UFC 276 Staff Predictions: Israel Adesanya vs. Jared Cannonier 1

Jared Cannonier gets his shot at Israel Adesanya and the UFC Middleweight Championship this weekend at UFC 276.

Cannonier, now the #2 middleweight contender, has won five of his last six bouts since entering the middleweight division in 2018. Most recently, he secured a knockout win against Derek Brunson and before then a unanimous decision win against Kelvin Gastelum. His only defeat in the division was a decision loss to former champion Robert Whittaker.

Adesanya is regarded as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in mixed martial arts today. He’s undefeated as a middleweight and has defended the middleweight title four times since beating Robert Whittaker in 2019. His recent wins include a second victory against Whittaker and a decision win against Marvin Vettori.

Adesanya vs. Cannonier is the main event of UFC 276 and will stream live only on ESPN+ this Saturday night. Order the PPV here to watch every fight live.

Read on for our full fight predictions, staff picks, analysis, betting odds, and the best bets for the UFC 276 main event between Adesanya and Cannonier.

Betting Odds

Adesanya, the champion, is understandably a heavy favorite as we approach UFC 276 this weekend.

Staff Picks

Braeden Arbour

Israel Adesanya is the very best at utilizing his high-level striking including footwork and feints to force his opponents into unwilling and unbalanced positions. He does this by providing proposed openings, and then taking advantage of their reactions, or closing those holes as they look to exploit them. However, this is particularly difficult against someone like Jarred Cannonier, who, although does not have the bursting in and out style to break distance very well, always sits squared and solid until he can get in and throw. He also lands heavy with everything on a level that is rare amongst most fighters, so showing openings and closing them becomes a bit more difficult when he has no problem trying to blast straight through guards or checks.

However, if Adesanya can land something early to ring Cannonier’s bell and force him to react dramatically to his feints, he can somewhat negate the cold measured “march you down” style of Cannonier. This means sharp kicks or laser-like straight hands. One of Adesanya’s best tools is his question mark kick to straight right as it forces his opponents to try to chase the attack with their guard, dropping their hands at the first feint, trying to catch up as the high kick lands and thus leaving open the center channel for the punch. Accuracy will be key in this fight as Cannonier is so durable and offers little exposed openings if he can help it.

What we do have to take into account is that Jared Cannonier is a southpaw and he has very heavy low calf kicks. Israel Adesanya is essentially an ambi-fighter, and can throw everything with almost perfect control from either side but if one leg is compromised his ability to shift from stance to stance to set up tricky kicks or slip and roll while moving is also compromised. Look for Cannonier to pick a target, likely a leg, and try to break Adesanya down from the roots. Look for Adesanya to work his reach and make the most of straight shot counters if Cannonier throws these leg kicks too predictably.

Overall I see Cannonier pushing forward, keeping a tight guard and square stance, and attempting to work his way in with hooks and low kicks. I do think that Adesanya has the ability to angle off, especially early, and make Cannonier second guess himself after taking some of Adesanya’s shots flush through the guard or around it. While it’s more likely Cannonier will resort to clinching up for a takedown or shoot, I think that Adesanya’s takedown defense has proven at a higher level than Cannonier’s wrestling, although it’s almost definite that Adesanya doesn’t want to counter wrestle past defending the shot. Adesanya’s go-to gameplan on wrestling defense is getting to defense due to his wide base and frames, and is much more vulnerable in the center ring. However, because I see him skirting the octagon and forcing Cannonier to chase, I think most of the time he will likely be able to either scramble back to the cage after being taken down or end up sprawling on the cage anyway.

Pick: Israel Adesanya to win (-480 odds at MyBookie)

Michael Pounders

Adesanya is the self-proclaimed “Style Bender.” This nickname is a play on anime but does represent his fight style well. He is incredibly fluid and fast, both offensively and defensively, while striking. He keeps a wide base but is feather-like light on his feet, able to bounce out of range when his opponent attacks, and able to pounce forward to land his own stinging shots. His footwork is unorthodox and makes him extremely difficult to hit cleanly, whether punches or kicks. Beyond his footwork, Adesanya relies on quick-twitch head movement to evade strikes, especially important considering his hands are often down at his hips. Still, it’s rare to see the champ get clipped. While his defense is impressive, his offensive striking is what makes Adesanya one of the best in the entire UFC. His jab, often coming from his hip, is lightning quick, while his kicking game is untelegraphed. Adesanya is typically a counter striker who looks to respond after evading a shot with a quick and precise shot that lands cleanly more often than not.

