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Guide to UFC 276: Adesanya vs. Cannonier

Getting prepared for UFC action this Saturday? Here’s everything you need to know in our Guide to UFC 276: Adesanya vs. Cannonier

UFC 276
Date: July 2, 2022
Location: T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada

Main Card
Start Time: 10:00 p.m. ET, 7:00 p.m. PT
Where to watch: ESPN+ PPV

UFC Middleweight Championship: Israel Adesanya (c) vs. #2 Jared Cannonier

Official Records: Adesanya 22-1, Cannonier 15-5
UFC Records: Adesanya 11-1, Cannonier 8-5
Last Fight: Adesanya def. Whittaker (title fight)–UDec–UFC 271 (2/12/22), Cannonier def. Brunson–R2 KO–UFC 271 (2/12/22)
Last Five Fights: Adesanya 4-1, Cannonier 4-1
Betting Odds: Adesanya -450, Cannonier +360
Background: The main event of UFC 276 sees one of the best fighters in the sport looking to continue his reign of dominance over his division as Adesanya defends the UFC Middleweight Championship for the fifth time against surging contender Cannonier. Adesanya will be making his fifth defense of the undisputed title, and sixth overall if you include defending the interim title in the unification bout, and he’s coming off a second win over Robert Whittaker at UFC 271 in February where he looked as good as ever. It was a hard-fought decision, but Adesanya remains undefeated as a middleweight, with his lone career blemish being challenging for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship and coming up short. He hasn’t scored a finish since his defense over Paulo Costa in September 2020, but he has 15 knockouts overall and is eyeing that top spot on the pound-for-pound list. Cannonier comes into his first title shot after basically telling Dana White that he’s the next in line after knocking out Derek Brunson at UFC 271 in February. He finished Brunson with some of the most brutal elbows you’ll ever see on the ground, then grabbed the mic and told White that he’s next for the shot and that no one else gets the shot until he gets his. It worked, and he’s definitely a worthy challenger. He’d fought at both heavyweight and light heavyweight during his UFC career, managing to put together just a 3–4 record, but a move to 185 lbs. saw him quickly get into title contention with finishes of David Branch, Anderson Silva and Jack Hermansson. He had a little road bump in dropping a decision to Whittaker, but a win over Kelvin Gastelum and then over Brunson got him the title shot as he looks for his 13th career finish.

How they match up: Cannonier is going to have to take the lead and push the pace in this fight as Adesanya tends to fight at slow paces where he’s looking to use his fight IQ to pick apart opponents. Adesanya is the best striker in the sport and he mixes everything so well. He lands lots of leg kicks, really snaps the jab, and his combinations are hard to compare to. Cannonier has lots of power in his fists and lands good leg kicks, but he does get hit more than Adesanya does. Adesanya has excellent head movement and footwork overall but he’s going to have to be the more active fighter in this one. A chess match could hurt him on the scorecards because Cannonier is going to bring the power, and if he’s able to land a couple of clean shots each round, it could sway the judges. Wrestling will likely be a non-factor in this one, as Adesanya has never scored a takedown in UFC competition, and he hasn’t even gone for a takedown since July 2018. Cannonier has only scored two takedowns during his UFC career, and one came in his last fight with Brunson. The conditioning of both men is fantastic and shouldn’t be much of a factor here, but Adesanya has far more experience in 25-minute fights and Cannonier did get tired late in going 25 minutes against Gastelum. Adesanya is going to have a three-inch reach advantage and he knows how to use it, so unless Cannonier is able to get inside the pocket and clip him, Adesanya will use his range to pick apart the challenger on the feet. Cannonier is a solid challenger, but Adesanya is at another level at 185 lbs., and I see it being another successful title defense.

What’s at stake: Other than the UFC Middleweight Championship being on the line, Adesanya’s legacy is always at stake when he defends the title. He wants to go down as not only the best middleweight in UFC history, but the best fighter in UFC history. He’s one of the most active champions on the roster, which is a good thing, and if he gets by Cannonier, he’ll likely fight again before the end of the year and there will be plenty of challenges awaiting him. A loss and it hurts, but he would get an immediate rematch for sure. For Cannonier, he wants to pull off the upset. He’d be an unlikely champion considering his early UFC career, but we’ve seen lots of fighters put it together lately after early struggles, and Cannonier has the tools to become a champion. If he loses, he may very well not get another chance, so he has to capitalize if he wants to becoming champion.

