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LineStar® Weekly Knockout (UFC) - UFC 276 Cannonier vs. Adesanya

Chris Guy (MMA Expert)
Chris Guy (MMA Expert)
We’re Back With Another LineStar Weekly Knockout!
Written by LineStar contributor, combat sports enthusiast, and practitioner, Chris Guy.
Instagram: @therealsethgeko & Twitter: @DadHallOfFamer

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The impossible is everywhere we look.  Every sport has a unique impossibility.  For the NFL, the impossible is the Dallas Cowboys winning a sixth Super Bowl title; they haven’t even sniffed an NFC title game since Pogs and fanny packs were poppin’.  Major league baseball has the .400 batting average and a fifty-six-game hit streak.  Neither will be threatened for as long as human beings are still playing the game.  I’m not even sure a sentient A.I. could be programmed to hit .400.   The modern NBA will never have a one-hundred-point scorer.  Of course, Wilt Chamberlain did it in 1962, but that was mostly against substitute PE teachers.  Kobe scored eighty-one in 2006, and that’s the closest I’ve ever seen.  I bet even Jai Alai and cornhole even have untouchable marks.  In MMA, there’s beating Khabib and Israel Adesanya at middleweight.  This Saturday, Jared Cannonier will be the next to attempt to scale Mt. Stylebender. 
On Mt. Everest, the crevasses are filled and the slopes littered with bodies.  Some have been there for over a century.  No attempts are made to remove them; they lay where they plummeted or succumbed to the elements or wherever Mother Nature has carried them, now permanent landmarks.  And nearly one hundred percent expired on the decent.  
Being the champ is more than just winning the belt.  “Your not the champ until you defend your title.”  The summit is the belt, and the decent is its defense.  When the world is yours, the distractions are abundant, and remaining at the top for too long can be fatal.  With few challengers left after Jared Cannonier, Israel Adesanya is approaching the famous “Hillary Step” (final stretch) of his personal Mt. Everest.  Israel Adesanya will be making his sixth middleweight title defense at UFC 276, four behind the record (10) Anderson Silva holds.  Will The Last Stylebender summit before he begins his inevitable decent?  What goes up…
Jared Cannonier (+325) vs Israel Adesanya (-450)
Cannonier: DK: $6.8k | Adesanya: DK:$9.4k
So, what makes Israel Adesanya so dominant?  It’s hard to match his physical attributes, much less his skills. Adesanya uses speed and length to dominate range, and few fighters have the speed and/or length to match.  Kelvin Gastelum remains Stylebender’s toughest test outside of when he moved up to light heavyweight to fight Jan Blachowicz.  Kelvin had the speed to penetrate the range force field Andesanya sets and caused Stylebender all kinds of problems.  Kelvin even landed a head kick that had Stylebender doing a lil’ diddy the Jabbawockeez couldn’t even bust.  But Adesanya proved he had the dog in him that night and dominated the final round to win the belt.  He hasn’t come close to losing since (at middleweight).
Will Jared Cannonier present a unique challenge that Stylebender hasn’t seen yet in the Octagon?  No. Anything can happen, but this is Stylebender’s fight to lose.  After matching Adesanya’s physical attributes, the second prong is matching his skills.  Unfortunately, Cannonier can’t match either.  Stylebender uses feints better than any fighter, manipulating the opponent’s reactions like a sociopathic ex.  Once he’s achieved the desired reactions, he turns the tables like an interior decorator and pretends to be the victim, driving his opponents crazy. Then he takes advantage of their momentary vulnerability with short hand combinations and devastating calf kicks.  His movements are slight, calculated, and allow him to strike from a secure high ground out of range of his opponents. 
Israel uses both stances naturally and can strike while moving in any direction but is especially dangerous while moving backward.  He can lean back and pull his head out of range while firing off short counter hooks.  Ironically, this is also the time when Adesanya is the most vulnerable on his feet.  His chin tends to stick straight up in the air, and it’s the only time you’ll catch Izzy out of position.  Extending combinations against a fighter who likes to use “pulls” to defend is the key to catching them when they think they’re safe.
Can Cannonier try to wrestle/grapple?  Not likely.  Izzy has shown improved takedown defense and even a solid top game when he dominated Marvin Vettori the second time.  Adesanya will likely copy and paste the game plan he used to destroy Paulo Costa.  Beat Cannonier from the ground up by attacking the legs and keeping the jab in his face until it’s time to drop the whammy and open up with extended combinations. 
Fantasy-wise, the only red flag for Adesanya is that sometimes he plays it safe, does just enough to win each round and get out of there with the dub.  Other times he comes out looking to make a statement and tries to finish from the jump.  He averages just over three and a half significant strikes per minute and is mostly a technical one-punch striker who, in six career five-round bouts, has only hit the one hundred mark once.  That was his first main event against Brad Tavares in 2018. 
