The UFC is kicking off the month of July with a stacked Pay-Per-View card, set to cap off International Fight Week 2022. The card is set to go down on Saturday, July 2nd, from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In the main event, international superstar Israel Adesanya looks to defend his Middleweight crown against knockout artist Jared Cannonier, while Alendander Volkanovski and Max Holloway look to put a statement on their rivalry in an epic trilogy bout for Featherweight gold. The featured bout pits the next Middleweight title shot on the line, as the resurgent Sean Strickland looks to deny the Brazilian powerhouse Alex Pereira. Opening the main card, Sean O’Malley looks to continue his meteoric rise at the expense of the all-action Pedro Munhoz.
Israel Adesanya vs. Jared Cannonier (MW)
Israel Adesanya (21-1, 10-1 UFC) got back on track with a decision over Marvin Vettori after his first professional loss to Jan Blachowicz in an ill-fated move up to Light Heavyweight. He reaffirmed his dominance as champion, edging out a decision in a rematch opposite Robert Whittaker. Prior to the Blachowicz defeat, Adesanya was on a twenty-fight unbeaten streak, with two title defenses to his name. He has secured has cemented himself as one of the greatest strikers to ever enter the Octagon, now seeking to cement his legacy by moving up a weight class and becoming a double champion. His record holds fifteen knockouts on it brought on by his unorthodox and impressive striking, polished after a storied career in GLORY Kickboxing. His massive 6’4 frame grants him a heavy range advantage, but will not be as apparent here in his move up to Light Heavyweight. Adesanya uses amazing kickboxing to dominate his opponents from range and up close, delivering elbows and knees, along with punches down the middle. “The Last Stylebender” has been absolutely thrilling to watch with his high pace and his cardio has held up, winning five-rounders against Brad Tavares, Kelvin Gastelum, and Romero (though that’s not the best example of his cardio). Adesanya has impeccable takedown defense and uses it to keep the fight exactly where he wants it and his striking can give him one punch (or knee/kick/elbow) knockouts with his precision or he can decimate his opponent with a thousand strikes.
Jared Cannonier (15-5, 8-5 UFC) returned after almost a year away from action to win a dominant decision over Kelvin Gastelum. He secured his title shot in his most recent performance, knocking out Derek Brunson in the second round. “Tha Killa Gorilla” is a former Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight, with three straight knockout wins in the Middleweight division. Those propelled him into a fight with Robert Whittaker, who emerged victorious in a decision. Cannonier made an immediate impact in his Middleweight debut against David Branch, withstanding a thorough grappling attack to deliver his power shots and put Branch away in the second round. Cannonier’s main strength lies in his power and he has put down much bigger people than Robert Whittaker in his career. He brings in thunderous leg kicks to cut down movement, followed up with fight-changing power and dangerous clinch striking. Cannonier is one of only two fighters in UFC history to hold knockout victories in three separate weight classes.
We have a pure striking showcase in all likelihood here, as neither fighter is one to go for the takedown. Cannonier has advantages in explosivity and power and can be a force to reckon with in top control, though I don’t see that being a factor. Adesanya takes home many advantages, namely in speed, technique, and strike diversity. In addition, Adesanya has wildly superior defense on the feet. Cannonier will need to make the fight a brawl and utilize his clinch work and powerful pocket striking, but the footwork and calf kicks of Adesanya make him ever elusive. I expect Adesanya to pick Cannonier apart for a knockout in the second or third round.
My Pick: Israel Adesanya via Knockout
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway III (FTW)
Alexander Volkanovski (24-1, 11-0 UFC) surged to the top of the Featherweight division with a vicious knockout of Chad Mendes followed by a clinic over Jose Aldo in which “The Great” more than tripled up on his strike differential. After claiming the title in a decision against Max Holloway, Volk defended his belt twice more against the Hawaiian and Brian Ortega. He dominated the Korean Zombie in his last outing for a fourth-round knockout to establish a tight grip over the division. Volkanovski has a fantastic freestyle wrestling base, with damaging ground and pound and a fantastic ability to control where the fight takes place, whether that’s controlling his opponent from top position or scrambling back to his feet in an instant. He has become less reliant on his wrestling over his most recent fights, and it’s not hard to see why. Aside from going apart against great defensive grapplers, Volkanovski’s striking and work with the rising City Kickboxing team of Hooker and Adesanya has become the highlight of his game. He attacks with a furious pace, averaging more than six significant strikes a minute while attacking both the legs and body, not only the head. It was the former of those that Volk utilized to secure the title in his last bout against Holloway, showing he has damaging ability in all elements of his striking game.