Pick: Adesanya

UFC Featherweight Championship: Alexander Volkanovski (c) vs. #1 Max Holloway

Official Records: Volkanovski 24-1, Holloway 23-6
UFC Records: Volkanovski 11-0, Holloway 19-6
Last Fight: Volkanovski def. Jung (title fight)–R4 TKO–UFC 273 (4/9/22), Holloway def. Rodriguez–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 55 (11/13/21)
Last Five Fights: Volkanovski 5-0, Holloway 3-2
Betting Odds: Volkanovski -200, Holloway +170
Background: The co-main event might be more anticipated than the main event as it’ll be the trilogy bout between these two when UFC Featherweight Champion Volkanovski looks to make it 3-0 against the man he took the title from in Holloway. Volkanovski defeated Holloway to win the title at UFC 245 in December 2019 in a fairly clear decision, which led to an immediate rematch on Fight Island in July 2020 at UFC 251. That fight was way closer than the first fight, but Volkanovski escaped still the champion on a split decision, but there were lots of people who felt Holloway won the fight. Instead of an immediate trilogy fight, Volkanovski coached against Brian Ortega on The Ultimate Fighter and defeated Ortega at UFC 266 in September, while Holloway scored a pair of wins over Calvin Kattar and Yair Rodriguez. They were poised to rematch in early 2022, but injuries kept Holloway from fighting that soon. Volkanovski, instead, fought Chan Sung Jung at UFC 273 in April, dominating ‘The Korean Zombie’ until scoring a stoppage inside the first minute of the fourth round. Volkanovski has an incredible 21-fight win streak, is a perfect 11–0 during his UFC tenure, and is currently second on the pound-for-pound list. Holloway is one of the all-time greats at 145 lbs., with wins over Frankie Edgar, Charles Oliveira, Brian Ortega, Cub Swanson, Anthony Pettis and two wins over Jose Aldo. These are the two best featherweights of the last at least five years.

How they match up: These are the elite of the elite of the division and this should be another high quality fight. The first fight saw Volkanovski ahead pretty much the entire fight, while the second fight saw Holloway start strong and Volkanovski the one winning the later rounds and coming from behind to win. Both are high-volume strikers and Holloway is the most decorated striker in UFC history. Holloway has landed 2848 significant strikes in his UFC career, which is first all-time. The second place holder on the list, Frankie Edgar, has only 1799 in his career. Holloway has been in lots of wars during his career, and at some point it’s going to catch up to him, and this could be the fight, or it could not. Volkanovski has looked flawless in his last two fights, and he barely came out with a scratch against Jung. The key for Volkanovski is to limit the volume of Holloway- in both of their fights it was Volkanovski who landed the more significant strikes. Volkanovski also did a great job of landing the leg kicks, which slowed Holloway down. Holloway was the better at landing counters and he landed good uppercuts in the second fight. Both guys are great at making adjustments during fights. Holloway showed some solid wrestling in his last fight, but Volkanovski is a great wrestler and Holloway, honestly, should just look to keep it in striking range. Holloway has turned up the volume in his striking in his last two fights and that is going to be the key to beating Volkanovski here. However, Volkanovski just seems to have Holloway’s number, and what he excels at is what Holloway has traditionally struggled against. This is such a great match-up and I could watch these guys fight 30 times, but I see Volkanovski making it 3–0 against his best rival.

What’s at stake: This is a pivotal bout for not only both men, but for the future of the featherweight division. Volkanovski has let his future plans be known already- if he wins this, he plans on challenging for the UFC Lightweight Championship and attempting to become a two-division champion. Him winning would stall the momentum of a lot of contenders and leave the title in limbo, though an interim title could come into play then. If Holloway wins, Volkanovski is still ahead in the trilogy, but a fourth bout would be unlikely next. However, we don’t know Holloway’s plans. Lightweight was always in his future, so who knows what happens if he were to win the title. Not only will the title be at stake, but this could determine who is truly the best featherweight of all-time. This feels like it has higher stakes than the main event.

Pick: Volkanovski

Middleweights: #4 Sean Strickland vs. Alex Pereira

Official Records: Strickland 25-3, Pereira 5-1
UFC Records: Strickland 12-3, Pereira 2-0
Last Fight: Strickland def. Hermansson–SpDec–UFC On ESPN+ 58 (2/5/22), Pereira def. Silva–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 61 (3/12/22)
Last Five Fights: Strickland 5-0, Pereira 5-0
Betting Odds: Strickland -120, Pereira +100
Background: A pivotal middleweight bout that could have title shot implications on the line gets a main card slot as Strickland puts his win streak on the line against Pereira, who is getting thrown in there with high-level competition quickly. Strickland comes into this fight on a six-fight win streak with the last five coming since making his move up to the middleweight division. His last two wins came in main event positions as he scored decisions over Uriah Hall and Jack Hermansson, but only one of his wins during his streak has seen him score a finish. Strickland’s biggest flaw looks to be his mouth and personality, something that could get him in trouble if he’s put in really high-profile positions, but his ability inside the Octagon is excellent. Pereira is still young in his MMA career as it’s just his seventh career MMA bout, but he has 40 professional kickboxing fights, and holds two wins over Israel Adesanya, including being the only man to ever knock Adesanya out in any kind of combat sports competition. Pereira lost his MMA debut, but he’s since won five straight, including his first two UFC outings. He’s coming off a decision win over Bruno Silva in March that put him to the test. Overall, in all of his combat sports fights, Pereira has scored 26 knockout wins.

