UFC 276 Preview: What To Expect From Saturday’s Card

Jul 2, 2022, 5:30 AM | Updated: May 21, 2024, 10:38 pm

Israel Adesanya...

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Welcome to one of the bigger MMA events of the year fight fans: UFC 276.

This Saturday’s fight card from Las Vegas is packed, from the early prelims with Uriah Hall to the main event with Israel Adesanya. The prelims are also being shown on ABC to generate viewership for the pay-per-view directly after, showing the level of effort the UFC has put into July 4th weekend.

So if you’re a fan of high-quality bouts then strap in for seven hours of some of the best fighters in the world going head-to-head against one another.

But before we get to the action, let’t take a look at the tale of the tape for Saturday night’s main card.

Pedro Munhoz (19-7, 1 NC) v. Sean O’Malley (15-1), Bantamweight

Sean O'Malley

Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Who else to get us started during International Fight Week and UFC 276 than one of the most polarizing fighters in the UFC: “Suga” Sean O’Malley. O’Malley has all the tools to be one of the biggest names in the sport, thanks to his ability to market himself to younger audiences, and the fighting prowess to back it up. Similar to Conor McGregor, Suga is flashy and extremely confident/cocky when inside the octagon, holding a record of 15-1 entering UFC 276.

Since joining the UFC in 2017, O’Malley, 27, has been on tear, finishing five of his opponents via knockout, while riding a three-fight win streak. An elite striker, O’Malley uses unorthodox techniques and striking angles to find his openings, a lot like a cobra stalking its prey. His only loss in the UFC came in 2020 at the hands of Marlon “Chito” Vera, finishing him in the first round after Suga sustained an apparent foot injury during the fight. But while it’s his official first career loss, O’Malley doesn’t see it that way, evermore confident to prove to the world that he’s the next star of the UFC.

Standing across from him is his toughest opponent yet in Pedro Munhoz. “The Young Punisher” has had a long career in the UFC, first joining the fighting collective in 2014. A true veteran, Munhoz has fought the best of the best, sporting wins over Rob Font and Cody Garbrandt. But that was in the past.

These days, a 35-year-old Munhoz is clearly on the decline after losing his last two bouts inside the Octagon. But don’t let age fool you, this will be an entertaining fight and possibly the biggest test for a guy like O’Malley. Also a powerful striker, Pedro can still put on a performance for the crowd, a true gamer of the sport, never giving up until the final bell.

Still, Munhoz is much smaller than O’Malley, standing 5’6″ to Sean’s 5’11”, giving the younger fighter the clear advantage in physical stature. I expect Suga to demonstrate some patience in this one as he doesn’t want to get caught by Punisher’s right hand. Weaving in and out of the pockets thanks to his 72″ reach, O’Malley can fight his opponent on his terms, waiting for Munhoz to make a mistake trying to get inside of him. This will be a great fight with action from start to finish, but Suga Sean is too big to fail(at least the UFC certainly hopes so), and Pedro is on the back half of his career, making this a little bit easier to pick this weekend.

Prediction: O’Malley via second-round TKO

Robbie Lawler (29-15, 1 NC) v. Bryan Barberena (17-8), Welterweight

Robbie Lawler

Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

This is a fun one.

The legend himself, Robbie “Ruthless” Lawler, is stepping into the octagon for another time at the age of 40-years-young. Age has not been kind to the former Welterweight champion of the world as Lawler has dealt with various injuries, losing more fights than winning since his 2016 loss to Tyrone Woodley for the belt. But fresh of a third-round KO of Nick Diaz at UFC 266, Lawler is looking to finally get some momentum under him as he finishes out his MMA career.

To do that he’ll have to beat journeyman Bryan “Bam Bam” Barberena at UFC 276. The 33-year-old Bam Bam is in a similar spot as his opponent, never finding a consistent run of form since his first bout in the UFC in 2014. Fresh off a decision victory over Matt Brown, Barberena will look to keep the momentum going by taking out the older Lawler, arguably his most prestigious win to date.

