Tuesday, August 16, 2022

UFC 276 Predictions: Expert Picks By MMA News Staff

UFC 276 is closing in, and we’ve got our staff predictions ready to get you even more hyped up for the big event!

In the main event, Israel Adesanya will defend the middleweight championship against Jared Cannonier. The co-main event will feature a featherweight championship trilogy between Max Holloway and Alex Volkanovski.

The remainder of the main card is also filled with names known to bring along high-octane action, with “Sugar” Sean O’Malley kicking off the main card against Pedro Munhoz, Robbie Lawler facing Bryan Barberena, and a highly anticipated middleweight title eliminator between Sean Strickland and Alex Pereira.

UFC 276 will be available exclusively on ESPN+ pay-per-view on Saturday, July 2, 2022. The main card begins at 10:00 PM ET, and the ESPN preliminary card kicks off at 8:00 PM. The early preliminary card starts at 6:30 PM. The event will take place from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Staff Predictions for UFC 276: Adesanya vs. Cannonier

MMA News is the place to be for all the latest UFC 276 updates. Harvey Leonard, Andrew Starc, and Drew Beaupré have provided their picks for you below.

Here is the full main card for UFC 276: Adesanya vs. Cannonier

  • Middleweight Championship Bout: Israel Adesanya (c) vs. Jared Cannonier
  • Featherweight Championship Bout: Alexander Volkanovski (c) vs. Max Holloway
  • Middleweight: Sean Strickland vs. Alex Pereira
  • Welterweight: Robbie Lawler vs. Bryan Barberena
  • Bantamweight: Pedro Munhoz vs. Sean O’Malley

Pedro Munhoz vs. Sean O’Malley

Sean O'Malley, Pedro Munhoz
© Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports © Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Harvey Leonard: I don’t think there’s any doubting that this is O’Malley’s toughest test to date. But of all the opponents he could have been given his “toughest test” against, this is the most favorable matchup for him. O’Malley has proven his standup skills, and with a sizable reach and height advantage, I expect him to pick at Munhoz from range.

Should the Brazilian push forward in the hopes of negating the reach discrepancy, “Sugar” has the speed and footwork to circle on the back foot and counter well. Of course, Munhoz can go some way to affecting O’Malley’s movement with his leg kicks and is a step-up on the 27-year-old’s past opponents when it comes to power-punching, but I won’t bargain on that over O’Malley’s counters and setups. (Prediction: Sean O’Malley)

Andrew Starc: A classic matchup between one fighter who’s on his way up, and another seemingly on the way down. Pedro Munhoz, now thirty-five, has lost four of his last five. These, however, came against the best in the division, past and present; Aljamain Sterling, Frankie Edgar, José Aldo and Dominick Cruz.

As much as it may seem Munhoz is now in the autumn of his career, he’ll still pose the toughest test Sean O’Malley’s has faced. Riding a three-fight win streak, O’Malley has no doubt looked impressive. But two of those wins came against fighters—Kris Mountinho and Thomas Almeida—who have since been cut from the UFC. Still, I think “Suga” will get it done against Munhoz, but not without a struggle. (Prediction: Sean O’Malley)

Drew Beaupré: This matchup will be the UFC’s second attempt to get a significant name on O’Malley’s record. They tried it with Marlon Vera, but “Chito” was very much on his way up at the time. Munhoz is also an established name, but he’s on the opposite trajectory of where Vera was.

“The Young Punisher” has never been the fastest fighter, but this late in his career he seems tailor-made for “Sugar” to overwhelm on the feet. The Brazilian still has the power and submission game to surprise O’Malley if he gets sloppy, but this looks like the moment where the 27-year-old may crack the UFC’s bantamweight Top 10. (Prediction: Sean O’Malley)

Consensus: 3-0 O’Malley

Robbie Lawler vs. Bryan Barberena

Bryan Barberena, Robbie Lawler

Harvey Leonard: Barberena is rarely in boring bouts and Lawler is as game to fight as they come, so this should be a wild one. While the former champion has been on a clear decline, his level of competition has been high, barring Nick Diaz. And though “Bam Bam” is dangerous, he hasn’t got the technical abilities of the opponents Lawler has consistently faced.