How they match up: Pereira is a gifted kickboxer and Strickland isn’t going to be able to match him on the feet, especially when you consider Strickland’s tendency to fight with an upright stance. Strickland does have some good boxing, but not much in the way of knockout power. Pereira has the knockout power, not only with his hands, but with his knees and his feet. Both of these men tend to walk straight towards their opponents, which could make for a fun opening moment of the fight. Pereira has a strong left hook, so imagine the two walking down each other with their hands down at one point and Pereira landing the left hook and knocking Strickland out. It’s possible it could happen, and the four ounce gloves just add to the power of Pereira. Strickland could rely on his wrestling, but Pereira showed himself to be competent at defending takedowns, though Strickland is an underrated wrestler. Pereira will look to utilize his footwork and movement and Strickland’s boxing stance leaves himself vulnerable to getting his lead leg kicked a lot. Strickland is going to have to ramp up the volume during this one and keep Pereira from being able to time his counters. Strickland is also going to trash talk during the fight, but Pereira has been in so many high-level fights during his career that it likely won’t faze him. In the end, I see Pereira landing a devastating blow to finish Strickland and set himself up for that potential showdown with Adesanya.

What’s at stake: If Adesanya wins the main event and Pereira wins this fight, that’s the next title fight. It would be quick to be made given Pereira’s experience level in MMA, but they specifically signed him to set up a fight between these two. It’s the reason they rushed Pereira into this fight against Strickland. However, if Strickland wins, he should deserve a title shot, but that isn’t a guarantee. His mouth and the things he says is going to get him in trouble some day, and it could cause a backlash if he gets a title shot with what he’s said. I doubt it will, but he’s also someone you can’t push into the spotlight because of it. It feels like they hope he loses as it’ll knock him out of the picture. Regardless, this is a big fight for both.

Pick: Pereira

Welterweights: Robbie Lawler vs. Bryan Barberena

Official Records: Lawler 29-15 1 NC, Barberena 17-8
UFC Records: Lawler 14-9, Barberena 8-6
Last Fight: Lawler def. Diaz–R3 TKO–UFC 266 (9/25/21), Barberena def. Brown–SpDec–UFC On ESPN 33 (3/26/22)
Last Five Fights: Lawler 1-4, Barberena 3-2
Betting Odds: Lawler -115, Barberena -105
Background: Some late card shuffling due to a fight falling apart sees this exciting welterweight match-up between former UFC Welterweight Champion Lawler and Barberena moved to the main card, and they are sure to deliver fireworks. I don’t know if Lawler’s run from his UFC return thru the end of his title reign will ever get the credit it deserves as an all-time great UFC run, but we’re talking about one of the most exciting and most violent fighters in MMA history. Lawler was involved in three straight Fight Of The Year winners during his peak, and while it’s been a struggle of late with losses in five of his last seven fights, you can’t ignore that the welterweight division with Lawler on top was incredible. He last fought in September where he scored a third-round finish of Nick Diaz, which snapped a four-fight losing skid he was on. Lawler is now 40 and on the back end of his career, but he still is able to have exciting fights. Barberena has been one of the more underrated fighters of recent years when it comes to exciting fights, and his last outing in March was no exception when he scored a decision over Matt Brown in one of the best fights to take place thus far in 2022. It was his second straight win, and Barberena has won three of his last four overall. He’s scored 12 of his 17 career wins by finish, with ten knockouts and two submissions.

How they match up: This fight should be bananas. Lawler had been struggling over recent years, but he has admitted that the Diaz fight re-ignited his passion for fighting, and he’s aware that the end is coming soon. He remains a violent fighter who can finish opponents at any point with anything he throws. Barberena knows how to walk forward thru punches and he will bring the action towards Lawler. He doesn’t have quite the chin that Lawler does, and while he has some power, he won’t be able to match the power of Lawler. Lawler does have better defense on the feet. I won’t even both getting into the wrestler of either as this one is just going to be played out on the feet. Expect both men to hit each other with some big punches, but I see Lawler getting Barberena in trouble several times during the fight and getting a finish inside the distance in what will end up being a crazy, fun fight.