Cannonier is a counter striker himself. He prefers to bait his opponent into leaving an in-the-pocket exchange carelessly, then, as they backup, Cannonier will throw a fast and thudding head kick. If it lands, often, it’s lights out for whoever he is fighting. Cannonier’s striking has lost a little speed as he’s aged but his deadly power is still apparent as are his sound fundamentals. The vast majority of Cannonier’s strikes come from the left side of his body. He looks to land straight lefts, heavy hooks, and, most of all, his cracking left kick. Cannonier intelligently moves in the octagon to force his opponent into circling toward his power side, once he does, he’ll unload a deceptively quick and undeniably powerful strike. Being a counter striker who looks for the perfect shot, Cannonier can fall into long bouts of inactivity which can result in him losing rounds on the back of low volume. Further, Cannonier tends to carry his chin high, willing to take a shot to land a shot because he often has the edge in power. Yet, with his growing age, 38 now, Cannonier has been cracked more than he has in the past. He’ll need to increase the volume and mind his chin when facing the champ; but, his power is an interesting and possible equalizing force.

Adesanya should simply be too fast, evasive, and intelligent for Cannonier in this matchup. Both men favoring a counter-heavy style, we might be in store for some standing and watching, but, when they do throw down, I like Adesanya to land more consistently and evade successfully. While I prefer Adesanya in parlays, as a straight play, I like Izzy to find the finish late in the fight.

Pick: Adesanya by KO/TKO (+130 odds at MyBookie)

Joe Pounders

Israel Adesanya is the most cerebral fighter in the UFC. I will go one step further and say he is arguably the most cerebral professional athlete in the world. His elite intellect is what makes him as great of a fighter as he is given he presents such a complex puzzle whereby he seemingly wins the fight before it even happens.

What I mean by this is that his opponents, who have been the elite of the elite for quite some time, often conduct a mental cost-benefit analysis of pressuring the counterstriking attack of Adesanya verse remaining borderline passive, ultimately hoping Adesanya’s countering game will be negated. In every title fight held in the middleweight division, Adesanya’s opponent seems to worry about what he wants to do contrary to merely fighting their own fight, and because of that, Adesanya is able to have the mental clarity needed to dominate the fight.

Beyond this mental chess match seemingly conducted in every fight of Adesanya, he has the elite physical attributes to have separated himself from the rest of the middleweight division. His length, speed, elite ability to land clean strikes, the creativity of strikes thrown, and an underrated takedown defense has led Adesanya to have extreme success in the octagon. The only question is if the passivity seen at times will allow his opponent to steal a round, and if indeed the case, the opponent may be able to steal enough to win a tight decision – nearly seen in the Whittaker fight albeit damage and “success” largely came at the hands of Adesanya.

The most critical thing I will say about Jared Cannonier is as follows: albeit I agree he should be fighting for the belt in this particular spot, I believe there are several other middleweight contenders who are better, more complete fighters. With that said, those “better” fighters had their crack at the champ and failed, so I fully agree Cannonier is deserving of this shot and possesses the skills necessary to potentially shock the world.

Beyond the known narrative of Cannonier once fighting as a professional heavyweight, which explains the elite power he possesses as a fighter, I want to dive into the details of what makes him such a challenging test for Adesanya. The biggest difficulty Cannonier will bring to this matchup is the mental fortitude necessary to fight his fight, contrary to worrying about what Adesanya is going to do. The reasoning for him having mental clarity is because he and Adesanya have not crossed paths to date, meanwhile the other middleweight contenders either fought Adesanya before and/or had real animosity towards him which clouded their fight judgment. Because Cannonier will not fall victim to losing the mental battle before the fight even starts, he is already a leg up when compared to the other middleweight challengers.

The other difficulty Cannonier will possess, which is inherently built on the mental fortitude of fighting his own fight, is the ability to use his elite natural strength, strong power, and willingness to eat one to give one, to make this bout a true fight. Often, Adesanya is the ability to keep the fight at range and have it look clean, but Cannonier will likely disallow this to happen, as he has the true grit and skill to get in the pocket to make the fight dirty. Moreover, having elite natural strength, Cannonier can also chain wrestle his way to the ground, and if done, has shown to have solid ground and pound.

The positive attributes Cannonier will bring to this fight cannot go overlooked; in particular, his willingness to ignore the mental antics and simply fight. With that said, Adesanya has the superior technical skills and experience to piece up Cannonier on the outside; and, most importantly, Adesanya has shown time after time he understands how to implement footwork and technique to keep the fight at a range that allows him to have the most success. So, albeit Cannonier will bring the fight to Adesanya, Adesanya has all the skills necessary to piece up Cannonier and secure the win.

Pick: Adesanya to win; Adesanya Rd 4/5 TKO (+1200 odds at MyBookie)

UFC 276 is a PPV event and will stream only on ESPN+ in the United States this Saturday night. Order the PPV here to watch every fight live.

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