6 Fights We Need to See After UFC 276
UFC 276 went down on Saturday night in Las Vegas, and the fight world is already buzzing about what's next for the stars of the card.
Headlining honors went to a middleweight title fight between champion Israel Adesanya and challenger Jared Cannonier. Adesanya picked up his fifth title defense with a tactical but somewhat underwhelming unanimous decision victory.
In the co-main event, Adesanya's friend and occasional training partner Alexander Volkanovski defended the promotion's featherweight title with a lopsided unanimous decision defeat of former champ Max Holloway. It was his third victory over the Hawaiian and his fourth title defense.
Earlier on the main card, Alex Pereira burst into middleweight title contention with a first-round knockout of No. 4-ranked contender Sean Strickland, and Bryan Barberena took a big step toward the welterweight rankings with a stoppage of former champion Robbie Lawler.
The main card began with a disappointing no-contest as Pedro Munhoz was forced out of a bantamweight fight with Sean O'Malley due to an accidental eye poke. However, the undercard included plenty of exciting action, most notably a massive victory from rising lightweight Jalin Turner, who choked out No. 14-ranked contender Brad Riddell inside a minute.
Keep scrolling for the fights we're hoping to see for the card's biggest stars once the dust has settled.
Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira
Israel Adesanya picked up his fifth middleweight title defense in the UFC 276 main event, defeating Jared Cannonier by unanimous decision. It was an impressive performance, but not an exciting one.
Fans don't need to worry about Adesanya's next fight being a dud.
All signs now point to a battle between the Nigerian-born New Zealander and Brazil's Alex Pereira, who asserted himself as a title contender with a first-round knockout of Sean Strickland.
It was just Pereira's third victory in the Octagon. Ordinarily, three wins would not be enough to get a fighter anywhere near a title shot. But the Brazilian is a special case because he holds two wins over Adesanya in the kick-boxing ring: one via decision and, more notably, a vicious knockout.
An MMA rematch has seemed likely since Pereira arrived in the UFC, and after UFC 276, it seems inevitable. The fans want to see it, and both men seem to want to make it happen, as Adesanya seeks revenge and Pereira seeks the title.
"The first time I told you, it was an error," Adesanya said in his post-fight interview, addressing Pereira. "Next time I put you on skates, you're going to get frozen like Elsa."
"Many people talk about my two wins over Adesanya," Pereira said earlier in the night. "Today, I just defeated the No. 4 in the rankings, so I know I earned it."
It should be a great fight, and the buildup should be pretty entertaining, too.
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Henry Cejudo
This won't be the most popular suggestion, but hear us out.
UFC featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski might be the best fighter in the sport right now, and after he picked up a third decision victory over Max Holloway in the UFC 276 main event—his fourth title defense—he deserves a special fight. So, sorry, Josh Emmett, your title shot is going to have to wait.
The most obvious option for Volkanovski is a crack at the UFC's vacant lightweight title, most likely against former champion Charles Oliveira, who was stripped of the belt because he missed weight for his impressive May win over Justin Gaethje. That would be an amazing fight, and it should definitely happen soon.
But the lightweight championship has long been plagued by absentee champions and surprise retirements, and there's a pretty long line of title contenders forming in the division, as Oliveira, Islam Makhachev, Beneil Dariush and Michael Chandler are all awaiting title shots. Throwing Volkanovski in the mix would complicate an already complicated situation, so let's wait on that.
Here's an alternative in the meantime: Henry Cejudo.
Cejudo was calling for a shot at Volkanovski—and the chance to become a three-division UFC champion—less than a month after announcing his retirement from MMA in May of 2020.
And while he doesn't have much claim to a featherweight title shot beyond his legacy as a two-division champ, it would definitely be an exciting and lucrative fight for both men, and they seem to be interested in making it happen.
Book it while the queue clears at lightweight and Emmett strengthens his case at featherweight.
Jared Cannonier vs. Sean Strickland
All signs now point to a middleweight title fight between Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira, who defeated Jared Cannonier and Sean Strickland, respectively, on the UFC 276 main card. We might as well match their vanquished opponents up, too.
Neither Cannonier nor Strickland, who were ranked No. 2 and 4, respectively, at middleweight heading into the card, are likely to lose much ground in defeat.
Cannonier lost a slow decision to one of the sport's greatest fighters. Strickland got knocked out by one of the best kickboxers in MMA. A few takedown attempts from Strickland would have been nice, but it's still hard to fault him for the loss.
When both guys are patched up, the UFC should match them up against each other. It would probably be a fun fight, and with other top middleweights like Robert Whittaker, Marvin Vettori and Paulo Costa all tied up with other fights, it's not like there are any better options right now.
Bryan Barberena vs. Michel Pereira
Bryan Barberena picked up the biggest win of his career on the UFC 276 main card with a second-round TKO over former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler. The victory was made all the more impressive by the fact that Barberena had a pretty tough first round with the former champ.
After his marquee win, Barberena deserves another big fight. We're hoping to see him matched up with Brazilian striking specialist Michel Pereira, who recently locked up the No. 15 spot in the welterweight rankings with a split decision win over Santiago Ponzinibbio.
Barberena is on a three-fight win streak while Pereira has won five straight, so the fight makes sense in terms of their positions in the weight class. The real appeal of the matchup, though, is that the pair are two of the most consistently exciting fighters in their division.
Throw it on a pay-per-view main card and get those bonus checks ready.
Sean O'Malley vs. Rob Font
We were supposed to learn a lot about Sean O'Malley at UFC 276.
The bantamweight star has long been touted as a future title challenger, and on the event's main card, he faced the first true test of his career in No. 9-ranked contender Pedro Munhoz.
Had O'Malley won the fight, it would have justified all of his hype and cemented him as a legitimate contender. Regrettably, it ended as a no-contest when Munhoz couldn't continue after an accidental eye poke in the second round.
To make matters worse, almost nothing happened in the first round, so we learned very little about O'Malley's place in the bantamweight pecking order.
From here, a rematch between O'Malley and Munhoz is possible, and it wouldn't be a bad option. However, the fight wasn't off to a great start, and it didn't look like it was about to get good either. So, we're hoping for a fresh matchup for O'Malley: Rob Font.
Font is the division's No. 7-ranked contender and, after losses to Marlon Vera and Jose Aldo, is in dire need of a win. The fight makes just as much sense as the Munhoz matchup did, and it would probably be a bit more fun.
Throw it on an upcoming pay-per-view—maybe the UFC's annual November stop in New York City.
Jalin Turner vs. Dan Hooker
Jalin Turner picked up one of the most impressive victories of the entire UFC 276 broadcast, choking out No. 14-ranked lightweight contender and Israel Adesanya teammate Brad Riddell with a mounted guillotine in just 45 seconds.
It was one of the most decisive losses of Riddell's career, which is saying something, given that he's been in the cage with the likes of Drew Dober and Rafael Fiziev.
The win will send Turner crashing into the lightweight rankings, where fights with some of the biggest stars could await. Depending on where he lands in the rankings, he might only be a spot or two behind one Conor McGregor, who is now sitting at 12.
But let's not pretend that one's about to happen. From here, we'd like to see Turner matched up with No. 13-ranked contender Dan Hooker who, after a brief and unsuccessful trip to featherweight, has revealed his intention to return to lightweight.
It's a great fight on paper, and because Hooker is a training partner of Riddell, it comes with a built-in revenge narrative. So scrap the Clay Guida matchup he's been linked to—it sounded like a rumor anyway—and go with this instead.