"The Last Stylebender" continues his dominance at middleweight.
Israel Adesanya got a game challenge from Jared Cannonier at UFC 276 but once again demonstrated that there are levels to MMA.
And when it comes to the middleweight division, Adesanya remains above and beyond the best.
Adesanya produced a tactical fight en route to a unanimous decision victory over Cannonier at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night to retain his middleweight world championship. Judges scored it 49-46, 49-46, and 50-45 in favor of Adesanya, who recorded his fifth title defense.
Having ran through many quality names in the division by now, Adesanya didn't waste time shifting his focus to Alex Pereira, who delivered a scintillating knockout of Sean Strickland earlier in the pay-per-view main card.
Pereira sports two victories over Adesanya during their kickboxing days, but "The Last Stylebender" warned that a UFC fight will go very differently.
Although Adesanya felt Cannonier's power at times, he kept the challenger on the receiving end of a crisp, precise jab over large stretches of the fight. Those jabs would turn into piercing combinations at the times as Adesanya controlled the real estate in the Octagon with superiority. Cannonier managed to press Adesanya up against the cage several times but failed to inflict any damage due to the champion's savvy defense.
Adesanya wasn't the only champion successful at UFC 276, as teammate Alexander Volkanovski produced a masterclass domination of Max Holloway to retain his featherweight title in their trilogy fight, which served as the co-feature of the card.
Here's how the entire UFC 276 pay-per-view main card went.
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Israel Adesanya takes unanimous decision to retain title
Cannonier's corner tells him he's down 3-1 rounds and urges him to go and get the job done during these final five minutes. He comes out launching a right hand that lands. Adesanya returns to his jab, peppering the game Cannonier. And a leg kick from Adesanya lands too. We're two minutes in, and Cannonier hasn't gone for it with urgency, knowing he's down. Meanwhile, the champ briskly makes him eat a two-piece combo. The halfway point of the fight. Cannonier has Adesanya in the clinch against the Octagon again but is failing to use it to unleash offense. Adesanya's savvy hand placement is further thwarting Cannonier. The challenger knees the champ's legs. Ninety seconds left with the fighters remaining in the clinch. Cannonier has Adesanya's leg, but the champ wriggles free. He goes back to the jab and connects. Cannonier with a heavy-handed right and left that lands, and the champ takes cover. Adesanya uncorks a right hand in response to those stinging blows. Ten seconds. Five. There's the horn. (10-9 Adesanya, 49-46 Adesanya)
Adesanya flicks out that jab and again. It's crashing against Cannonier crisply. A leg kick from Adesanya follows seconds later. Cannonier gives chase and deposits a shot to the body of the champion. Adesanya returns fire with an audibly-stinging body kick. The combination ends in a right-hand landing for Cannonier. A crunching body kick lands for the challenger as well. He now pushes Adesanya up against the Octagon. We're halfway through. Left-right combo from Adesanya. Overhand right grazes the champ. Left jab sneaks through Cannonier's guard. The challenger with a leg kick as a response. He again has Adesanya up against the cage. But the champ is handling all these clinches well, as he's avoiding damage. As I say that, Adesanya eats an elbow. Adesanya depositing compact punches to the temple. Another competitive round, but the champ takes it. (10-9 Adesanya, 39-37 Adesanya)
Level change from Cannonier as he rushes the champ against the Octagon. But Adesanya calmly responds with that crisp jab, popping Cannonier's head back. Adesanya then goes back to that inside leg kick as well. Cannonier is just missing with a lunging right hand. Cannonier with a right hand followed by a level change where he presses Adesanya against the cage. Good production from Cannonier. Adesanya finds his way free and fires a head kick, which Cannonier defends well. Under two minutes left. Cannonier wraps an overhand right around Adesanya's guard. Cannonier is doing a great job of advancing and getting close to Adesanya this round. Solid right hand from Cannonier now, too. He again has Adesanya pressed against the Octagon. Cannonier is digging some heavy knees into Adesanya's legs while the champ is mashed up against the cage. A knee from Adesanya off the clinch lands, but this round goes to the challenger. (10-9 Cannonier, 29-28 Adesanya)
Adesanya with that crisp jab that keeps landing. The champ spends the first 30 seconds of the round moving forward while motioning to the challenger to bring some action. They trade leg kicks. And again. Cannonier slips and is back up on his feet, trying to figure out this complex puzzle that is "The Last Stylebender." Adesanya goes for a leg kick, and Cannonier times a sharp right counterpunch. Cannonier now with a kick up the middle that grazes against Adesanya's chest. Adesanya digs a right hand into Cannonier's body now. Under two minutes left. Cannonier with a level change, possibly making Adesanya think about a takedown attempt. Quick-punch combination gets a head kick tacked on to boot from Adesanya. Stinging right hand now from Adesanya. Inadvertent eye poke to Cannonier as a timeout is called by Herb Dean, allowing the challenger to recover. Cannonier declines a doctor. Adesanya with some stinging leg kicks. Cannonier checks them with a heavy leg kick the other way. Some swelling developing on Cannonier's right eye. Adesanya with a jab to end the round, and Cannonier takes offense to some showboating by the champ. Adesanya wags his finger in front of the challenger as if to warn him. (10-9 Adesanya, 20-18 Adesanya)
