Israel Adesanya And the Real Winners and Losers from UFC 276

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured Columnist IIIJuly 3, 2022

Israel Adesanya And the Real Winners and Losers from UFC 276

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    Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

    Familiar faces. Familiar places.

    The UFC was back in Las Vegas for the 14th time this year and back in the T-Mobile Arena for the first time since March to put on a 12-bout show topped by a five-bout pay-per-view card.

    UFC 276 was headlined by a pair of championship bouts matching middleweight kingpin Israel Adesanya in his fifth defense against No. 2 contender Jared Cannonier and featherweight titleholder Alexander Volkanovski engaging in the company's 15th trilogy against the man from whom he won the belt and defended it once, Max Holloway.

    It was Adesanya's sixth time headlining a UFC pay-per-view extravaganza since arriving to the promotion in 2018 and Volkanovski was making his seventh appearance on a pay-per-view card since he debuted in the Octagon in 2016.

    ESPN and ABC shared coverage for the preliminary portions of the show before turning things over to ESPN+ for the PPV bouts. The trio of Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier and Joe Rogan worked the announce table from beginning to end while Megan Olivi handed the rest of the room for breaking news and feature pieces.

    The B/R combat sports team was in place as well to come up with the definitive list of winners and losers from the three-tiered show. Scroll through to see what we came up with and fell free to drop a thought or two of your own in the comments section.

Loser: Substance over Style

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    Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

    Adesanya is the best middleweight in the world.

    Still.

    But while there was no relevant suggestion that Cannonier was deserving of anything behind the unanimous decision loss he was handed in Saturday’s main event, it was equally apparent that the entertainment value in the champion’s latest appearance ended when the fight began.

    Adesanya arrived at the Octagon after a long, methodical walk in which he paid homage to the WWE’s iconic "Undertaker" character, complete with the wrestler's familiar theme music and an urn etched with Cannonier's first name.

    Cormier referred to it as the greatest walkout he'd ever seen and it was no doubt delightful to the wrestling company's royalty in the audience, including longtime company czar Vince McMahon.

    Still, when the 25 minutes of would-be combat ended, the audience booed.

    Adesanya was given margins of 49-46, 49-46 and 50-45 on the three official scorecards—matching B/R's four rounds to one scoring—but never doggedly pursued the KO or submission he claimed before the fight that he’d secure.

    Nor did Cannonier create the mayhem he'd promised, instead seeming content to stay on the outside, where he was consistently tagged with jabs, crosses and kicks.

    He occasionally charged and created clinch situations but was never able to secure a takedown or land a significant combination of punches.

    "It was two great coaches and two great teams," Adesanya said. "They had a good game plan. It was really hard to get my second-level tactics going. They had a good plan."

    Now that he's 5-0 against the top three contenders in the division and also has a victory over No. 6, Adesanya was pointed in his post-fight callout of Alex Pereira, who beat him twice as a professional kickboxer—including once by knockout.

    Pereira KO'd the fourth-ranked middleweight, Sean Strickland, elsewhere on the main card and came to cage-side for the main event.

    "Next time," Adesanya said, "I put you on skates."

    Cormier is surely intrigued by the prospect.

    "Pereira has the ability to put him out," he said. "We've seen that. There's a lot of energy for that fight."

Winner: Settling a Trilogy Score

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    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    Their first result was surprising. The second was controversial.

    And now that they've fought a third time, one thing seems sure about Volkanovski and Holloway.

    There won't need to be a fourth fight.

    Volkanovski scored the most conclusive victory of their featherweight title trilogy in Saturday's co-main event, busting up the challenger's face and perpetually flustering him with speed, accuracy and technique on the way to a clear unanimous decision in his fourth title defense.

    All three judges scored it 50-45.

    B/R agreed with their call, giving Volkanovski all five rounds.

    "Volkanovski has never looked better," Cormier said.

    "This has really been a virtuoso performance. He's just doing everything perfect."

    The win pushed the champion's record to 25-1 and was his 12th straight since arriving to the UFC in 2016. The dozen wins in a row is the second-longest active streak in the company behind welterweight champ Kamaru Usman's 15 straight since 2015.

    He'd beaten Holloway by unanimous decision at UFC 245 in 2019 and by a split decision at UFC 251 seven months later. Five of six scorecards across the two fights yielded 3-2 margins in rounds.

