UFC 276 Predictions: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IJuly 1, 2022

UFC 276 Predictions: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images for UFC

    UFC 276 goes down on Saturday in Las Vegas. The event will cap off the UFC's annual International Fight Week festivities, and the promotion has stacked the card in suitable fashion.

    Headlining honors will go to a middleweight title fight between once-beaten champion Israel Adesanya (22-1) and streaking contender Jared Cannonier (15-5), a former heavyweight who has kept all of his power at 185 pounds. Adesanya will be looking for his fifth title defense, while Cannonier will try to capitalize on his first bid at UFC gold.

    The card will be co-headlined by a trilogy fight between featherweight greats Alexander Volkanovski (24-1) and Max Holloway (23-6)—the division’s current and former champion, respectively. Volkanovski won their first two encounters, but both were extremely competitive. This time out, he'll be looking for his fourth title defense, while Holloway will be looking for his sixth championship victory in the Octagon.

    The UFC 276 main card will also see (25-3-1) Sean Strickland take on Alex Pereira (5-1) in what looks like a middleweight No. 1 contender fight, and former welterweight champ Robbie Lawler (29-15) take on fellow bruiser Bryan Barberena (17-8) in a Fight of the Night front-runner.

    Bantamweights Pedro Munhoz (19-7) and Sean O'Malley (15-1) will kick things off as the latter looks to charge into title contention at the former's expense.

    It's a great lineup of fights that could easily end any number of ways. Keep scrolling to see how the Bleacher Report combat sports squad sees it all shaking out—with Adam Kramer filling in for Scott Harris.

Israel Adesanya vs. Jared Cannonier

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    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: The more I watch Izzy the more I'm convinced he's as good as there is. He sometimes fights safe and eases off the excitement pedal, but I get the feeling that, after he feels like Cannonier's guns are empty, he'll go for a highlight stop. Says here he gets it.

    Adesanya by TKO, Round 4


    Tom Taylor: Cannonier’s heavyweight-grade firepower will keep this fight interesting for as long as it lasts, but it’s hard to imagine him doing any better against Adesanya than the likes of Robert Whittaker, Marvin Vettori and Paulo Costa. I see this fight being tense, but ultimately one-sided, as the champ survives a few close calls and snipes his way to a late stoppage.

    Adesanya by TKO, Rd. 4


    Adam Kramer: I absolutely love the unique styles of these two, and there's an element of curiosity surrounding Cannonier's power and how it will translate. Specifically, will he be able to find his shot to finally make Adesanya uncomfortable at this weight class? I just don't see it; Adesanya puts his enormous cupboard of skills to use across five rounds.

    Adesanya by unanimous decision

Alex Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway III

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: Racking my brain over this one. I feel like Max deserved the second one, which makes him motivated to prove it again this time, but I get the simultaneous feeling that Alex is, for lack of a better term, just a harder dude. I can't imagine it doesn't go 25 again, so we'll roll the dice and get ready for the fourth edition.

    Holloway by split decision.


    Tom Taylor: Holloway is one of the greatest featherweights ever and may yet go down in history as a more accomplished fighter than Volkanovski. But, at this point, it’s clear to me that he is outgunned in this particular matchup. Yes, their first two fights were close, but Volkanovski outlanded Holloway in both. And the champion has seemingly gotten much better at everything since they last fought, so I suspect he does it again. Volume, versatility, and a few well-timed takedowns carry him to his fourth successful title defense.

    Volkanovski by unanimous decision


    Adam Kramer: My goodness. I adore this fight. Sign me up for a fourth before the third even takes place. But unlike the first two, Holloway finally breaks through this time around. (Personally, I thought he won the second.) I don't see it being a knockout; instead, I expect Holloway to use his range and accumulate damage. This time, however, the judges reward him for it.

    Holloway by unanimous decision

Sean Strickland vs. Alex Pereira

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    Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: This one intrigues me a lot. Pereira is a superlative striker. Strickland is a legitimate badass. I can understand why Dana White and Co. would love to see the Brazilian set up an Adesanya grudge match, but I think that'll motivate Strickland to go for the throat— literally.

    Strickland by submission (rear-naked choke), Rd. 3


    Tom Taylor: Strickland has pretty effective striking, but he’s going to be totally outmatched for every moment he’s on the feet with the former two-division Glory champ Pereira. The good news for Strickland is that this is an MMA fight, so takedowns are allowed. If he starts shooting, he will eventually succeed—with the caveat that he doesn’t walk into a knee first. From there, it's a matter of time. I'm with Lyle.

    Strickland by submission, Rd. 3


    Adam Kramer: I'm going to level with you. I agonized over this pick. The odds surrounding this fight also tell me that I am not alone. If Strickland can get it to the mat or clinch, he should win. That said, Pereira is a monster on his feet. I think he catches Strickland in the second round, and that will be that.

    Pereira by KO, Rd. 2

Robbie Lawler vs. Bryan Barberena

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    Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: I'm all for guys fighting as long as they're healthy and still have the drive to climb into a cage with another guy who wants to take their head off. But it seems like Lawler is past that point, and beating Nick Diaz doesn't change that view.

    Barberena by unanimous decision


    Tom Taylor: Lawler and Barberena are similar in a lot of ways. Both have big power. Both have granite chins. Both like to brawl. But despite all that, they are different in one crucial way: Lawler is a former champion who has spent the entirety of his career battling the best fighters alive across two divisions, while Barberena has never even been ranked in one. Shopworn or not, Lawler is better, and he wins this one clearly—even if he can't put his foe down.

    Lawler by unanimous decision


    Adam Kramer: It's been a rough run of it of late for Lawler, although look at who he's fought against. Although he's a shell of the fighter he once was, this isn't the type of fight he's used to. Maybe he's done; at least that's what many are likely thinking. Not me. Lawler puts that grizzled power to good use.

    Lawler by KO, Rd. 3

Pedro Munhoz vs. Sean O'Malley

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: Even now that he's in the rankings, O'Malley is still a polarizing guy. But you can put me firmly in the camp of people who'd love to see him work to a title shot at some point. Beating No. 10 is another step, particularly when that No. 10 has dropped three of four. Get ready for the Suga Show, Vegas Edition.

    O'Malley by KO, Round 2


    Tom Taylor: Unlike Lyle, I have not yet boarded the Sean O’Malley hype train. His striking is beautiful, but I’m still convinced he is vulnerable to leg kicks and takedowns, and Pedro Munhoz should be able to hit him with plenty of both this weekend. The Brazilian will probably eat some shots in the process, but if Cody Garbrandt’s haymakers couldn’t put him down, I’m not sure anything can. He grinds out the win with a smart game plan.

    Munhoz by unanimous decision


    Adam Kramer: I am conflicted. On one hand, the O'Malley hype is a bit extreme. On the other hand, I still expect him to win this fight. Munhoz is super skilled, however, and he will press O'Malley in a way he hasn't been pressed before. Still, O'Malley is so good on his feet, and there is magic in those hands. O'Malley wins, but it's awfully tight.

    O'Malley by Split Decision

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