After two back-to-back (albeit close) losses to Volkanovski, Max Holloway (22-6, 18-6 UFC) rebounded with a career-best, absolutely dominating and showboating over Calvin Kattar in a five-round decision. He followed that up with a Fight of the Year candidate opposite Yair Rodriguez, once again winning a decision. Though he has proved his knockout ability with ten career KO wins, Max doesn’t exactly have one-shot power and he doesn’t have stellar submission skills, but he kickboxes like no one else can. He just dances in and out of range, never letting his opponent get a shot off. He can work well from both southpaw and orthodox and fires leg kicks too to soften his opponent. What sets Max apart is the cardio and pace that he forces his opponent to try to maintain for five rounds, which is a task few are able to maintain when he takes away their power with his movement and their grappling with his takedown defense.
Ten rounds of action between these two elites has kept them neck and neck, with strategic chess matches in both fights. I am expecting an urgency from both fighters here, looking to make a stamp on the rivalry. After two fights, there are some advantages for each fighter, no matter how close they are. Holloway has a slight edge in striking volume and pace, while Volk presents his advantages through fight IQ and his wrestling prowess. Holloway displayed a superior striking advantage in their second showcase, and I am expecting to see that even more lopsided here after time to study. However, Volkanovski will be looking to implement his wrestling and grappling advantages. Both fighters are incredibly tough and I would be surprised to see a finish, so I expect Holloway to utilize superior striking and takedown defense for a pressure-based decision.
My Pick: Max Holloway via Decision
Sean Strickland vs. Alex Pereira (MW)
A two-year layoff saw Sean Strickland (25-3, 12-3 UFC) return to score a one-sided decision over Jack Marshman, which he followed up with a second-round knockout over Brendan Allen. He has since rattled off three decision victories over Kyrzstof Jotko, Uriah Hall, and Jack Hermansson to bring his win streak to six. Strickland has a polished and well-rounded skill set, with thirteen finishes to his credit. His striking was most notable in his last bout, as his crisp jab and combination striking worked over the powerful Welshman. He has great wrestling skills as well, amassing an 81% takedown defense rate despite going up against certified killers like Kamaru Usman, Tom Breese, and Santiago Ponzinibbio. What stands out to me about “Tarzan” is his superb defense, cutting angles expertly and rarely leaving his chin able to be found and allowing few opportunities for his opponent to enter the pocket. Fourteen of his wins have come before the final bell, with ten by way of knockout.
Alex Pereira was quickly highlighted as a prospect transitioning to MMA, having an extensive kickboxing career and even claiming gold in GLORY. He made waves with a viral knockout over Israel Adesanya and is 2-0 against the current champion under kickboxing rules. “Poatan” made an immediate mark in his Octagon debut, starching Andreas Michailidis with a flying knee. He went on to win an entertaining decision over Bruno “Blindado” Silva, landing over a hundred strikes in that outing. Pereira has fairly basic fundamentals, but carries devastating power in all of his kicks and punches. His 6’4″ height and 80″ reach make him difficult to find, with fantastic range management, utilizing kicks well to maintain distance. He has finished all but one of his MMA wins by knockout, along with 21 KOs in kickboxing.
I am expecting a barnburner in our featured bout, with a confirmed title shot on the line for the winner. Pereira will be coming out with his stalking kickboxing style, pressing for the knockout. Strickland has a boxing-heavy style, and matches a number of Pereira’s skills in range management and defense. However, Pereira’s technique and power advantages will be on display striking. Strickland does hold highly underrated wrestling and grappling, with a high takedown accuracy. That remains the key way to defeat Pereira, who has shown struggles with his takedown defense. I expect a close fight on the feet with Pereira taking the edge before Strickland goes to the mat and wraps up a submission.
