UFC 276 predictions: Will Adesanya make light work of Cannonier?
Ahead of Saturday's UFC 276 in Las Vegas, theScore's Nick Baldwin makes his picks for the top bouts.
Israel Adesanya (22-1)
Jared Cannonier (15-5)
Everything that Cannonier does, Adesanya does better.
Adesanya, one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in MMA, will give Cannonier a lot of trouble during their striking exchanges. He's an expert technician. Early on, Adesanya generally lands counters from the outside while he figures out his opponent. And as the fight progresses, he opens up with bigger combinations and potentially fight-ending sequences.
That's what he'll do against Cannonier. The challenger needs to get inside and make this a gritty fight from the opening bell. That's where he can avoid Adesanya's leg kicks, land his biggest blows, and try to knock the champion out. If Cannonier stands at range with Adesanya and allows him to control the pace of the fight, he will struggle to register much offense or simply get knocked out.
Some of Adesanya's wins have been career-defining performances (Robert Whittaker 1, Paulo Costa), while others have been slightly less impressive (Yoel Romero). I think we'll see vintage Adesanya in this matchup since it favors him so heavily. And that means another stoppage win added to his resume.
The pick: Adesanya, third-round TKO
Alexander Volkanovski (24-1)
Max Holloway (23-6)
This should be an incredible trilogy fight between two of the sport's absolute best.
Holloway is rightfully in another title bout - despite having lost twice to Volkanovski - after destroying Calvin Kattar and edging Yair Rodriguez in a "Fight of the Year" candidate in 2021. He solidified his spot as No. 2 and gets another chance to take back the throne.
Unfortunately for the Hawaiian, Volkanovski keeps getting better and might be the only featherweight in the world who can routinely beat him. While Holloway had a strong start in their July 2020 rematch - which was much more competitive than their first fight in December 2019 - Volkanovski made adjustments midway through and secured the win. Expect a similar outcome Saturday.
Holloway showed up to the rematch with a new strategy, and while it worked out better than when Volkanovski took his title the year before, it still wasn't enough. Ultimately, Volkanovski at his best seems to be slightly better than Holloway at his best.
The third meeting could very well be just as close as the rematch, but Volkanovski is too talented to pick against.
The pick: Volkanovski, unanimous decision
Sean Strickland (25-3)
Alex Pereira (5-1)
A title shot against the winner of Adesanya-Cannonier is likely on the line, and this is the toughest fight to pick on the card.
If Strickland and Pereira battle it out on the feet, the prevailing wisdom suggests Pereira, a former GLORY Kickboxing champion, should be one step ahead. But MMA is different than kickboxing, and Strickland's incredible volume could throw Pereira off his game.
Strickland appears to have more ways to win. Though he's also primarily a striker, he could look to wrestle Pereira and smother him on the ground. He hinted at Thursday's media day that he could take that route if Pereira starts having success on the feet.
Pereira's biggest advantage is his power - he can knock you out with his punches, knees, or kicks. Strickland has a great chin, but no one is invincible. I'll ever so slightly lean toward Pereira to land a clean shot midway through the fight and put Strickland away.
The pick: Pereira, second-round knockout
Pedro Munhoz (19-7, 1 NC)
Sean O'Malley (15-1)
This will either be a breakthrough-esque win for O'Malley or another setback, as the popular up-and-comer tries to crack the top 10 in the bantamweight division.
On paper, Munhoz is O'Malley's toughest test to date. But it's a challenge I suspect O'Malley will pass with flying colors.
O'Malley is 5 inches taller than Munhoz and has a 7-inch reach advantage, and that size difference will come in handy. Munhoz's best shot to pull off the upset will be to rough up O'Malley in the clinch and get him to the mat. But in the end, expect "Sugar" to pop Munhoz with punches from the outside over the course of three rounds en route to a decisive victory.
The pick: O'Malley, unanimous decision