What’s at stake: These two are expected to deliver an exciting fight and that’s all that matters. Lawler’s legacy in his career is sealed and he’ll be setting foot inside the UFC Hall Of Fame one day for a multitude of reasons. He’s nearing the end of his career and he’ll go out on his terms, but he would like to go out a winner, so winning this would keep that going. I don’t expect him to be done after this unless he just looks bad. Barberena got a new contract after his last win, so now would be a good time to start a run towards the title if that’s his goal. He always has fun fights, and this should be no exception, but it’s a much bigger fight for him than Lawler.

Pick: Lawler

Bantamweights: #9 Pedro Munhoz vs. #13 Sean O’Malley

Official Records: Munhoz 19-7 1 NC, O’Malley 15-1
UFC Records: Munhoz 9-7 1 NC, O’Malley 7-1
Last Fight: Cruz def. Munhoz–UDec–UFC 269 (12/11/21), O’Malley def. Paiva–R1 TKO–UFC 269 (12/11/21)
Last Five Fights: Munhoz 1-4, O’Malley 4-1
Betting Odds: Munhoz +240, O’Malley -285
Background: The moment lots of fans have been waiting for is finally here in the main card opener, and that is whether or not O’Malley is ready for that top-level bantamweight competition, which he gets in the form of Munhoz here. O’Malley, who claims to be undefeated though he has an official loss on his record, which was due to an injury, comes into this fight looking to extend his three fight win streak that has seen him score knockouts of Thomas Almeida, Kris Moutinho, and, most recently, Raulian Paiva in December. It was O’Malley’s best showing to date and now he gets to fight a top-ten ranked opponent. O’Malley has scored 12 of his 15 career wins by finish, with eleven wins by knockout. Munhoz is hanging onto his spot inside the top-ten at 135 lbs., but just barely, and he’s looking to end a two-fight losing skid and make another run towards title contention. He was there after a stretch where he won seven of eight fights, including a four-fight win streak and a three-fight win streak, but he’s gone just 1-4 over his last five fights. Granted, the losses came to current champion Aljamain Sterling and former champions Frankie Edgar, Jose Aldo and Dominick Cruz, which showed he can still compete at the top level. Munhoz has scored 13 of his 19 wins by finish.

How they match up: One of the biggest things in this fight is going to be O’Malley having a seven-inch reach advantage, and he knows how to use it to his advantage in being a long range striker who utilizes the leg kicks. His set ups are fantastic and he’s both crafty and unique, and he’s the quicker fighter of the two. Munhoz is very durable, but O’Malley has learned how to properly pace himself throughout fights. Munhoz is going to have to try and cut off the cage, but O’Malley’s footwork and movement is going to make that difficult, and I see Munhoz having difficulty getting inside the pocket on O’Malley. Munhoz is plenty capable of landing a big punch if he can get inside that reach, but one thing he’s going to need to look out for is the leg kicks. Munhoz had his legs lit up by Jose Aldo when they fought. This could go similar to Munhoz’ fight against Dominick Cruz, but O’Malley is faster and probably has more movement these days and Munhoz will be unlikely to tag him like he did to Cruz at times. Munhoz should look to use the calf kick of his own, but, again, that is going to be dependent on him getting inside the range. This is a big test for O’Malley, but he has all of the advantages to win this, and I see him getting it done here, but doing so by going the distance.

What’s at stake: This is a massive fight for O’Malley. If he wins, which he is the favorite, then he’s officially ready to fight the elite of the bantamweight division. However, a loss would keep a lot of the questions surrounding him out there, and it would be bad for his career and could take some time for him to recover from. You could say this is a must-win for O’Malley. It’s also a must-win for Munhoz if he wants to remain on the back end of the title contention picture, but it’s not like a loss signals the end of his UFC run. A win would derail the high hopes that O’Malley has, and Munhoz has no problem trying to play spoiler.