With that in mind, this bout truly sits as a litmus test for how far Lawler has fallen. I expect his more polished striking to allow him to outpoint Barberena, so can “Bam Bam” knock him out? Given that the 40-year-old hasn’t been stopped with strikes in his last four losses and has suffered one KO defeat since 2004, I wouldn’t predict him to. But it could get hairy for “Ruthless” if his defense is as open as it was versus Diaz, whose punches were thankfully largely powerless. (Prediction: Robbie Lawler)

Andrew Starc: Since losing the welterweight strap in 2016, it’s fair to say Robbie Lawler has been on the downward slide. The 40-year-old has lost four of his last five, having most recently defeated a very faded Nick Diaz in September last year. 

Bryan Barberena, meanwhile, is coming off back-to-back wins against Matt Brown and Darian Weeks. He hasn’t, however, faced the caliber of fighter Lawler has in recent times. I think Lawler will get it done by unanimous decision here. (Prediction: Robbie Lawler)

Drew Beaupré: This fight feels well-matched considering where both guys are at in their careers, although I can’t help but wonder about the kind of war they might have had a few years ago. Both men are known for their ability to come on strong later in fights, but neither has looked particularly convincing of late. Barberena had a great scrap with Matt Brown but won by a very narrow split-decision, while Lawler stopped a returning Nick Diaz that pretty clearly didn’t want to be in the cage.

“Ruthless” may not be the force that he once was, but he’s not too far removed from fighting some of the UFC’s top welterweights. Barberena has struggled recently against a comparatively lower level of competition, so I’ll side with the former champion. (Prediction: Robbie Lawler)

Consensus: 3-0 Lawler

Sean Strickland vs. Alex Pereira

Strickland Pereira

Harvey Leonard: I feel like this might be an instance where Strickland’s tendency to promise to do dangerous things in the Octagon and then do the opposite might pay off. In his recent bouts, he’s jabbed his way to composed decision victories. While that approach still won’t give him the edge on the feet against Pereira, it’ll make a knockout less likely and provide more openings for him to land takedowns as the Brazilian begins to get wild.

From there, we must assume that Strickland has a sizable advantage. While Pereira avoided Silva’s attempts to drag the fight down, I’m trusting stories from Strickland’s training partners regarding his grappling. Chris Curtis, for instance, claimed that “Tarzan” has developed into one of middleweight’s best wrestlers since his defeat to Usman. A KO can never be counted out with Pereira, but stylistically, this one favors Strickland. (Prediction: Sean Strickland)

Andrew Starc: I think almost everyone wants to see Alex Pereira get the win to set up a showdown with champ Israel Adesanya—the man he beat twice as a kickboxer, once via KO. But #4-ranked middleweight Sean Strickland, who’s won six in a row and looks ready to challenge for the title himself, may just be too great a step up in competition for Pereira. 

The unranked Brazilian, who has just two UFC fights to his name, obviously has the KO power to put Strickland’s lights out. But his ground game is of course very suspect, and I think Strickland will take full advantage. I’m predicting a submission win for “Tarzan.” (Prediction: Sean Strickland) 

Drew Beaupré: I won’t lie, I’m as interested in a grudge match between Adesanya and Pereira as anybody else. The UFC is certainly keen on it, and if Pereira wins here, he’ll likely jump to the front of the line as the next middleweight title challenger. I love the fact that Pereira has been working with Glover Teixeira to round out his MMA game, but Strickland is going to be a massive step up for him in terms of MMA experience.

If Strickland uses his full skillset he should have the edge, but I do worry about if he chooses to test himself on the feet for too long. The UFC have sold me on the idea of Adesanya vs. Pereira, but I can’t sign off on the Brazilian challenging for a title until he gets a significant win. (Prediction: Sean Strickland)

Consensus: 3-0 Strickland

Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway

Alexander Volkanovski Max Holloway
Alexander Volkanovski, Max Holloway (Image Credit: Louis Grasse/PxImages & Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Harvey Leonard: This is the pick ‘em fight of all pick ‘em fights. I didn’t think a matchup with these two could get any closer on paper after their first two contests, but then they both went out and delivered two all-time great performances in their respective two fights since UFC 251.