Both fighters love to keep it on their feet so expect a striking match in this one. While Bam Bam stands a few inches taller than his opponent, Lawler actually has the reach advantage, making this fight more even in terms of the tale of the tape numbers. Both fighters will want to put their best foot forward in front of the sold out Las Vegas crowd but I see Ruthless turning back the clock a bit more, taking home the victory via decision. Call me a homer but I want to see Robbie get his 30th MMA victory on a pay-per-view card.

Prediction: Lawler via third-round TKO

Sean Strickland (25-3) v. Alex Pereira (5-1), Middleweight

Sean Strickland

Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Before we get to the two title fights, the first middleweight bout of the night is sure to be juicy with No.4-ranked Sean Strickland and Alex “Pontan” Pereira.

The always outspoken and controversial Strickland has been crushing the competition as of late, having not lost since his 2018 knockout to Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos. Since then, Strickland has taken down the likes of Jack Marshman, Brendan Allen and Uriah Hall. His most recent victory came in February, defeating middleweight challenger Jack Hermansson via decision to put himself in line for a shot at Adesanya and the middleweight title.

That task is is easier said than done as his opponent Alex Periera is thinking the exactly same thing. A former Glory middleweight and heavyweight champion, Pereira signed with the UFC in 2021 after a long courtship by the promotion and Dana White to secure his services. Winning his first two bouts via knockout and decision, Pontan has taken no time at all to establish himself as a challenger in the middleweight division. A kick-boxer at heart, Pereira has a similar fighting style as fellow Brazilian Anderson Silva, using unorthodox stances and angles to strike his opponent. Able to use a variety of different moves, the Brazilian is as dangerous as it comes on the feet, throwing kicks and knees at the blink of an eye. Pereira also holds a victory over the middleweight champ Israel Adesanya from their kickboxing days many year ago, making this ever more intriguing if the Brazilian gets the victory Saturday night.

Another fight that’ll be action-packed, these two will want to put on a show in order to get the nod from Dana to be the next in line for the belt. I would not be surprised to see this fight go the distance but if Strickland wants to come out with the win, he’ll need to figure out a way to get inside Pereira’s 79″ reach, possibly taking him down a few times to control the elder fighter on the ground. Yes going to the ground with a Brazilian can prove cautious but that’s why it might work in the end because Pontan and his corner won’t be expecting it. Of course Pereira could always finish this one with a highlight reel head-kick or knee in the first round but I think this means more to the younger fighter in Strickland. He has the hotter form right now and thanks to Thursday’s press conference, we know he isn’t afraid of Izzy the champion, eager to be the next guy to fight for the middleweight crown.

For that reason, I give the edge to Strickland.

Prediction: Strickland via decision

Alex Volkanovski (24-1) v. Max Holloway (23-6), Featherweight

Max Holloway

Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Legacy is on the line for the co-main event of UFC 276 as featherweight champion Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski and Max “Blessed” Holloway square off for a third time in their illustrious careers.

The pair first fought back in 2019 at UFC 245 when Holloway, not Volkanovski, was the featherweight champion. The challenger proved too much for Holloway, out-striking him for the belt, 49-46, in an unanimous decision. Given Holloway’s long reign as champion he immediately got a rematch, but once again the Australian proved too much for Blessed, winning the bout, 48-47, to retain the title. Personally, I thought Max won that fight but we’ll get that later.

To get his third fight with Volkanovski, Holloway had to earn it, and he did that by beating challengers Calvin Kattar and Yair Rodriguez over the past year and a half via decision. Specifically in the Rodriguez fight, Holloway showed the killer mentality that won him the title in the first place, going strike for strike with Rodriguez in one of the best fights of 2021. That, along with the pedigree of being the king of the featherweights for years, has led the 30-year-old kid from Hawaii back to the challenger’s spot at UFC 276.

But while Holloway climbed back up the rankings, Volk only established himself further as the king of the featherweight division. Specifically with his most recent title defense against The Korean Zombie, the Australian picked on his opponent for three rounds, chopping away at his legs relentlessly until he had no power to throw with whatsoever, eventually forcing the referee to stop the fight in the fourth out of mercy. A smaller guy at only 5’6″, Alexander uses patience and timing to make the most out of his attack, loading up with powerful hands that almost stopped Brian Ortega as well. He’s also added a bit of ground game to his arsenal, able to get takedowns and control the fight from different aspects than he previously had before.

