We are back this weekend at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC 276, one of the most highly anticipated cards of the year. City Kickboxing's two champions, Alexander Volkanovski and Israel Adesanya, will defend their titles for the fourth and fifth time, respectively, as they look to cement their dominance amongst their divisions and the pound-for-pound elite. Not only that, from top to bottom, we'll be treated with high octane action, in an instance where every single fight on the card is something to get excited about.
Returning for their second title defenses of 2022, the reigning Featherweight and Middleweight champions make the journey to Las Vegas to put their belts on the line again in two intriguing matchups. First, Alex Volkanovski will have his chance to silence the naysayers with the trilogy match-up against Max 'Blessed' Holloway. Whilst there was no argument with Alex's initial win that set up the rematch, it was a controversial split decision that the Australian walked away with that caused uproar and confusion. Many people feeling Max's early volume had done enough to earn him the nod.
The media was split, and the Verdict Community felt the Hawaiian won the fight. Two years later, he'll finally have the opportunity to avenge his losses and prove to everyone why he was talked about as the Featherweight GOAT for so long.
What makes this fight even more exciting than the previous two is that since the fighters last met, both of their games seem to have evolved to new levels. Both have put on masterclass performances, with Volkanovski and Holloway essentially shutting out The Korean Zombie and Calvin Kattar, respectively, for flawless victories amongst their other achievements. Without a doubt, this is top tier talent, and the Verdict Community is completely torn as to who will win, with a slight 51% edge leaning towards Volkanovski.
Following on from the Featherweight trilogy, Israel Adesanya looks to defend his throne once again, against the bruising power puncher Jared Cannonier. Israel has looked untouchable at Middleweight for nearly his entire career, although a spirited Robert Whittaker tested the champion in his last fight more than most. Cannonier will undoubtedly be looking to build upon the moments of fortune seen by Whittaker in that fight, who saw mixed success with takedowns, clinchwork, and counters to Adesanya's kicks. There is absolutely no secret to Adesanya's gameplan, and the kickboxing elite will be eyeing up a stand-up affair and an explosive finish to add to his impressive resume. The 'Killa Gorilla' will have his hands full with Adesanya's game - the blueprint is there to beat The Last Stylebender, but will he be able to execute it?
Both the oddsmakers and Verdict Community are in unanimous agreement about this - it'll be a very tough mountain for Jared to climb. A remarkable 84% of the Verdict Community is confident Adesanya will retain his belt one more time and more than half of those see a finish happening as well.
With two other high profile fights that will have huge ramifications in the Middleweight and Bantamweight divisions alongside a guaranteed slugfest Welterweight banger, title fights aren't the only thing to keep us entertained in UFC 276's PPV portion of the event.
Opening up the main card, Sean O'Malley returns as he continues his ascent up the Bantamweight rankings and takes on the steely veteran Pedro Munhoz. O'Malley has been electrifying both inside and outside the cage, talking a big game and bringing the performances to back the talk up, finishing five of his six UFC wins, and bringing a three fight win streak into this, with all wins coming by way of KO/TKO. His lightning fast hands and mastery of utilising feints have brought huge success so far, however his opponent Munhoz is a slick fighter in his own right, and his iron chin means that in 27 professional fights he has never been finished.
Whilst wins have been hard to come by in recent years, Munhoz has faced nothing but elite fighters and performing admirably against them, picking up four FOTN bonuses since 2019. His recent slump of four losses in his last six fights is nothing to be ashamed of, as all four losses have come against three previous champs and the current champion. It'll be a stern test for O'Malley, but, with many pegging him to become a future UFC Bantamweight champion, perhaps it is his time to add to Munhoz's unfortunate recent record. A solid 75% of the Verdict Community are seeing the aging veteran pass the torch to the fast rising star in O'Malley, with the majority of O'Malley's backers believing he'll finally be the first to finish 'The Young Punisher'.
Sandwiched in between two ranked bouts, an absolute scrap between 'Ruthless' Robbie Lawler and Bryan Barbarena was recently elevated to main card status, much to the delight of UFC fans around the world. With 30 UFC fights and 9 post fight bonuses between them, we have grown to see both men put on undeniably entertaining fights time after time. Utilising boxing heavy attacks, granite chins, and a willingness to walk through fire, this is almost guaranteed to be a slobberknocker slugfest. Both fighters are recently coming off of wins, with Lawler forcing Nick Diaz to wilt retire midway through the third round of their last fight.
Having been on the roster for a combined seventeen years, neither of the men are looking to slow down and will be looking to really put together a win streak that they can build on, something that has eluded both fighters in recent years. A tightly contested battle, the Verdict Community is split on this fight almost dead even, with just the slightest of edges leaning towards Robbie Lawler in this thrilling match up.
In a division almost entirely cleaned out by the dominant king Israel Adesanya, there has been a brief period in time where there seemed to be no apparent challenger next in line for the Middleweight crown. Based on recent comments by UFC President Dana White, the fast paced rise of Sean Strickland and Alex Pereira have them on a collision course with the belt themselves, with the winner of their showdown likely getting the nod to challenge Adesanya next should he get past Jared Cannonier. The significance of this is not lost on anyone - Adesanya's and Alex Pereira's kickboxing history has been well documented, with 'Poatan' holding two wins and a vicious knock out over the current Middleweight champ, whilst Sean Strickland currently holds the longest win streak in the Middleweight division list of contenders.
Alex Pereira's lack of experience in MMA has often been talked about as a huge factor in his fights, with people pointing to his lack of wrestling and grappling credentials being a huge hole in his game ready to be exploited. However, in his short time with the UFC, Pereira has shown remarkable improvement already, with a respectable 73% takedown defence rate to ensure the fight stays standing as long as possible. He'll need every last bit of skill to do so against Strickland, as the high volume scrapper is happy to take the fight to any part of the cage, and will likely lean on a wrestling heavy attack to nullify Poatan's lethal stand up game.
The UFC matchmakers are showing their brilliance once again, pairing up an enticing scrap that has punters split just as much as the rest of the card. Once again, the Verdict community can't decide on a victor - with a very slight majority leaning towards Alex Pereira continuing his meteoric ascent towards a title challenge.
Whilst the main card is host to title fights and pivotal clashes, the prelims of UFC 276 are also as stacked. Uriah Hall welcomes fast rising and devastating finisher Andre Muniz to the cage, and Donald Cerrone finally makes his return in a late notice rematch against fellow veteran Jim Miller. The Irish phenomenon Ian Garry makes his third trip to the Octagon and looks to extend his unbeaten professional record, whilst South African kickboxing sensation Dricus di Plessis attempts to break into the Middleweight rankings against Brad Tavares. Finally, the prelims are capped off with a fight that looks destined for post fight bonuses, Jalin Turner squares up against Brad Riddell; two quality Lightweights that will be electrifying from the second the fight starts.
Right from the very start of the evening we'll be treated to high quality action which you won't want to miss. UFC 276 looks like it'll be one for the ages which you won't want to miss.