Pick: O’Malley

Preliminary Card
Start Time: 8:00 p.m. ET, 5:00 p.m. PT
Where to watch: ABC, ESPN & ESPN+

Lightweights: #14 Brad Riddell vs. Jalin Turner

Official Records: Riddell 10-2, Turner 12-5
UFC Records: Riddell 4-1, Turner 5-2
Last Fight: Fiziev def. Riddell–R3 KO–UFC On ESPN 31 (12/4/21), Turner def. Mullarkey–R3 TKO–UFC 272 (3/5/22)
Last Five Fights: Riddell 4-1, Turner 4-1
Betting Odds: Riddell +125, Turner -145
Background: A lightweight bout serves as the featured prelim on the night and it’s an exciting match-up that sees Riddell looking to remain inside the top-15 at lightweight against the surging Turner. Riddell fights for the first time in 2022 as he returns to action looking to get back into the win column following a third-round knockout loss to Rafael Fiziev in December. That ended Riddell’s seven-fight win streak, which included a 4-0 start to his UFC career. He’s still ranked inside the lightweight rankings as he searches for his first UFC stoppage on a night where his teammates look to retain their titles. Turner comes into this fight with a bunch of momentum and a chance to get himself into the lightweight rankings. He started his UFC career with losses in two of his first three fights, but he’s since won four straight, all by stoppage, scoring wins over Josh Culibao, Brok Weaver, Uros Medic and Jamie Mullarkey. He’s scored all 12 of his professional wins by finish, with nine knockouts and three submissions.

How they match up: Turner is going to have a ridiculous size edge over Riddell, as he is eight inches taller and will have a six-inch reach advantage. Riddell tends to be a slow starter and Turner is going to look to take advantage of that by using his reach to keep Riddell at a distance. However, once his gets in his groove, Riddell is going to be hard to beat. He’s a dangerous striker who throws rapid-fire combinations. Turner does have strong finishing ability inside the first round, but this is a big leap up in competition for him. With no disrespect to his past opponents, Riddell is the best fighter he’s fought since his debut against Vicente Luque. Turner will likely look for a takedown and a submission, especially once Riddell starts firing off with his punches, but Riddell does have strong wrestling defense. Riddell does have more experience going to the later moments of the fight, and that’ll prove to be a big difference here. He might have to weather a storm early, but Riddell battles it out and takes the decision.

What’s at stake: Riddell’s spot at number 14 in the lightweight rankings is on the line, as a win would keep him at least there, if not move him up, but a loss could take him out, and Turner winning would make sense for him to take Riddell’s spot since it would be five straight. Riddell would put himself right back into the mix of breaking into title contention, while Turner would break into that mix with the win. It’s a big fight for both men looking to establish themselves as contenders in one of the toughest divisions in the company.

Pick: Riddell

Welterweights: Jim Miller vs. Donald Cerrone

Official Records: Miller 34-16 1 NC, Cerrone 36-16 2 NC
UFC Records: Miller 23-15 1 NC, Cerrone 23-13 1 NC
Last Fight: Miller def. Motta–R2 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 59 (2/19/22), Morono def. Cerrone–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN 24 (5/8/21)
Last Five Fights: Miller 3-2, Cerrone 0-4 1 NC
Betting Odds: Miller -195, Cerrone +165
Background: It’s a fight that came together last week, it’s a battle of legends, it’s a rematch, and it’s a fight for UFC history as Miller and Cerrone run it back. They fought in July 2014 in a main event spot, a fight that was back-and-forth in the first, but Cerrone would go on to score a knockout via head kick in the second round. It’s been nearly eight years, and their paths have been completely different, but somehow they’ve both reached the spot where they have 23 UFC wins, which ties them for first along with Andrei Arlovski on the all-time list. This fight wasn’t supposed to happen as Miller was to fight Bobby Green, but Green pulled out due to undisclosed reasons, and Cerrone stepped in after his scheduled fight against Joe Lauzon fell apart for the second time a couple of weeks ago. Cerrone didn’t want to cut to 155 lbs. again, which would’ve been the third straight month he’d done so, so they agreed to fight at welterweight, which will be the first time Miller has fought at that weight. Miller has won two straight fights, scoring second-round knockouts of Erick Gonzalez and Nikolas Motta. Cerrone hasn’t fought since May 2020, but he’s trying to end a six-fight winless skid and score his first win since May 2019.

How they match up: Even though these two have been fighting for years and have been in absolute wars, Cerrone seems to be far more diminished than Miller is. Cerrone’s chin is a big question mark now and Miller has been showing that he is still plenty durable. He can still get his chin cracked, but his recovery is better than Cerrone’s is at this moment in time. Another thing with Cerrone that could come into play is the mental approach. He’s admitted to faltering at times when he’s not mentally into a fight, and with this being the third straight month he’s been booked to fight, that could become a factor. Miller has shown an increase in power of late as well, and without having to cut any weight for this fight, he should retain the power more. A big thing lately for Miller as well is that he’s been getting off to quick starts while Cerrone is a notoriously slow starter. I see this fight going differently than the last time. Cerrone has hit the stage where he doesn’t like being hit and he can’t take the shots he used to and that is going to be the difference. He could still catch Miller with something, but the feeling is Miller knocks Cerrone out in the first.

