On July 2, 2022, the Ultimate Fighting Championship will arrive in Las Vegas, Nevada, for one of the year’s most highly anticipated fight cards.
The T-Mobile Arena will play host to a middleweight championship bout between Israel Adesanya and Jared Cannonier, in addition to a featherweight trilogy match between Max Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski.
The aforementioned title fights will cap off a night that involves countless elite-level competitors, including “Sugar” Sean O’Malley, Miesha Tate, Sean Strickland, Alex Pereira, Robbie Lawler, Bobby Green, Jim Miller, Uriah Hall, Andre Muniz, and exciting prospects such as Ireland’s latest fan-favorite Ian Garry.
The Man Who Beat Adesanya Twice: Alex Pereira vs. Sean Strickland
With a minuscule 5-1-0 professional MMA record, casual sports fans may wonder why Alex Pereira is the headline non-title fight of the event.
Pereira, 34, transitioned to pro-MMA in 2015 following a decorated kickboxing career. Whilst his grappling skillset may need fine-tuning, he owns the potential to become the most feared striker on the UFC roster.
Don’t believe me? Just ask the undefeated UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya – Pereira defeated Izzy on two occasions during their kickboxing days.
Pereira Number 1 Kickboxer
Pereira was the No.1 ranked kickboxer on the planet before shifting his sights to MMA, he was a two-division (middleweight, light heavyweight) in the sport, and he hits like a truck.
It’s no secret that the UFC would market Adesanya vs. Pereira as a monumental occasion, and the promotion understands the need to fast-track the Brazilian into title contention.
Whilst some critics believe this is unfair to fellow 185lb competitors, if Pereira can overcome the boxing fundamentals of Sean Strickland, it will be challenging to argue, gifting him a title opportunity.
Pereira is taking a Jiri Prochazka path, but his striking level can unquestionably hang with the UFC elite. At UFC 276, he’ll face a fearless Sean Strickland, who’s riding a 6-fight win streak.
The Rise of “Sugar”: Sean O’Malley vs. Pedro Munhoz
Sean O’Malley is the biggest superstar in the UFC who isn’t ranked inside the top-10 of his division. The bantamweight standout has worked on social media and marketed himself to a position where he earns more money outside the octagon.
With that said, the 27-year-old Dana White Contender Series alumni are deserving of his recognition because when he steps into the cage, you’re guaranteed to receive your money’s worth.
O’Malley’s Striking Offense
The effortless flow of O’Malley’s striking offense has created a highlight reel you can watch on repeat for hours, but as O’Malley steps up to Pedro Munhoz, can he maintain the hype?
In short, I believe so. Standing at 5 foot 11 inches, a significant size advantage accompanies O’Malley’s beautiful striking game for the 135lb weight class.
The Trilogy: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway
It’s a rare occurrence in the UFC where a fighter can earn a title opportunity on a third occasion after losing the first two, but Max Holloway is that damn good.
The former featherweight champion [Holloway] is the only viable opponent for Volkanovski as he’s defeated the best opposition the division has to offer.
However, should he lose this contest, he may struggle to receive another shot at the title anytime soon.
BJ Penn vs. Matt Hughes, Cain Valesquez vs. Junior Dos Santos, Gorges St-Pierre vs. Matt Hughes, Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture, and Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic are some of the most notable trilogy fights in UFC history.
Another Instant Classic
There’s no denying that Holloway and Volkanovski can join this prestigious list with their heads high, as we know they will deliver another instant classic.
The betting line is surprisingly low on Volkanovski, -184 at FanDuel, when you consider he’s won the previous two meetings.
This is evidence of how talented Holloway is and how cautious the oddsmakers are of doubting him, but Volkanovski looks improved fight-to-fight.
It’s challenging to fade the undefeated featherweight champ with such evolution taking place at the highest level.
The Middleweight King: Israel Adesanya vs. Jared Cannonier
Israel Adesanya has cleared out the middleweight division, but the punching power of Jared Cannonier could post a threat that 185lb king hasn’t dealt with.
Cannonier should probably implement a grappling game plan into his UFC 276 title opportunity, but we know he’s going to headhunt, and he will likely fail.
Izzy Mastery in the Striking
Izzy has proved his mastery in the striking realm on countless occasions, and we can’t bank on Cannonier landing the kill shot when faced with the illusive movement of Adesanya.
Plus, we want Adesanya vs. Pereira, so please, MMA gods, give us this matchup on a plate – give Pereira a knockout stoppage win over Strickland and Adesanya a successful title defense, and the UFC matchmakers will handle the rest.