Following a night of fights that included a brutal armbar in the prelims and a first-round knockout of Sean Strickland, UFC 276 finished the night with two title fights that went the distance.
First, Alexander Volkanovski bloodied and bruised challenger Max Holloway to retain his featherweight title. Then, in the main event, middleweight champion Israel Adesanya took on Jared Cannonier in a five-round battle that saw him emerge victorious yet again.
Co-Main Event: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway
Both fighters took some time to test each other with feints at the start of the fight, both initially relying on kicks until Volkanovski lashed out with a series of punches. Holloway drove Volkanovski against the cage, but the latter quickly fought his way back into the center. The fighters connected with a series of combos, Volkanovski finding particular success with his right hand. Holloway came in with a leg kick that Volkanovski shrugged off, and with a minute and a half left in the first round, the two clashed in the center. Volkanovski continued to lead the charge, his punches hitting their mark, but Holloway answered confidently, his shots beginning to have more of a consistent impact in the final minute of the round.
Holloway started the second round strong with his leg kicks, and Volkanovski fired back with a series of punches that momentarily put his opponent on his heels. The two exchanged blows until Volkanovski found the clinch and drove Holloway against the cage. He took his opponent’s back, but Holloway managed to punch his way out. Holloway’s face was significantly bloodied as the round passed the halfway mark, and he threw a few kicks at Volkanovski’s head. Neither of the fighters slowed down as the clock wound down, Holloway seemingly unfazed as the deep cut through his eyebrow poured blood down his face. He and Volkanovski both managed to get quite a few more strikes in before the fight moved to round three.
The fighters picked up where they’d left off in the next round. Holloway focused more on kicks and Volkanovski reopened the cut he’d inflicted upon his opponent earlier. Volkanovski again put Holloway in the clinch and drove him against the cage, but Holloway managed to temporarily flip the position. The two struggled against each other there until Volkanovski made his exit with a spinning elbow. Volkanovski didn’t slow down even as Holloway came at him with more calculated aggression, throwing a flying knee into the mix. Both fighters were still standing as the fight moved into the fourth round.
Volkanovski wasted little time in clinching up with Holloway and driving him against the cage. They stayed there for under a minute, with Holloway using a knee to the body to help him break free. Holloway’s face was showing significant damage, and though he was still holding his own, Volkanovski had hardly slowed down, throwing steady combos that hit true. Holloway did his best to keep Volkanovski at bay, eventually timing a takedown attempt quite well and driving Volkanovski toward the cage. He was unable to finish the job, though, and Volkanovski escaped Holloway’s clutches. Both fighters rattled each other with well-aimed and well-timed punches as the clock wound down. Holloway was persistent in his attacks, trying his best to ignore the blood and swelling on his face while contending with Volkanovski’s constant onslaught of combos.
Round five opened with leg kicks from both fighters, and Holloway soon switched things up by scooping up a single leg on Volkanovski. Volkanovski held Holloway in the clinch against the cage for the remainder of the first minute of the round. Volkanovski punished his opponent with more leg kicks, doing a good job of staying clear of Holloway’s own strikes. Holloway attempted another takedown, but Volkanovski countered well and drove him to the cage again. Holloway threw knees from the clinch until they broke apart. Though both fighters had slowed down, Volkanovski in particular went strong for the rest of the round, with neither fighter backing down until the final horn sounded.
Volkanovski was given the win by unanimous decision and retained the featherweight title.
Main Event: Israel Adesanya vs. Jared Cannonier
Both fighters started the action with leg kicks. Adesanya soon began throwing punches and combos as he and Cannonier continued to feel out the timing and distance between them. With 30 seconds remaining in the round, Adesanya threw a head kick that Cannonier smoothly ducked, but aside from a solid right hand from Adesanya, the action stayed quiet for the remainder of the round.
Cannonier and Adesanya danced around each other for the beginning of round two before throwing leg kicks at each other again. Adesanya came forward with punches and then briefly tripped Cannonier, though the latter quickly recovered. Cannonier tried to drive Adesanya against the cage, but Adesanya successfully controlled the distance between them with carefully timed punches and kicks. Cannonier came forward with a big right hook, and Adesanya did his best to punish him for it with a head kick and a solid combo that finished with a strong right hand. The action was paused after an accidental eye poke from Adesanya, and Cannonier came back in strong with a body kick and a series of leg kicks against his opponent. Both athletes picked up the pace in the final seconds of the round, firing quick and heavy combos at each other. Adesanya punctuated his final blow with a bit of taunting toward his opponent.
Adesanya came through with more kicks at the start of round three, and Cannonier fired back with heavy hands. Cannonier quickly changed levels and drove Adesanya to the cage, but they didn’t stay there for long, and Adesanya followed up with a jab. Adesanya stayed quick with his jabs and leg kicks, while Cannonier’s heavy hands continued to be a threat. Cannonier drove Adesanya to the cage and tried to drive him to the ground with a single-leg. Adesanya, however, managed to escape danger, and the fight returned to the center of the Octagon for both fighters to trade blows. Cannonier’s right hand opened the opportunity for him to enter the clinch and push his opponent against the cage with just over a minute left in the round. Adesanya fought back with short-range punches as Cannonier battered his legs with knee strikes. Adesanya broke free and threw a head kick in the final seconds before the bell.
Both fighters were still moving well when round four kicked off, smoothly trading combos and kicks. Cannonier landed a body shot, and Adesanya responded with a kick to the body and his signature jab. Cannonier took more hits to the head, but soon landed a few strikes of his own. Adesanya landed another solid leg kick, which was answered by a body kick from Cannonier. With two and a half minutes to go, Cannonier clinched up with his opponent again and drove him to the cage. Adesanya took minimal damage before escaping. Cannonier’s right hand continued to be a threat, but Adesanya’s fast reflexes kept his defense effective. Cannonier again clinched up with Adesanya, this time landing a decent elbow to Adesanya’s head against the fence. Thirty seconds to go, and Cannonier mixed up knees to the leg with some solid strikes to Adesanya’s head. The fighters separated just before the round ended.
Neither fighter held anything back as the fifth and final round began. Adesanya continued to work his jabs and kicks, wobbling his opponent with a leg kick but not knocking him down. Cannonier level-changed and again clinched up with Adesanya about halfway through the final round, again battering his thighs with knee strikes. Adesanya broke free with just over a minute left and took a few significant punches from Cannonier before ending up with his back against the fence once again, taking a knee from his opponent upon his escape. The fighters each managed to throw a few more strikes before the horn.
Adesanya was awarded the unanimous decision victory and retained his middleweight title.
UFC 276 Full Results:
- Israel Adesanya def. Jared Cannonier via dec.
- Alexander Volkanovski def. Max Holloway via dec.
- Alex Pereira def. Sean Strickland via KO (Round 1)
- Bryan Barberena def. Robbie Lawler via TKO (Round 2)
- Pedro Munhoz vs. Sean O’Malley – no contest
- Jalin Turner def. Brad Riddell via guillotine (Round 1)
- Jim Miller def. Donald Cerrone via guillotine (Round 2)
- Ian Garry def. Gabe Green via decision
- Dricus de Plessis def. Brad Tavares via decision
- Andre Muniz def. Uriah Hall via decision
- Maycee Barber def. Jessica Eye via decision
- Julija Stoliarenko def. Jessica-Rose Clark via armbar (Round 1)