UFC 276 saw some spectacular performances, as well as some questionable outings for some of the top names in the sport. While Alexander Volkanovski put on an incredible show of dominance in retaining his featherweight championship against Max Holloway in their trilogy fight, middleweight champion Israel Adesanya left the fans somewhat disappointed after a safe and uninspired victory over Jared Cannonier.
Rising star Sean O’Malley also hit his own stumble, going to a no-contest against Pedro Munhoz after an accidental eye poke, leaving plenty of questions as to whether he’s ready to break through to the elite levels of the bantamweight division.
After a major event concludes, it’s only natural to wonder where the night’s winners and big names go next. With that in mind, let’s take a look at four fights to make after a big night of action in the Octagon.
Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including instant analysis of UFC 276 at the conclusion of the PPV event.
Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira
While Pereira is an elite enough talent to warrant being signed on his own, his two kickboxing wins over Adesanya, one by brutal knockout, have been the underlying story every time he has fought in the Octagon. What Pereira needed to be “deserving” of a shot at Adesanya in the Octagon was an elite win. He got that on the UFC 276 undercard, dominating a top five fighter in Sean Strickland before scoring the first-round knockout. Pereira made it clear he wanted his shot to add a UFC win over Adesanya to his two kickboxing victories, and after beating Cannonier, Adesanya agreed that the bout with Pereira is the fight to make.
Even better than the history between the two, Pereira is every bit as good a striker as Adesanya — if not better. That means that Adesanya will likely have to bring more to the Octagon than a gameplan that nullifies an opponent’s strengths. A reputation for safe gameplans and fights that lack in entertainment value has begun to creep into conversations about Adesanya’s place in the sport. That’s not great for someone with his level of charisma and Pereira may be the man to help bring some entertainment back to the champion’s fights.
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Charles Oliveira
Volkanovski officially put his rivalry with Max Holloway to bed on Saturday night, putting on an all-time elite performance against a Hall of Fame opponent. Volkanovski was able to be effective offensively in nearly every minute of the fight while completely nullifying a truly elite offensive fighter in Holloway. There are still some intriguing fights in the featherweight division for the champion, but the idea of a superfight with uncrowned lightweight champion Oliveira has come up more and more in conversation of late.
Oliveira has been calling for a fight with Conor McGregor, as most top fighters do. McGregor is a guy who gets you the best payday of your career. But McGregor also has not won a lightweight fight since 2016 and is 1-3 at the weight in his UFC career. For the sake of “earned” title shots, it would be far more interesting to see if Volkanovski could move up to lightweight and battle Oliveira for the championship. A win for either man is massive and another accomplishment in a truly great career. There’s no better time than now to make Volkanovski vs. Oliveira happen.
Sean O’Malley vs. Pedro Munhoz 2
Munhoz was supposed to be a clear step up in competition for O’Malley, a fighter many feel is a superstar in the making. When the two met at UFC 276, O’Malley never looked like he was able to get his offense fully going. That’s a product of Munhoz’s skills as much as whatever was going on with O’Malley. But when the fight ended on an accidental eye poke by O’Malley, it left far too many questions to just move on to the next fight. A rematch should be set for the next card where both are willing, able and healthy. Seeing what, if any, adjustments O’Malley can make after absorbing a round and a half of information will be interesting for those who still question what the young bantamweight’s ceiling truly is.
Jalin Turner vs. Arman Tsarukyan
Turner deserves a special mention after another impressive outing. Turner made very easy work of a tough fighter in Brad Riddell, scoring a submission win by guillotine choke in less than a minute in the UFC 276 featured prelim. Riddell entered the fight the No. 14 ranked fighter in the official UFC rankings. Turner will crack the top 15 with his win and with five consecutive victories, all by stoppage, he should be looking at someone above him in the rankings. No. 11 Tsarukyan is coming off a loss to Mateusz Gamrot in a great fight on June 25. The timing for both men lines up well, neither has an opponent and a win for either man would put them into the top 10 conversation.