Thursday, August 11, 2022

UFC 276 predictions — Israel Adesanya vs. Jared Cannonier: Fight card, odds, expert picks, prelims

UFC 276 is about to ready to get underway. The combat world has descended upon Las Vegas for International Fight Week where a pair of title fights tip the marquee. UFC always loads up these fabled events, and they did just that for the 10th annual time. It all goes down from the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night.

Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya is set to take on his latest challenger when Jared Cannonier steps into the Octagon. Adesanya is undefeated at 185 pounds with five title defenses already under his belt. His last two challengers have been in the form of past foes where he turned away Marvin Vettori and Robert Whittaker a second time. Cannonier, meanwhile, took the long road at 37 to reach his first title opportunity. 

Plus, the long-awaited trilogy bout between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway is set to go down in the co-main event with Volkanovski’s featherweight crown at stake. This meeting holds the rare distinction of fighters meeting for a third time when one holds a 2-0 advantage.

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With so much happening on Saturday night, let’s take a closer look at the full fight card with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook before we get to our staff predictions and picks for the PPV portion of the festivities.

UFC 276 fight card, odds

  • Israel Adesanya (c) -490 vs. Jared Cannonier +370, middleweight championship
  • Alexander Volkanovski (c) -210 vs. Max Holloway +175, featherweight championship
  • Sean Strickland -120 vs. Alex Pereira +100, middleweights

  • Robbie Lawler -120 vs. Bryan Barberena +100, welterweights
  • Sean O’Malley -310 vs. Pedro Munhoz +250, bantamweights
  • Jalin Turner -150 vs. Brad Riddell +125, lightweights
  • Jim Miller -190 vs. Donald Cerrone +160, welterweights
  • Maycee Barber -300 vs. Jessica Eye +240, women’s flyweights
  • Ian Garry -175 vs. Gabriel Green +150, welterweights
  • Andre Muniz -340 vs. Uriah Hall +270, middleweights
  • Dricus Du Plessis -155 vs. Brad Tavares +130, middleweights
  • Jessica Rose-Clark -160 vs. Julija Stoliarenko +135, women’s bantamweights

With such a massive main event on tap, the crew at CBS Sports went ahead with predictions and picks for the main card. Here are your pick makers: Brent Brookhouse (Combat sports writer), Brian Campbell (Combat sports writer, co-host of “Morning Kombat”), Shakiel Mahjouri (writer), Michael Mormile (producer) and Brandon Wise (senior editor).

UFC 276 picks, predictions

Adesanya (c) vs. Cannonier Cannonier Adesanya Adesanya Adesanya Adesanya
Volkanovski (c) vs. Holloway Volkanovski Volkanovski Volkanovski Holloway Holloway
Strickland vs. Pereira Strickland Strickland Strickland Strickland Pereira
Lawler vs. Barberena Barberena Barberena Barberena Lawler Barberena
O’Malley vs. Munhoz O’Malley O’Malley O’Malley O’Malley O’Malley
Records to date (2022) 14-15 16-13 13-16 16-13 19-10

Adesanya vs. Cannonier

Campbell: Styles have always made fights in combat sports and Cannonier has the kind of style, thanks to his explosiveness and power, to give even the most technical savant some pause. Just ask former champion Robert Whittaker, who even after breaking Cannonier’s arm in the opening round of their 2020 bout was forced to survive a perilous third round against him. Adesanya has gone public this week by boldly declaring to multiple outlets he would “kill” and “f— up” Cannonier, which if he’s being sincere, might be the exact wrong way to go about trying to disarm the 38-year-old slugger. Cannonier’s reach disadvantage of just 2.5 inches is also significantly smaller than the advantage Adesanya has known against recent opponents. Would Cannonier defeat Adesanya nine times out of 10 in a fight? The answer is clearly no. But it only takes one and the clouds may have aligned for Cannonier to have as good of a chance as any recent light heavyweight in potentially shocking the champion. If he can work in leg strikes to slow Adesanya down, Cannonier has a legitimate chance to make this into a real fight. Adesanya may be forced to show his daring side for the first time since his memorable five-round brawl with Kelvin Gastelum. Only one thing, in this case, is for sure: Cannonier isn’t the type of fighter you want to be still trading with in the championship rounds. Too many, it seems, are sleeping on the possibility of this becoming real. 