    This time, Holloway was left a bloody mess while falling to 19-7 in the UFC, though he's still not lost a non-title fight in nine years.

    "Max Holloway is an absolute beast. That intensity he brought, I needed it," Volkanovski said. "I know I'm the best, I just had to remind myself."

    The best to such an extent, he said, that a move up the ladder to lightweight may be next.

    "I want to be busy," he said. "I don't think this division can keep me busy."

Loser: Punching With a Puncher

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    Strickland said all the right things.

    The fourth-ranked middleweight contender derided comparatively untested main-card foe Pereira as simply a kickboxer and insisted he’d walk straight to him with no concern about firepower.

    He did exactly as he promised. And it got him knocked out.

    “You cannot stand in front of that man,” Rogan said. “People think they get it, but this guy does that to the best kickboxers on earth. He’s got that nuclear option. You can’t make that mistake.”

    Though Strickland had spent half a round employing his strategy of choice, all it took was one bad sequence. It arrived as he stepped forward, raised his left knee and dropped his right hand, and found himself on the receiving end of a lead left hook from the Brazilian that sent him spinning to the floor.

    One subsequent Pereira shot, a stinging right hand, landed before Strickland got up and prompted referee Jason Herzog to save him from further punishment at 2:36 of the first round.

    “I don’t care whatever he said. I don’t take anything personally,” Pereira said. “We had a strong strategy.”

Winner: Surviving a Legend

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    AP Photo/John Locher

    Robbie Lawler was doing things 40-year-olds don't do. Particularly if they're 40-year-old former champions without a truly relevant UFC victory in several years.

    He was plodding forward, busting up 33-year-old foe Bryan Barberena's face and consistently rattling him with thudding blows.

    Turns out that Barberena was capable of some special things, too.

    The Tennessee-based welterweight survived an initial five minutes under Lawler's signature "Relentless" punishment then rebounded with some return fire of his own, sending the ex-champ backward with elbows and following with a decisive barrage of punches.

    Ultimately, it was a right hook that sent Lawler reeling to the cage and a subsequent 10-punch combination that prompted a wave-off by referee Mark Smith at 4:47 of Round 2.

    "He was done," Cormier said. "He was absolutely done."

    It was Barberena's third straight win and ninth in 15 UFC fights.

    "It's everything I dreamed of and more," he said. "He's an absolute legend. It's an absolute honor to be in here and fight with him. I didn’t want to waste too much energy. I knew he was super durable, but I also thought, 'I can't let up, this is my chance.'"

Loser: 'Suga Show' Aftertaste

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    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    Upon the arrivals of Sean O'Malley and Pedro Munhoz to the Octagon in the opening fight of the pay-per-view card, fans at the T-Mobile Arena sat back and waited for fireworks.

    And waited.

    And waited.

    But rather than unfettered violence to mirror pre-fight verbal enmity, the fighters instead engaged in a prolonged exchange of tactical feinting before a sudden second-round ending.

    Problem was, it wasn't a dramatic KO or a stunning submission.

    Rather, an incidental eye poke from the ring finger on O'Malley's left hand into Munhoz's right eye initially led to a delay and then to a finish when Herzog and a cage-side physician determined that Munhoz was unable to continue.

    The official time was 3:09 of the second round.

    The result announced by Bruce Buffer: a comprehensively unsatisfying no-decision.

    It was the first official washout in 17 fights for O'Malley, who was facing the first ranked fighter of his career. Munhoz arrived ranked ninth at bantamweight to O'Malley's 13th.

    "Well, that's not exactly how you want to start a pay-per-view, that's for sure," Cormier said.

    "I don't think anyone here, regardless of who you were rooting for or betting on, could be happy about this."

Winner: Backing Prelim Chalk

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    It was the jiu-jitsu move that launched a thousand grimaces.

    From the moment Julija Stoliarenko got striking specialist Jessica-Rose Clark to the mat and zeroed in on her left arm, it was a matter of time before the submission came.

    For the record, it was 42 seconds. And if repeated video replays are indicative, there's a real good chance that a broken arm or a badly dislocated elbow was the cost.

    Clark's immediate tap-out gave the Lithuanian bantamweight her first UFC win after three losses and allowed her to score as the early show's biggest underdog, cashing in as a +140 proposition (bet $100 to win $140) on the DraftKings pre-fight moneyline.