Both fighters fire leg kicks in the opening minute. Adesanya is downloading information and rifling another leg kick. Moments later, Cannonier returns the shot. Halfway through the round, with both the champion and challenger still trying to feel each other out. Adesanya finds a home with the jab and manages the space well. He sends an uppercut up the middle followed by a head kick that Cannonier defends well. Minute remaining. Adesanya with a head kick that goes up and over a dodging Cannonier. A left-right combination ends with a crisp right from the champ at the horn. (10-9 Adesanya)
Holloway needs a finish to win. Level change for Holloway as he presses Volkanovski up against the cage. Volkanovski reverses it and has Holloway mashed up against the Octagon now. A minute has passed. They're back in the center of the Octagon, exchanging shots. Again, Volkanovski is quicker to the punch — the story of this fight. Three minutes left. Leg kick from the champion. Again, they're in the clinch up against the Octagon. Volkanovski blasts Holloway with a couple of elbows off the clinch. Two minutes left. This has been a stellar performance from the champion, who's asserting his greatness. Ninety seconds remaining. Holloway looks fatigued but is hanging tough. Volkanovski with a right hand, adding to the damage written all over Holloway's face. The champ peppering his challenger with that jab, moving crisply around Holloway. Under 30 seconds now. The champ is still letting his hands go. Superior, dominant showing from Alexander "The Great" Volkanovski. (10-9 Volkanovski, 50-45 Volkanovski)
In between rounds, Holloway's corner urges him to make the changes and mix up his weapons. That's going to be hard to do with Volkanovski fighting like this. The champ has Holloway pressed against the Octagon at the moment and blasts him with an elbow coming off of it. A knee and right hand from Holloway lands. Volk catches a body kick attempt from Holloway but misses a counterpunch the other way. A spinning back kick to the body slams against Volkanovski's midsection. But the champ slips outside with a leg kick and right-handed jab. Body kick again from Holloway, and Volkanovski responds with a counter jab. Holloway goes for a takedown after the champ slips, but Volkanovski doesn't allow it to happen. Punch, and a high kick lands for Holloway now. He is turning it up with the offense, but Volkanovski remains a step ahead with his timely striking. Thirty seconds left. Holloway with some words toward Volkanovski after the round ends. There's definitely respect between these two. (10-9 Volkanovski, 40-36 Volkanovski)
Q-tip inside that gash between rounds DEEPLY. It's definitely a concern for Holloway. A left-right combination from Volkanovski stings Holloway, who counters to the body. Volk has definitely been the quicker striker here through two rounds. Holloway advances with some punch attempts that miss, and the champion makes him pay with a compact right hand. Holloway with a body kick attempt but Volkanovski is right there with his quick hands as he goes back to the jab. Nice left hand from Holloway, but again it's Volk with the heavier-handed shots the other way. That cut over Holloway's left eye is once again gushing. Two minutes left in the round. Volkanovski's left jab has been his weapon of choice in this fight and he follows it with a piercing right. Thirty seconds remaining. Thudding right wraps around Holloway's guard and crashes against the challenger's temple. (10-9 Volkanovski, 30-27 Volkanovski)
A body kick from Holloway connects in the first minute. Big overhand right stings Holloway seconds later. Holloway showing pressure and Volkanovski responds by wrapping his arms around Blesseds' waist. The champ blasts him with an elbow for good measure. Savvy stuff from the champion. Volkanovski taps Holloway with a left jab, ducks under a counter, and detonates a huge right hand. That shot opens a big gash on Holloway, who's already having trouble seeing out of his left eye. Ninety seconds left. Both fighters exchange fire, landing punches just under a minute now. A left-right combination from Holloway lands. Inside leg kick from the champ surprises Holloway. But the challenger comes back with an advancing knee. (10-9 Volkanovski, 20-18 Volkanovski)
They touch gloves to start. Holloway looks to be trying to walk Volkanovski down early. Some light kicks launched by Holloway, though both are still feeling each other out. Both fighters connect on kicks simultaneously. Volkanovski is now letting his hands go a bit more. Right lands for the champ. Holloway responds with a body kick. A jumping knee from Holloway misses, and Volk makes him pay with some stiff punches. Right hand lands for the champ. His change of speed has been great early on. Glancing left-hand lands for Volkanovski and a right follows. Volkanovski is the quicker man. Left hand upstairs followed by a right to the body from Volk. Under a minute left. Holloway with a left-right combination. Another right lands for Holloway now, too. Volkanovski with a right-left combo. Holloway with a spinning back elbow that connects as the horn sounds. Action definitely picked up from Holloway late but it's Volkanovski's first round. (10-9 Volkanovski)
The highly-anticipated Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway trilogy fight is upon us. Volkanovski snatched the featherweight world title from Holloway in December 2019 and defended the strap with a split-decision victory in their July 2020 rematch. That result, though, was widely controversial as many critics and fans alike believed that Holloway did enough to win that bout. With the stakes incredibly high and legacy on the line, this featherweight world championship trilogy fight is finally here.
Strickland stood upright in front of Pereira, and boy did he pay for it. Pereira detonates a vicious left hook bomb to drop Strickland! The American gets up groggily, and Pereira sends him back down with a straight right, and the ref stops it right there. A scintillating, nuclear knockout for Pereira and a lesson learned for Strickland, who had won six straight and hadn't lost in nearly four years.
We are skating through this pay-per-view main card thus far. On deck is Sean Strickland vs. Alex Pereira. Strickland had a lot to say about middleweight world champion Israel Adesanya this week. Well, if the fourth-ranked Strickland wants to keep climbing up the rankings, a win tonight would be key.