Given their first two results and the insane form they’ve both been in, there’s very little to choose between them. Ultimately, I’ve got to go for the man I believe has developed more since 2020, and by the barest of margins, I see that as the champ. But essentially, toss a coin. (Prediction: Alexander Volkanovski)

Andrew Starc: Alexander Volkanovski’s reign atop the featherweight division continues to go from strength to strength. In April, he put on a clinic against the Korean Zombie, and in September last year, pulled off several Houdini-like escapes from Brian Ortega’s jiu-jitsu, not before beating him six ways to Sunday.

Max Holloway, however, has looked equally impressive in his last two fights, soundly defeating Calvin Kattar and Yair Rodriguez. And in his last fight with Volkanovski, Max looked like he did enough to get the win. I think he’ll do the same again this time to reclaim the featherweight title. (Prediction: Max Holloway)

Drew Beaupré: Like many, I remember feeling that Holloway had done enough to win in the second fight between these two featherweight greats. After watching again, I was much more understanding of it going Volkanovski’s way, but mainly I was impressed by how well both fighters had adapted from their first matchup. That’s certainly what makes a third fight interesting despite Volkanovski being up 2-0, and it’s anyone’s guess what they’ll each bring into the cage this time.

I expect Holloway to have made adjustments, but Volkanovski will undoubtedly have done the same. As much fun as a best-of-5 series between these two sounds if Holloway were to win, there’s too many good fighters at featherweight for the division to be held up that long. (Prediction: Alexander Volkanovski)

Consensus: 2-1 Volkanovski

Israel Adesanya vs. Jared Cannonier

Israel Adesanya Jared Cannonier

Harvey Leonard: This is the only main card fight I’d say I’m over 70% confident in my pick for. Adesanya is simply too slick on the feet and, as evidenced by his recent wins, is willing to play a patient and tactical game to keep the belt. While he’s been making a lot of noise about a finish, when push comes to shove, “The Last Stylebender’ will be more than happy for a controlled five-round affair if need be. That’s especially the case given that a power punch sneaking through his defense is likely the one route to victory for Cannonier.

It’s also hard to ignore the fact that Whittaker comfortably bested “The Killa Gorilla,” albeit after Cannonier broke his arm. There just doesn’t seem to be anything in the challenger’s game that Adesanya hasn’t seen and neutralized before. I expect counter after counter as Cannonier looks to close the distance. (Prediction: Israel Adesanya)

Andrew Starc: Jared Cannonier has certainly earned his title shot against Israel Adesanya. He’s 5-1 since dropping to middleweight in 2018, having defeated the likes of Jack Hermansson, Kelvin Gastelum and Derek Brunson. And the 38-year-old no doubt carries the KO power to knock Adesanya out. 

The problem he faces, like many others before him, is being able to close the distance and catch Adesanya. The champ’s footwork, evasive skills and blistering counterstriking are probably the best in the UFC, and I can’t see Cannonier posing a problem. Adesanya via TKO. (Prediction: Israel Adesanya)

Drew Beaupré: Jared Cannonier’s UFC career has taken him through wins, losses, and three different weight classes to earn his first title shot. It’s a great story, but not one that I expect to end in triumph on Saturday. “Tha Killa Gorilla” obviously has power, but he’s going to be in Adesanya’s world when he presumably keeps things standing.

I expect Adesanya to be patient early in order to get a read on Cannonier, but after that, things will probably go downhill quickly. The winner of Strickland vs. Pereira is the likely next title challenger, but after that it looks as if the middleweight rankings will be in need of some fresh talent to challenge “The Last Stylebender”. (Prediction: Israel Adesanya)

Consensus: 3-0 Adesanya

That’ll do it for our UFC 276 staff picks! What do you think? Do your picks look similar? Let us know in the comments section! Also, you can check out the UFC 276 undercard below.

UFC 276 Preliminary Card

  • Lightweight: Brad Riddell vs. Jalin Turner
  • Middleweight: Brad Tavares vs. Dricus Du Plessis
  • Welterweight: Ian Garry vs. Gabriel Green
  • Lightweight: Jim Miller vs. Donald Cerrone

UFC 276 Early Preliminary Card

  • Middleweight: Uriah Hall vs. Andre Muniz
  • Women’s Flyweight: Jessica Eye vs. Maycee Barber
  • Women’s Bantamweight: Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Julija Stoliarenko

Be sure to keep it right here on MMANews.com Saturday for all the results, highlights, and updates on UFC 276!

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