What’s at stake: First place on the all-time UFC wins list is what’s at stake. Both men are winding their careers down and both have stated goals of when they want to reach the end. Cerrone wants to make it to 50 fights under the Zuffa banner between his time with UFC and WEC, and this will be his 48th fight. If he wins, getting two more fights is likely to happen. It could still happen if he loses, but that’s a big question. Miller’s stated goal is to fight on the UFC 300 card, which will happen at some point in 2024 when he’ll be 40. Dana White said he would put Miller on that card, guaranteed, if he was still on the roster then. I don’t see him not being on the roster by their choice, and I think with that being his end game, he’ll make it there, and a win would make it even more likely. It’s a battle of legends and it’ll have the vocal fan support behind it.

Pick: Miller

Welterweights: Ian Garry vs. Gabe Green

Official Records: Garry 9-0, Green 11-3
UFC Records: Garry 2-0, Green 2-1
Last Fight: Garry def. Weeks–UDec–UFC 273 (4/9/22), Green def. Lainesse–R2 TKO–UFC On ESPN 35 (4/30/22)
Last Five Fights: Garry 5-0, Green 4-1
Betting Odds: Garry -175, Green +150
Background: One of the bright prospects the promotion is getting behind when it comes to building future stars gets back to action on the big July card as the male version of ‘The Future’, Garry, looks to remain undefeated against a tough test in Green. Garry, who is just 24-years-old, makes his third UFC appearance as he looks to improve on his perfect 9-0 record. He started his professional career in February 2019, and just over two years into his career and on the heels of a 7-0 record, and he scored a first-round knockout of Jordan Williams in his UFC debut inside Madison Square Garden in November at UFC 268. He followed it with a decision over Darian Weeks at UFC 273 in April. Green comes into this fight riding a two-fight win streak. He made his UFC debut in May 2020, suffering a loss to Daniel Rodriguez, but bounced back with a decision win over Phil Rowe in February 2021 and a second-round knockout of Yohan Lainesse in April. He’s won eight of his last nine overall and has ten career wins by stoppage.

How they match up: This is going to be a really good test to see where Garry is at. Green is a high-volume striker who also gets hit more than he lands. Garry has good movement on the feet and is still progressing as a fighter and Green being easy to hit is something that should benefit him. Green does like to pressure opponents and has good durability and he may put Garry to a test that he hasn’t been thru before. Garry is a black belt in judo and has some great takedowns, but he’s yet to show that off during his two UFC outings. It’s something that could benefit him here. He’s also in his second camp at Sanford MMA, and he’s been there for the entire camp instead of having to move ahead of time, so he should feel more comfortable here. I see it being pretty even on the feet but Garry to utilize his wrestling and grappling and exploit the fact that Green has terrible wrestling defense, and for Garry to take it down and either pound it out from top or find a submission. Either way, the prospect continues to rise.

What’s at stake: Garry is being hailed as a future title contender in the welterweight division, and they’re bringing him along slowly. A win here keeps him undefeated and on his slow rise up the ladder, while a loss wouldn’t set him that far back based on experience, but it would be a disappointment. Green wants to play the spoiler and derail the hype train and hand Garry his first loss all while moving himself up the tough welterweight ladder.

Pick: Garry

Middleweights: #12 Brad Tavares vs. Dricus Du Plessis

Official Records: Tavares 19-6, Du Plessis 16-2
UFC Records: Tavares 14-6, Du Plessis 2-0
Last Fight: Tavares def. Akhmedov–SpDec–UFC 264 (7/10/21), Du Plessis def. Giles–R2 KO–UFC 264 (7/10/21)
Last Five Fights: Tavares 3-2, Du Plessis 4-1
Betting Odds: Tavares +125, Du Plessis -145
Background: Two middleweights coming in off long layoffs battle here as long-time veteran Tavares looks to halt the momentum of Du Plessis in an interesting battle. Neither man has fought since UFC 264 last July, where Tavares scored a split decision over Omari Akhmedov and Du Plessis scored a second-round knockout of Trevin Giles. Tavares has been a UFC staple ever since being on season eleven of The Ultimate Fighter back in 2010, and he’s had a productive UFC career that has seen him score wins in 14 of his 20 fights, including wins in six of his last eight, and he’s on a two-fight win streak. He’s been ranked at middleweight for quite some time, coming in ranked 12th ahead of this fight. Du Plessis has been impressive in his young UFC career as this will be just his third appearance inside the Octagon. He’s had several scheduled fights cancelled during his year-long layoff, and he’s looking to extend his four-fight win streak. He’s scored all 16 of his professional wins via a finish, with seven knockouts and nine submissions.

