During his post-fight interview, a triumphant Israel Adesanya called out Alex Pereira, who also performed admirably tonight, to be his next opponent. Before the current reigning UFC Middleweight Champion was a mixed martial artist, he was an aspiring kickboxer. It was under those circumstances that Adesanya and Pereira met all those years ago, with Pereira emerging as the victor. Now that the two of them are both members of the world’s most renowned mixed martial arts organization, it is only fitting that they settle their differences inside the octagon. Overall, UFC 276 was entertaining from start to finish. There’s a lot to unpack here; without further ado, let’s get into it!
Adesanya vs. Cannonier
In round one, Israel Adesanya and Jared Cannonier each employed calf kicks and outside kicks to land scoring blows. Cannonier tried but failed to close the gap between the two of them. Adesanya’s 6’4″ inch frame seemed to be a puzzle that Cannonier could not solve. Round two was largely uneventful, as a head kick landed by Adesanya in the first minute of the round was the only significant moment of the period.
In round three, Cannonier picked up the pace and attempted two takedowns, neither of which was successful. However, the bulk that he possesses seemed to make an impression on Adesanya before he was ultimately able to break free. In round four Cannonier attempted to land body shots, which is a strategy he should have employed earlier in the fight. In round five, Adesanya made a resounding statement by landing a high head kick that landed on Cannonier’s crown with a thud.
Ultimately, Adesanya’s superior speed and timing were too much for Cannonier to handle. He is definitely an elite middleweight but Adesanya is the undisputed King of the Division. Perhaps his former foe turned new rival, Alex Pereira, can pose a challenge for The Last Stylebender. But as of right now, there is no middleweight who has proven they can match his skill set inside the octagon.Embed from Getty Images
Volkanovski vs. Holloway
Reigning featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski, stated that his goal was to send the challenger, Max Holloway a message during their fight. A lot of pundits thought Holloway should have been declared the winner during their rematch. Instead Volkanovski retained his belt. With that in mind, the champion wanted to showcase that their last two fights weren’t a fluke; he was and still is the better fighter.
Volkanovski’s elite speed was on display the entire fight. At one point during round one, he could be heard taunting Holloway “I’m too fast for you.” His left jab landed with increasing frequency from round one to round two. Late in round two, an elbow from Volkanovski opened a nasty cut over Holloway’s left eye. Holloway showed amazing resolve, continuing to apply forward pressure in rounds three and four in spite of the fact that the cut over his eye was only continuing to get worse.
By round five, it was clear that Volkanovski was ahead on the scorecards; his speed and timing were even better than they were the last time we saw him in the octagon. In the last minute of the round, he began to pick up the pace, but by that point the outcome was a foregone conclusion. “Volk” was awarded a unanimous decision and ultimately retained his title.
Strickland vs. Pereira
Middleweight combatant Sean Strickland was ranked in the top five fighter’s of his division in the UFC prior to tonight. There were other fighters in the top five who could have fought Alex Pereira but were hesitant to do so. Compared to Strickland, Pereira is relatively new to the organization. However, his skill as a fighter is known throughout the world of combat sports due to his elite career as a kickboxer.
In the first round of the fight, Pereira showed the world why he is regarded as such a dangerous man. He landed a left hook squarely on his opponent’s jaw; that hurt Strickland immediately. He then followed that initial blow up with an overhand right that knocked Strickland out for good. Rarely has a fighter been able to make the leap from unranked to title contender in one fight. However, tonight’s victory was so impressive that Alex Pereira is almost guaranteed to be Israel Adesanya’s next opponent for the middleweight championship of the world. Kudos to him.
Lawler vs. Barberena
Robbie Lawler and Bryan Barberena are two welterweights whose preferred method of combat is striking. While both are skilled kickers and capable grapplers, it is throwing punches that gets each man excited. In round one, Lawler landed an uppercut that stunned Barberena; he seemed to be in control of the fight and dictating the pace of the action. However, that all changed in round two when Barberena landed an elbow that wobbled Lawler. Sensing the momentum was on his side, Barberena seized the moment. He hit Lawler with a barrage of punches that knocked him senseless and forced the referee to stop the fight. It just goes to show that in combat sports one can never become complacent; the entire narrative of a fight can change in an instant.
O’Malley vs. Munhoz
Bantamweight prospects Sean O’Malley and Pedro Munhoz each relied heavily on calf kicks during the first minute of round one. As he became increasingly comfortable, O’Malley began making good use of his left jab, landing scoring blows. Early in round two, there was an accidental eye poke by O’Malley that led to the ring doctor taking a look at Munhoz. It was ruled that Munhoz could not see out of his eye and the fight was ruled a no contest. These two may very well be lined up for a rematch in the not-so-distant future.
I am excited about the prospect of Alex Pereira becoming Israel Adesanya’s next opponent. Adesanya has looked invincible during his tenure in the middleweight division. It will be interesting to see him face a man that has already beaten him, albeit in a different sport. The rules of kickboxing and mixed martial arts may not be the same but opponents never forget each other. Adesanya feels that he has a score to settle with Pereira. Fans can rest assured both men will have additional motivation whenever this fight becomes a reality.
The UFC returns to The Apex Center next weekend for another edition of Fight Night. The main event of the evening will feature lightweight prospect Rafael dos Anjos versus Rafael Fiziev. As always, we’ll have all the latest updates about the outcomes of the fights, as well as in depth analysis available right here at World in Sport!