That’s what marks the true greats of the sport from title holders, their ability to adapt to their opponent and exploit their weaknesses; Volk is one of the best at doing just that.

Expect fireworks the third time around for these two as no love lost has occurred over the years, both eager to show the world way they’re the true champion of the featherweights. While Holloway is a few inches taller than the champ, Volk surprisingly has a longer reach than the challenger, allowing him to keep his distance during the fight. The key for Max will be to learn from his mistakes in the previous two outings, not allowing Volk to control the bout early by taking out his legs. It’s unclear if the champ will utilize his ground game the same way he did with The Korean Zombie but it’s something the Hawaiian will have to be wary of going into this one.

This is the fight I’ve gone back-and-forth on the most but at the end of the day Volkanovski has shown true championship prowess and an ability to adapt that many have not to sustain a long title run. Holloway will be able to land but we’ve seen his punches do little damage to his opponents, including the Australian who has real knockout power behind him. My heart wants the Blessed era to reign once more so we can see them go at it for a fourth time but the 33-year-old Volk doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

Prediction: Volkanovski via decision

Israel Adesanya (22-1) v. Jared Cannonier (15-5), Middleweight


Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The main event of the evening: Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya versus Jared “The Killa Gorilla” Cannonier.

While Cannonier isn’t necessarily a star in the UFC landscape, he is one of he best fighters in the division thanks to unreal knockout power that stopped Derek Brunson in the second round in February. Cannonier is currently riding a two-fight win streak after struggling to find consistently in a highly competitively middleweight division. The challenger is perhaps heading toward the end of his fighting career at 38-years-old but don’t get it twisted, the time is now for Cannonier’s and his camp, determined to get the belt by any means necessary. Another note to point out is that most fighters seem to be caught up in the mystic of Adesanya before they even face him. That isn’t the case with The Killa Gorilla, fully locked in for the biggest fight ¬†of his career during press conferences and media availability this week.

As for Adesanya, what more is there to say than he’s the champ for a reason.

The face of UFC, The Last Stylebender has been on a meteoric rise to stardom from the moment he knocked out Robert Whittaker in front of a sold-out Australian crowd at UFC 243 in 2019. Since then, he has only dominated at the middleweight division, taking out Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa, Marvin Vettori and Robert Whitaker again to claim his throne as one of the pound-for-pound kings of the sport.

A kick-boxer fighting out of City Kickboxing in New Zealand, Adesanya has a similar fighting style to the great Jon Jones, throwing a flurry of kicks and fakes to always keep opponents on their toes. His striking is second to none as well, finding the unique angles and methods to land punches on the opposition. With an 80″ reach, Izzy is able¬†to get in-and-out of the zone like a ninja, controlling his fights from start to finish. And thanks to his abilities, the trash-talking and confidence comes out as he not only defeats his challengers, he embarrasses them in most cases (The Costa fight comes to mind). Often looking bored inside the octagon, Adesanya has been able to cement himself as the true breadwinner of the UFC, looking to etch his name as an all-time great next to his mentor, Anderson Silva.

The Nigerian-born Adesanya will need to be wary of Cannonier’s power, able to shut the lights out for anyone on the receiving end, including Izzy. Nevertheless, this isn’t something the champ hasn’t dealt with before. He’s one of the best in the business on his feet and is looking to evolve his game on the ground further to add another dimension to his arsenal. Standing an apparent six inches over his opponent, Izzy will look to utilize his reach and kicking ability to take out the challenger’s legs early in the fight, rendering him ineffective for the majority of the fight.

Determined to make this fight “look easy”, Adesanya plans to put on a show for international fight week and Dana White after giving him the nod for the UFC’s biggest weekend of the year. I expect him to do just that Saturday night, controlling the tempo throughout while kicking at the legs of Cannonier until they’re red. Once his opponent wears down, he’ll go for the kill with various strike and kick combos that will bombard the smaller challenger.

Another notch on the belt for Adesanya as he continues his climb to the mountaintop of UFC immortality because like he said, “King Kong ain’t got [expletive] on me!” And he’s probably right.

Prediction: Adesanya via decision 






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