How they match up: Tavares is a well-rounded fighter who has fought some of the best in the middleweight division, and he’s the type of fighter who is going to have some good offense and is solid with his defense. Du Plessis is also well-rounded, but not quite at the level of Tavares. He does hit hard and his grappling is good, but Tavares has really strong takedown defense. Tavares’ chin has been a question mark at times, and he’s been the victim of knockouts, and Du Plessis hits with a lot of power. Tavares should look to utilize his veteran experience inside the Octagon. After all, he has more UFC fights than Du Plessis has career fights. Tavares usually gets finished in the first round, so if he can weather any kind of storm Du Plessis brings, the second and third rounds will be better for him. Unfortunately, I see Du Plessis landing some hard punches in the first and finishing it inside of the first five minutes.

What’s at stake: Tavares has been a staple of the middleweight division but has never quite been inside the title picture despite being ranked for some time. A win here could finally break him into that upper echelon of the division, while a loss means he’s likely nothing more than a gatekeeper. Du Plessis has lots of potential and is a name everyone should be paying attention to, and he’ll let you know it. A win here would likely break him into the rankings and continue his quick rise up the middleweight ladder.

Pick: Du Plessis

Early Preliminary Card
Start Time: 6:30 p.m. ET, 3:30 p.m. PT
Where to watch: ESPN & ESPN+

Middleweights: #9 Uriah Hall vs. #13 Andre Muniz

Official Records: Hall 17-10, Muniz 22-4
UFC Records: Hall 10-8, Muniz 4-0
Last Fight: Strickland def. Hall–UDec–UFC On ESPN 28 (7/31/21), Muniz def. Anders–R1 SUB–UFC 269 (12/11/21)
Last Five Fights: Hall 4-1, Muniz 5-0
Betting Odds: Hall +265, Muniz -320
Background: An interesting middleweight bout is way down the prelim card, which shows the depth of the card as this could headline an event inside the Apex, as Hall looks to rebound against the surging Muniz in this one. These two were supposed to fight in April, but Hall had to pull out, and it was re-booked for this card. Hall hasn’t fought since last July, where he dropped a decision to Sean Strickland in a main event bout. The loss ended the best run Hall had been on during his UFC career as he had won four straight prior to that. He’s long been a dangerous fighter, as evidenced by his 13 knockouts, but he’s trying to avoid that dreaded gatekeeper status and keep himself in the title hunt. After two appearances on Dana White’s Contender Series, Muniz earned a contract and has been impressive thus far, reeling off four straight wins to start his UFC career. He’s coming off three straight submission wins over Bartosz Fabinski, Ronaldo Souza and Eryk Anders, which included snapping the arm of “Jacare” into two pieces. Overall, Muniz has won eight straight fights and 16 of his last 17, and he has 19 wins by stoppage, including 15 submission wins.

How they match up: This is definitely a battle between striker and grappler as both are talented where their strengths are. However, Hall’s last showing against Strickland shows he still struggles against wrestlers and grapplers, and this doesn’t feel like a favorable match-up for him. Muniz will be looking to pressure early and get the fight down, and if has Hall on the mat, a submission is likely to happen. That should be enough to give Muniz the edge in this one, but you can’t count out Hall while the fight is standing. He has knockout power in his hands and feet and he delivers brutal leg kicks. He needs to be on the attack with the calf kick early to slow down the takedown approach from Muniz. Hall is also good at pulling out wins when you don’t expect him to. Muniz may be spectacular on the mat, but his striking defense and conditioning are big holes he needs to show improvement in. I see Hall being able to keep it on the feet long enough to score an early finish.

What’s at stake: Hall is ranked ninth at middleweight while Muniz is ranked 13th. They could switch positions depending on the outcome, or one could move up while the other moves down. Hall wants to show he’s more than a middleweight gatekeeper, but any chance of making a run at the middleweight title is dependent on winning this fight. A loss, and then his chances are likely done. Muniz has been impressive and this is his biggest test to date. A win moves him inside the top ten and into a potential main event slot, while a loss won’t hurt him that much.

