert Whitaker. More importantly perhaps, he exhibited strong takedown defence and an eagerness to get right back to his feet when he was taken down. This was a statement to the division that it will take more than a dominant wrestling game to get a victory over the Last Stylebender.

Cannonier is a former heavyweight and light-heavyweight fighter but seems to have found his best form at 185-pounds. In his first three appearances in the middleweight division, he finished his opponents inside the first two rounds. The Texas native strikes from an orthodox stance. He is powerful and looks to land the straight right hand at any chance he gets. He does not put big combinations together, generally firing off a single shot at a time. The number two ranked middleweight also looks to work the legs of his opponents and Adesanya will need to look to check or land a counter to prevent this.

Cannonier has looked vulnerable in certain areas in his last three outings. He was out struck and dropped a decision loss to Robert Whittaker in October 2020. He followed this up with a victory over Kelvin Gastelum in what was a competitive fight where he  was tested and fought on the back foot at times. And in his most recent bout, against Derek Brunson, the MMA Lab trained fighter was taken down three times and even knocked down with a punch (although he was off-balance when he was caught) before taking control and scoring a knockout victory.

Compared to some of his contemporaries at middleweight, the Killa Gorilla is quite one-dimensional, waiting on that power shot to land. Adesanya has faced off against many explosive strikers with knockout power but has always managed to come out on top. The challenger will need to find a way to impose his will and bring something a bit unexpected, if he is to be victorious.

Another facet to consider is that Cannonier is not a grappler. He has been taken down eleven times in his last eight bouts, having only landed one takedown of his own. And at that, it was more a case of throwing down an opponent who was already stunned, as opposed a traditional takedown. This bodes well for Adesanya as he should be able to focus on his striking without being concerned with a takedown threat.

Prediction:

This will likely play out entirely on the feet which should make for an entertaining spectacle. I predict that Israel Adesanya will be able to rely on his movement, feints and combinations to outwork and outland his American opposition. The possibility of a Cannonier stoppage is always going to be a present, due to the sheer force he throws with, but I expect the last Stylebender to make it five consecutive successful middleweight title defences and to coast to a comfortable decision victory.

Alexander ‘The Great’ Volkanovski v Max ‘The Blessed One’ Holloway

Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway prepare to do battle for the third time in what serves as a mouth-watering co-main event in the T-Mobile arena tonight. With Volkanovski winning their first two meetings, many may be questioning as to why we are seeing this match up for a third time. But for those who are familiar with both fighters, it is apparent that this is the quite clearly the only real option at featherweight right now.

Since their last meeting in July of 2020, after experiencing back-to-back losses for the first time in his career, the Blessed One came back with one of the most dominant decision victories in recent memory against a high level competitor in Calvin Kattar. This was peak Holloway, his timing, movement and counters were all impeccable. He followed this up with another, if not slightly more competitive, decision victory over Yair Rodriguez. I’m sure matchmakers and many fans would like to see a fresh exciting challenge for Volkanovski, but aside from the reigning champ, there is not another 145-pounder in the planet on the same level as Holloway right now.

In their first meeting, Volkanovski simply did not allow Holloway to get into his usual rhythm. Max normally has such a unique stance, holding his hands out in front serving to both distract his opponent and maintain distance, while simultaneously crouching down and inviting his opponent to try and land a shot. He is comfortable counter striking, evading strikes and generally dictating how the fight plays out on his terms. Volk did an incredible job of not falling into the usual traps. Instead, whenever Holloway looked to find his flow, the Australian either attacked first or fired off powerful counters to the head and body of his opposite number and most significantly, implemented a nasty leg kick which was one of the main differences. And although it was a competitive fight, Volkanovski took it by unanimous decision (48-47, 50-45, 48-47).

Their second meeting was a much closer affair. The Hawaiian native came out on song and managed to land a knockdown in each of the first two rounds. But Volkanovski was left unperturbed and kept coming forward,  and incredibly managed to take the next three rounds on two of the judges’ scorecards, defending his strap with a split decision victory (48-47, 47-48, 48-47).

Since this victory, Volkanovski has successfully defended his belt twice. The thirty-three year old demonstrated his incredible submission defence, somehow escaping numerous submission attempts, in his defeat of Brian Ortega in one of the fights of the year in 2021. And followed this up with a ruthless, demolition of Chan Sung Jung back in April. It is quite remarkable that he is returning to the octagon less than three months after his last defence.

Prediction:

This is such a difficult fight to predict. Both fighters are so highly skilled. They both have incredible cardio and durability, both exceptionally talented technical strikers and never quit. Their previous fights have gone the distance and I think this one will be no different. I foresee another closely contested bout and will take Max Holloway as an underdog to regain his title and set up a fourth fight between the two.

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