    Maycee Barber (-315, over Jessica Eye) and Andre Muniz (-340, over Uriah Hall) followed Stoliarenko with early prelim wins from the favorite position, as did Dricus Du Plessis (-165, over Brad Tavares), Ian Garry (-190, over Gabe Green), Jim Miller (-190, over Donald Cerrone) and Jalin Turner (-140, over Brad Riddell) through the end of the prelim card.

    Bets on all seven favorites prior to the main card would have yielded a $435 profit while wagers on each of the seven underdogs would have incurred a $460 loss.

Winner: King of the OG's

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    For a moment at least, Miller was young and at the top of his game.

    Facing off with Cerrone in the rematch of a 2014 scrap, the New Jersey tough guy took advantage of a "Cowboy" slip after a head kick and went right for the throat.

    Literally.

    The 38-year-old immediately seized the advantage with a guillotine that both attacked Cerrone's neck and left his arms immobile and unable to escape. In fact, all Cerrone could do to indicate his surrender was wriggle his fingers in the direction of Smith to end it.

    The end came at 1:32 of the second round and it soon became a more monumental moment when Cerrone, who'd entered even with Miller at 23 UFC wins apiece, dropped his gloves in the center of the cage to signal his retirement after 16-plus years as a pro.

    "I don't love it anymore," he said. "It's hard for me now. I'm going to be a movie star, baby. It's time to bow out but I had one hell of a career."

    Indeed, Cerrone exits with 38 UFC fights, including a KO win over Miller in their initial fight in Atlantic City, but hadn't scored a victory since outpointing Al Iaquinta in May 2019.

    As for Miller, he's now the sole UFC record-holder with 24 wins in 40 fights and he's won three straight by finish since losing on the scorecards against Joe Solecki 15 months ago.

    "It feels great, but it's hard to follow that. We're gonna miss (Cerrone)," Miller said.

    "I knew that this fight would be special and I could do that guillotine in my sleep. I felt that it was there and I went for it."

Winner: 'Future' Flyweight

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    With all the attention that's followed Barber through what have now been eight fights in the UFC, it's hard to compute that she's barely a month past her 24th birthday.

    Nicknamed the "Future," the ambitious flyweight took another step toward what she insists will be a belted ending—beating former title challenger Eye by unanimous decision.

    Two scorecards gave her 29-28 margins and a third saw it 30-27.

    B/R agreed with the dissenter and gave Barber all three rounds.

    Eye took off her gloves in the aftermath and announced her retirement after 12 pro years, making it two veterans (along with Cerrone) exiting in the first six fights.

    "I think it's time," she said.

    "I've won in the Octagon. I've lost in the Octagon. I've spent my 20s and most of my 30s doing this and now I want to see what the rest of the world looks like."

    It was Barber's third straight win and sixth in eight fights since graduating from Dana White's Contender Series in 2018. She won her first three, lost two in a row and suffered a serious knee injury and has since defeated Miranda Maverick, Montana De La Rosa and Eye.

    "The last time I fought here I got carried out of the Octagon," she said, "so to get a win feels amazing. I'm 24 years old and I'm literally still a baby in this sport. I'm going to chase the title and become the flyweight champion."

UFC 276 Full Card Results

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    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    Main Card

    Israel Adesanya def. Jared Cannonier by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 50-45)

    Alexander Volkanovski def. Max Holloway by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)

    Alex Pereira def. Sean Strickland by KO (punches), 2:36, Round 1

    Bryan Barberena def. Robbie Lawler by TKO (punches), 4:47, Round 2

    Pedro Munhoz and Sean O'Malley fought to no decision (doctor stoppage), 3:09, Round 2

    Preliminary Card

    Jalin Turner def. Brad Riddell by submission (guillotine choke), 0:45, Round 1

    Jim Miller def. Donald Cerrone by submission (guillotine choke), 1:32, Round 2

    Ian Garry def. Gabe Green by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

    Dricus Du Plessis def. Brad Tavares by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

    Early Preliminary Card

    Andre Muniz def. Uriah Hall by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

    Maycee Barber def. Jessica Eye by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

    Julija Stoliarenko def. Jessica-Rose Clark by submission (armbar), 0:42, Round 1

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