Brookhouse: Cannonier is a dangerous fighter. He has scary power and does have the ability to try and wrestle if he thinks that’s his best chance to beat the champion. It’s worth remembering that Cannonier has fought — and had success — at heavyweight and light heavyweight before finding his true “best weight” at 185. Still, Adesanya is a standout talent and has been able to make the necessary adjustments against everyone he has faced at middleweight. Adesanya may have to survive some scary moments and one punch could change the entire fight, but Cannonier isn’t necessarily a more dangerous opponent than anyone else Adesanya has managed to handle. It’s easy to see this looking a lot like the champ’s fight with Paulo Costa, using slick countering and technique to offset the brute force and aggression of a challenger.

Mahjouri: Adesanya is entering a sphere of success that makes him almost impossible to deny. He is the best all-around striking-oriented fighter in the UFC. Cannonier wields destructive power and can follow blueprints laid by Robert Whittaker and Jan Blachowicz to give Adesanya a competitive fight. Cannonier is not the wrestling threat that Whittaker or Blachowicz are, but he can employ Whittaker’s strategy on the feet. Cannonier told reporters at media day that he needs to utilize enough of his skills at an optimal level to overcome Adesanya’s overall striking advantage. Adesanya’s understanding of range and feints have shadowed over the middleweight division for four years. Adesanya will most likely avoid Cannonier’s power while picking him apart on the feet.

Volkanovski vs. Holloway

Campbell: Both Holloway and Volkanovski have predicted that this potentially historic third meeting between two of the greatest featherweight champions won’t go the distance, which is exactly the mindset Holloway may need to have in order to finally create some separation after two close fights. The problem for “Blessed” might end up just being that Volkanovski is a better fighter today, after a pair of title defenses against Brian Ortega and Chan Sung Jung, than he was in the first two meetings against Holloway. Can the former champion say the same? That depends upon how much stock you put into the damage Holloway consumed en route to edging Yair Rodriguez in their thriller late last year. Volkanovski has simply had an answer for every move Holloway has made throughout their two-fight series, particularly in their rematch, when “Alexander The Great” rallied from being dropped twice early to sweep the championship rounds on two scorecards. No one adjusts on the fly quite like Volkanovski. So the idea of him engaging in an action fight with Holloway and still winning isn’t all that harrowing when one considers the grit and recuperative ability he flashed against Ortega or the offensive attack he put on “The Korean Zombie.” Sometimes, another fighter simply has your number.

Brookhouse: Volkanovski hasn’t had an easy time in the previous fights with Holloway, but he has had the right answers when he has needed them. There’s no easy path to victory for either man, of course. It is just simply a matter of Volkanovski having a touch better skills for the matchup head-to-head than Holloway, which has been proven twice over. Holloway will have his moments and will likely nick a round or two, but Volkanovski just always does one or two more things to edge out rounds against Holloway. Styles make fights, as the old saying goes, and we’ve seen how the styles make fights between these two already. Why go away from past results unless there’s proof you should?

Strickland vs. Pereira

Campbell: Pereira’s power in both hands is legendary from his time as a two-division Glory kickboxing champion, where owns two wins over Adesanya, including one by knockout. UFC president Dana White has already said that Pereira would likely face Adesanya next for the title in just his fourth UFC fight should he defeat Strickland. The only problem with that scenario is that Strickland might have a game that is perfectly suited to nullify such a development. For as explosive as Pereira has looked in two UFC wins, both saw him overly patient at times while navigating a full-time move to a new sport at the highest level. The combination of Strickland’s cardio, wrestling prowess and aggressive style could be just what the doctor ordered to speed up the clock over three rounds while showing how much more seasoning Pereira will actually need to justify fighting for the title. 

O’Malley vs. Munhoz

Mahjouri: O’Malley has been masterful in the management of his career. Yes, he has successfully promoted himself to a broader market through weed culture, video games and podcasts. More to the point, he has meticulously worked his way up the bantamweight division. O’Malley has incrementally increased his level of competition and has looked tremendous for the most part. O’Malley and Munhoz are both potent strikers, but O’Malley has momentum on his side and a finish has eluded Munhoz for three years. Munhoz will lean on his experience, submission savvy and durability — he hasn’t been finished once in 27 pro fights — to snuff out O’Malley. The Suga Show is coming to Las Vegas and his ranged striking and distance management should carry him to a victory.

Brookhouse: O’Malley has been carefully matched up with only one stumble so far. Munhoz is a capable fighter who has fought a ridiculously tough schedule of late, going 1-4 over his five most recent fights. When looking at the groupings of who Munoz has beat and who he has lost to, O’Malley fits much more solidly with the men who have beat Munoz. The fight is most likely going to be a prolonged beating that lets O’Malley show off why the UFC and fans think so highly of him as he cruises to another win.

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