Jared Cannonier started his career with the UFC in the heavyweight division.  He was undersized and went on the don’t-eat-so-much diet, dropping to light heavyweight not long after.  He beat Ion Cutelaba but lost to Glover Teixeira and Daniel Reyes.  It was back to the diet board, and he dropped to middleweight, where he’s won five of six fights.
A reserved power puncher with clean, short combos, Cannonier can KO anyone in the division.  He won’t overextend himself and get caught out of position and doesn’t take many risks.  He won’t wow you with volume or aggression, his output is closer to a Jairzinho Rozenstruik’s than a Max Holloway’s, but he ends fights suddenly.  He’s a compactor, constantly compressing the cage with forward pressure until the opponent runs out of real estate.
Cannonier likes to fight out of both stances but is severely limited when he’s in the southpaw stance.  He almost exclusively throws kicks from southpaw and rarely opens up with his hands.  Cannonier is a Milli Vanilli southpaw, fakes the funk, and against a keen counter striker like Stylebender, it could be a liability.  Cannonier’s only chance is to throw the brown streaked chonies to the wind and just go for it.  Put all his nuggs in one Black & Mild and see where he ends up.  He will have to force the action and risk getting KO’d in order to have a chance to land a life-changing strike.  
Odds-wise, the only way to get plus money is on an early finish under three and a half rounds.   The fight going the distance is (-110), which are valuable odds since Adesanya has gone the distance three of his last four wins, including his last two.  Cannonier has been finished twice but both came at higher weight classes.  
The main event-losing streak has fallen victim to Valero judges as of late.  I thought Arman Tsarukyan beat Mateusz Gamrot last week by causing more damage in the stand-up, but Gamrot’s wrestling was just a notch above at times.  But that was the most underrated main event of the year, a real banger.  This Stylebender fight couldn’t come at a better time.  Israel Adesanya via decision. On wax.
Winner: Israel Adesanya | Method: Decision
Stylebender Proj:87
Stylebender Proj:87
Max Holloway (+155) vs. Alexander Volkanovski (-190)
Holloway: DK: $7.2k | Champ: DK: $9k
This fight is like that ish on your lip; it just won’t go away.  If it goes past two rounds, Holloway and Volkanovski will eclipse a full hour of cage time against each other.  I’ve had relationships shorter than that, moved in, used the wrong towels, and moved out in less time than these guys have been engaged in fisticuffs.
How will this fight be different?  Well, since the third round of the Brian Ortega fight, Volkanovski hasn’t been the same; something hasn’t been quite right.  He’s turned into a complete savage; he leaves his elbows on the table, chews with his mouth open, and brings up politics at family gatherings.  He just doesn’t give a fook anymore. The Ortega fight was the best featherweight fight of all time and included the best title round I’ve ever seen.  Ortega walked out of the cage looking like Bonnie and Clyde’s car, riddled with holes, perforated like notebook paper.  
Volkanovski didn’t play a safe point match; he scrapped.  He attacked with aggressive combinations on the feet and violent ground and pound on the mat.  It was an Alexander Volkanovski no one outside his gym had ever seen.  He followed that up against the Korean Zombie with an ass-whoopin’ the likes of which are only seen when the McFlurry machine is broken.  Volkanovski looks like he’s reached a new level entering his fourth title defense.
For both fighters, the key to this third match will be looking for a finish and creating a definitive conclusion to the trilogy.  Many people (myself included) think Max won the first three rounds of the second fight and should’ve regained the title.  A finish for either fighter would bring about closure and a preface to a new chapter in their lives.  And the title of Undisputed Greatest Featherweight of All Time.
Max Holloway is that dude.  Which dude?  The dude.  Holloway’s style is indefinite, infinite.  He boxes your face off with voluminous never-ending combinations; Vegas buffet, all you can eat dusk ‘til dawn, seedy.  You feel dirty after watching a Max Holloway fight and question what kind of person would take pleasure in watching such a thing.  Against Calvin Kattar, Max was Patrick Mahomes no-look countering at one point.  He threw Stockton to Malone look-away overhand rights while talking to Joe Rogan and Danielle Cormier.
The only adjustment Max needs to make this third time around against Volkanovski, is to not let Volkanovski settle into a comfortable pace for the entire twenty-five minutes.  Max came out NBA Jam on fire in the first two rounds in the second meeting but took his foot off the gas and let Volkanovski engage on his own terms too much for the remainder.  It’s not do to a lack of effort, but Max hasn’t finished a fight since 2018 when he stopped Brian Ortega on the stool.  
Fantasy-wise, both fighters will put up thirty-point triple-doubles, win or lose.  Volkanovski averages over six and a half significant strikes per minute, and Max comes in just under seven and a half.  Oprah giveaways.  Anybody killers.  The only ways to bet this is a straight win/loss or a finish.  A finish in any round will provide plus money while going the distance is closing in on (-200).  I think the sweet spot is under two and a half rounds at (+200).  Neither fighter is a one-punch KO threat but rather takes pleasure in their opponent’s suffering over long periods.  They’re sadistic and won’t put you out of your misery until their bloodlust has been satiated.  They overwhelm with volume and accumulated effect and need a little time to get cookin’.  That being said, these guys are too evenly matched, and a decision is likely.  Alexander Volkanovski via decision.    