Pick: Hall

Women’s Flyweights: #10 Jessica Eye vs. #13 Maycee Barber

Official Records: Eye 15-10 1 NC, Barber 10-2
UFC Records: Eye 5-9 1 NC, Barber 5-2
Last Fight: Maia def. Eye–UDec–UFC 264 (7/10/21), Barber def. De La Rosa–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 63 (4/23/22)
Last Five Fights: Eye 1-4, Barber 3-2
Betting Odds: Eye +240, Barber -285
Background: We have the male fighter nicknamed ‘The Future’ already on the card, so now it’s time for the female nicknamed ‘The Future’ to also compete as Barber looks to score a big win against former title challenger Eye. Eye was slated to fight Casey O’Neill in this fight, but O’Neill pulled out after suffering a torn ACL, and Barber steps in on about two months’ notice. Eye is in need of a win in this one as she’s lost three straight and four of her last five. After struggling at bantamweight, Eye’s career was rejuvenated when the flyweight division was added, and she won three straight to earn a title shot against Valentina Shevchenko. That title fight didn’t go as planned as Shevchenko punted her head into the upper deck at UFC 238 in June 2019. She bounced back with a win over Viviane Araujo, but three straight decision losses has her back against the wall. Barber entered her UFC career vowing to become the youngest UFC champion ever, and she got her career off to a good start with an 8-0 record. However, the competition got tougher, and she dropped two straight fights, losing to Roxanne Modafferi and Alexa Grasso. She’s since won two straight, scoring wins over Miranda Maverick and Montana De La Rosa.

How they match up: Eye has returned to her roots in Ohio to train with her former team that led her to the title shot, and she seems rejuvenated by making the move. She’s a better fighter than her record and reputation show as her striking is solid and her wrestling has been improving. Her takedown defense is still her biggest weakness. Barber has solid takedowns and is very good when she’s able to establish top control, but she is still learning on the mat. It is possible that the pressure and boxing of Eye make Barber uncomfortable and Barber doesn’t do well against pressure. Barber has shown struggles when she reaches a certain level and the big question is if Eye is still at that level or if she’s slipped, especially with having a long layoff. It’s really a close fight and this could go either way. Barber is likely the better athlete at this stage, but this is definitely a winnable fight for both. Flipping a coin, I see Barber edging out a close fight, but an Eye win wouldn’t be a surprise.

What’s at stake: It is very likely that Eye is fighting for her UFC future. A loss would be four straight and would put her in a position where she could get cut, though she has that veteran name and a decent amount of popularity to where she could be kept around. She needs to win, and she knows it, and this was a fight she called for. It was also a fight Barber called for and is her chance to score her first win over a ranked opponent, and it would put her back on track to possibly becoming a UFC champion. A loss, though, and ‘The Future’ might not be as promising.

Pick: Barber

Women’s Bantamweights: Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Julija Stoliarenko

Official Records: Clark 11-7 1 NC, Stoliarenko 9-6-1
UFC Records: Clark 4-3, Stoliarenko 0-4
Last Fight: Egger def. Clark–R1 SUB–UFC On ESPN+ 59 (2/19/22), Davis def. Stoliarenko–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 58 (2/5/22)
Last Five Fights: Clark 2-3, Stoliarenko 2-3
Betting Odds: Clark -150, Stoliarenko +130
Background: A pair of female bantamweights looking to get back into the win column get the action started in Las Vegas as Clark battles Stoliarenko. Clark is looking to bounce back from a first-round submission loss to Stephanie Egger in February. That ended a two-fight win streak Clark was on, which saw her score wins over Sarah Alpar and Joselyne Edwards. She’s looking for her sixth win by stoppage. Stoliarenko is in her second UFC stint and is making her fifth appearance inside the Octagon, but she’s still in search of her first UFC win. She lost her UFC debut in November 2018 and didn’t get a second fight, but then scored five straight wins to get invited back to the roster. However, she’s lost all three of her fights since returning, losing to Yana Kunitskaya, Julia Avila and Alexis Davis. She’s scored eight of her nine wins by submission.

How they match up: Clark has bulked up and is committed to fighting at bantamweight and the size is something she’s going to look to use to her advantage. Stoliarenko’s best path to victory has been clear- she likes to get it down early and find the armbar. Clark should know this, but she did give up easily in the clinch against Egger and it allowed for her to be submitted in the first round by, coincidentally, an armbar. Whatever mistakes Clark made in that fight, she’s going to have to have learned from it or else she’ll fall into the same trap here. Both are capable on the feet and Clark tends to land more while Stoliarenko gets hit more often than she lands. Clark should look to get ahead on the feet and then work the takedown and just control from the top. She shouldn’t put herself in bad positions, and who cares if she makes it boring as long as she can maintain dominant position. I don’t like Stoliarenko’s chances outside of finding an armbar, and I don’t think she’s going to find one, and that Clark wins this on the scorecards.

What’s at stake: It’s a must-win fight for both, but especially for Stoliarenko. If she loses, she won’t be getting another UFC fight. A win isn’t a guarantee, but they do need bantamweights, so a win would see her return. Clark isn’t going anywhere with a loss, but she wants to make a title run, so a win here is very vital in doing that.

Pick: Clark

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