As Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski defended their titles, we look back at UFC 276, and look forward to what may happen next.
Fans may criticise the nature of his victory, but Israel Adesanya may remind them his first obligation is to himself, and to win.
Adesanya has long established himself as the 185-pound king, and now has his sights set on greatness – referring to the legendary Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre being criticised towards the end of their careers despite the wins.
The Last Stylebender extended his record to 23-1 against Jared Cannonier – with his only professional defeat coming at light heavyweight – with a third consecutive decision win.
It was one of the easier fights for Adesanya, who once again was able to use his range and speed to keep out of trouble. He admitted it was an off night for him, with fans booing the closing seconds of the fight, as well as Bruce Buffer’s announcement.
Not since Silva has anyone really made the middleweight division their own; Chris Weidman – with three – is the only man with multiple title defences, while Adesanya has five.
Having cleaned out the top contenders in the division, a fight with Alex Pereira may be next on the cards, but if he can carry the weight, maybe it’s time for another tilt at the light heavyweight title?
Since the division’s inception in 2010, only Jose Aldo had successfully defended the featherweight title. Aldo would recapture the belt following Conor McGregor’s vacation, losing to Max Holloway, who set about becoming one of the UFC’s all-time great featherweights.
A top-five pound-for-pound fighter for many years, even despite the losses to Volkanovski, Holloway remained #6 in the rankings.
The split decision loss in the rematch was contentious, but wins against Calvin Kattar – in which Holloway broke countless UFC records, and even won 50-42 on one scorecard in one of the all-time great performances – and Yair Rodriguez set up a third fight.
Make no mistake, Holloway is a UFC great and his career isn’t done yet, but Volkanovski simply has his number.
The fact he could take out Holloway three times doesn’t provide much hope for the rest of the division, and the belt looks to be his as long as he wants it.
But while they’re in the same division, Holloway can’t recapture the title.
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Maybe it’s time for another venture upwards for Blessed? After jumping up to fight Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight title, he came up short, but there’s no shame in losing to Poirier, and if he wants to compete for another title, his time at featherweight may be at an end.
For the Aussie, he has a similar dilemma. It’s hard to see who can beat Volkanovski at 145, and if he can make the adjustment to 155, he’d pose serious problems at lightweight.
On the early prelims we saw Andre Muniz beat top-10 middleweight Uriah Hall to set up a bid fight as he moves up the 185-pound rankings.
Prior to the fight, Muniz claimed he wanted to showcase more than his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills, but the black belt smothered Hall, winning all three rounds.
Muniz first broke into the UFC mainstream with that sickening armbar on Jacare Souza, becoming the first man to submit his fellow BJJ black belt, before submitting Eryk Anders with another armbar.
It leaves the middleweight division in the bizarre place of every one of their top 10 fighters having lost their last fight in the division.
Muniz’s next fight remains unclear, but it’s certainly not impossible that in 12 months, we’ll have a new pretender to Adesanya’s throne.
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