My Pick: Sean Strickland via Submission
Robbie Lawler vs. Bryan Barbarena (WW)
Former champion Robbie Lawler (29-15, 14-9 UFC) was riding a four-fight skid, including a controversial loss to Ben Askren and decision defeats to RDA, Colby Covington, and Neil Magny. He rebounded in a legacy fight against Nick Diaz, scoring a third-round TKO. Lawler is a power puncher who mainly utilizes his boxing, but can also fire up high kicks if he feels the opportunity. The striking of Lawler is on another level because of his advancing and ability to maximize his own range and then dodge his opponent’s counters. Even though Lawler has just two wins in his last six, all of those fights have been against truly elite competition and he has shown success in every one of those bouts.
Bryan Barbarena (17-8, 8-6 UFC) is currently on a two-fight win streak, winning decisions over Darian Weeks and Matt Brown. He is 3-1 in the past two years and remains a fan favorite due to his brawling style. “Bam Bam” is a striker who works at a high pace, forcing every fight into the pocket. With twelve stoppages to his name, he holds ten via knockout. His last two fights saw him combine to land over two hundred strikes on his opponents, showing the pace he prefers to set. Barbarena has displayed gaps in his takedown defense, but can quickly reclaim his footing. He is incredibly durable and brings constant pressure, but presents defensive holes in his game.
We have a fun clash of veterans here, likely to take place entirely on the feet. Both fighters are known for their striking and durability, with a love for exchanging in the pocket. Lawler is getting up there in age and there are signs of damage after a long career at the top, but still has power, pressure, and durability, along with a high pace. Barbarena is an aggressive fighter, but absorbs damage at a much higher rate, particularly in the pocket where Lawler excels. Expect a high-paced affair with Lawler getting his hand raised with a late knockout or decision.
My Pick: Robbie Lawler via Decision
Pedro Munhoz vs. Sean O’Malley (BW)
Pedro Munhoz (19-7, 9-7 UFC) came out victorious with a knockout over Cody Garbrandt in their one-round brawl to lose a decision against current champ Aljamain Sterling. His first main event showing against Frankie Edgar was a back and forth war that saw Edgar snag a narrow nod on the scorecards, though many found it controversial. He rebounded with a Fight of the Night decision over Jimmie Rivera but dropped his last two outings to Jose Aldo and Dominick Cruz. Munhoz has gone under the radar for most people with his quiet and respectful personality, which MMA fans quickly get bored of (looking at you, Conor). Despite that, Munhoz is an incredibly entertaining fighter with power and world-class jiu-jitsu. “The Young Punisher” loves to pressure forward into a brawl, utilizing his fair share of leg kicks. Although coming in with a jiu-jitsu base, his kickboxing is something only increasing in technique and power, and Munhoz always comes forward with a never-ending volume.
The hype train of Sean O’Malley (15-1, 7-1 UFC) took a hit following a loss to Marlon Vera, but he rebounded with three straight knockout wins. “Sugar” quickly became a hot prospect after a round one KO on the Contender Series, followed up by two incredibly entertaining decision victories only to be put on the back burner with a USADA suspension. He came back better than ever, finishing Jose Quinonez in the first round at UFC 248 before continuing his journey to stardom with a walk-off KO over Eddie Wineland. O’Malley is a rangy striker with surprising power for his skinny frame, only boosted by his spinning attacks and high amplitude shots. He has some nice submission skills off his back, but the ground game is definitely his weakest spot, preferring to pick apart his opponent with accuracy. He has shown difficulty dealing with leg kicks, suffering leg injuries in both the Soukhamthath and Vera bouts.
Opening our main card is a veteran vs prospect clash, with a top ten ranking on the line. O’Malley has been surging towards stardom with viral knockouts, displaying a dominant striking style. While Munhoz is 1-3 in his last four, his defeats have came to former champions and have all displayed both his aggression and chin. I expect O’Malley to find success with his counters against Munhoz, whose head movement is disappointing. Unless Munhoz can reliably drag the fight to the mat or find success his his powerful leg kicks, bet on O’Malley to get the nod on the judges’ scorecards.
The main card kicks off at 10 PM EST, only on PPV! Tune in to our home page on fight night for coverage of the entire event!
Categories: UFC Predictions
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