The 10th annual International Fight Week was capped off on Saturday night, when UFC 276 took place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Rivalries were settled and old rivalries re-surfaced in what was likely the most stacked card on paper of the year so far.
Let’s take a look at some potential next match-ups for the weekends winners.
“The Last Stylebender” once again made a case for being the greatest Middleweight fighter of all time. Despite the convincing victory, there were once again UFC fans around the world not entertained with the fashion in which he defended his strap for the fifth time.
In years gone by, Adesanya has notably only been involved in one all out scrap, and that was during his Interim title fight with Kelvin Gastelum. But that goes to show just how good the current king is. The main reason for fans’ criticism of Adesanya is that his recent fights have been ‘boring’, but maybe that is being mistook for extremely calculative and intelligent game-plans. Jared Cannonier is one of the most dangerous finishers in the Middleweight division, and that is advertised in his record with only three of his 15 wins needing the judges.
The expectation that one of the most highly intelligent fighters in combat sports was going to get into a close quarters striking match with an extremely powerful striker is maybe something fans need to look at, and not the champion himself.
Forgetting all of that, the 32-year-old successfully retained the title and has now set up for a monumental rematch with a certain old foe.
Israel Adesanya’s Next Fight: Alex Pereira
Alexander “The Great” made a case on Saturday night to be labelled as the pound-for-pound king. With the first two meetings between Volkanovski and Holloway not being convincing enough for some, the Australian came in and put a stamp on the rivalry between the two.
The champion put on one of his most flawless performances so far inside the Octagon, leaving any doubts in the past. Not only that, but he may also have cemented his legacy as the best Featherweight fighter ever. The scariest part is that in recent performances against Brian Ortega and The Korean Zombie, it looked like the champ couldn’t get any better, but on Saturday night, he levelled up once again.
With there currently being no clear contender to pose a threat to the 33-year-old, the ideal outcome is a move to 155 to take on Charles Oliveira for the vacant Lightweight title, in a battle between two of the pound-for-pound greatest fighters on planet earth.
Volkanovski’s Next Fight: Charles Oliveira
“Poatan” fought in what was only his seventh professional MMA fight, and not only that, he starched the 4th ranked Middleweight on the roster, Sean Strickland. The Brazilians quick rise up the ranks has been nothing short of sensational. The running narrative so far in the 34-year-old’s UFC tenure is his history with current Middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya. Everyone knows the score. Before the weekend, the consensus was that the winner of Strickland vs Pereira would be next in line for a title shot. And this seems to be the case after the weekend culminated.
The re-surfacing of the old rivalry will without doubt be the narrative the UFC leans on in the build up to their future bout, and it’s a match-up that has fans chomping at the bit.
Pereira’s Next Fight: Israel Adesanya
“Bam Bam” Barberena moved to three straight wins after ko’ing veteran Robbie Lawler in a high level stand-up affair. In over nine minutes in the Octagon, not one step back was taken. Phone-booth fighting at its best. Before the event, this was one that fans had their eyes on to win the Fight of the Night bonus and it did just that.
Barberena faced adversity early on and on the scorecards, found himself behind after round 1 due to some vicious body strikes invested in by Lawler. Despite that, the MMA Lab fighter came out in round 2 with precise volume striking, getting the standing KO over the former Welterweight champion.
Now that “Bam Bam” has put a little streak together, his stock has risen and he finds himself as a fighter fans really enjoy watching. A young 27-year-old, Jake Matthews is coming off the back of a career best performance against Andre Fialho at UFC 275, and the potential stand-up striking in a match-up between “The Celtic Kid” and Barberena would be mesmerising.
Barberena’s Next Fight: Jake Matthews
There wasn’t a winner (or a loser) in this fight as it ended in a no contest due to an eye poke. While this is the sort of situation that calls for a rematch, the UFC hasn’t always followed that logic in recent years.