Winner: Alexander Volkanovski | Method: Decision
Volkanovski Proj:93
Volkanovski Proj:93
Sean Strickland (-105) vs. Alex Pereira (-115)
Strickland: DK: $7.9k | Pereira: DK: $8.3k
Arthur Shelby is back, the razor blade under his newsboy cap freshly sharpened, his psyche even more fragile than previously seen.  He’s never been quite all there; some say he has toys in the attic, but such mental uncertainty can be an insurmountable force when it comes to prizefighting.  
Word on the street is the Brazilians are moving in and want to lay claim to the Peaky Blinder’s empire, and the nefarious enterprises they maintain a stranglehold on unchallenged.  The Brazilians’ leader, Alex Pereira, is a real-life Sagat from Street Fighter and will be the most dangerous adversary the Peaky Blinders have ever gone to war against.
This fight could be the fight of the night, and that’s saying something with Max Holloway in the main event.  You couldn’t have two vastly different strikers.  Strickland has some of the most generic yet intricate boxing in the UFC, and Alex Pereira is a Glory World Kickboxing world champion who never lost his belt before coming to the UFC.
Sean Strickland’s style is oddly vanilla and intricate at the same time.  He arm punches; he doesn’t turn over his hips and snaps his punches using his shoulders.  His short, quick three to four-punch combos seem to come out of nowhere.  There’s little wasted motion and zero tells like Hellen Keller hitting a Royal Flush on the turn.
Instead of one-punch KO power, Strickland uses volume and an accumulative effect to end fights.  He constantly touches his opponent with varying degrees of peppering and power shots.  Defensively, Strickland has holes.  His stance is very upright, and he doesn’t use any head movement.  Instead, Strickland uses shoulder rolls, his own version of the Philly Shell, to deflect strikes, leaving him in position to counter.  Pay close attention when Strickland is under attack; it will look like he’s getting hit clean when he’s not.  He uses his lead shoulder and forearm to block and absorb strikes by rolling with them. 
The numbers: Strickland is 25-3 with ten TKO/KO’s and four subs.  He’s won six straight and seven of his last eight and is an underrated 12-3 in the UFC.  His only losses were to killers, and a win over one of the most highly touted strikers in combat sports would certainly line him up for the next shot at the belt.  Strickland averages five and a half significant strikes per minute and will hover near the one hundred significant strikes mark in a three round bout.
Pereira is the dude who beat the dude who beat all the other dudes, not once, but twice.  Although in a different discipline, Alex Pereira holds two victories over Israel Adesanya in kickboxing competition, and it’s no mystery why he’s fighting a top contender in just his third UFC fight on the undercard.  Anything but a Carla Esparza type of victory over Sean Strickland will likely set up the highly anticipated MMA rubber match. 
Alex Pereira is a tall, long kickboxer, and his hands are an oxymoron; he has the longest, short strikes you’ll ever see.  He uses every inch of his reach, but his punches are straight and quick to the target.  Pereira’s lead left hook is multifaceted; he throws it while sliding out of the pocket as a check hook and as a lead while moving forward.  And when it lands, it’s rolling blackouts.
Pereira is only 5-1 in MMA and is coming off a tough test against Bruno Silva.  The question about Pereira has been his ground game, but he showed serious takedown defense and the ability to get back to his feet against Silva.  It’s no secret that Brazilians are born wearing a Gi, and from what I’ve seen of Pereira, he’s no different.  In two UFC bouts, Pereira averages just over five and a half significant strikes per minute and topped one hundred in his last bout, a three-round decision victory.  
Pereira will enter as the (-125) favorite, and the odds favor a stoppage before the final bell at (-175).  The value is on the fight going the distance at (+135).  Strickland has only been finished once in twenty-eight career fights.  Pereira’s one loss was in his MMA debut and came via rear-naked choke.  I think these guys will swing until the final bell.  Alex Pereira via decision.
Winner: Alex Pereira | Method: Decision
Pereira Proj:65
Pereira Proj:65
Bryan Barberena (-105) vs. Robbie Lawler (-125)
Barberena: DK: $7.7k | Ruthless: DK: $8.5k
The highlight of my year in 2021 was watching the rematch between two of my favorite fighters of all time, Nate Diaz and Robbie Lawler.  The rematch was seventeen years in the making and featured the return of Direct TV Robbie Lawler.  We hadn’t seen Direct TV Robbie Lawler since he held the belt.  Instead, cable TV Robbie Lawler kept showing up on fight night, a docile illiterate librarian version of Robbie Lawler.  Nick Diaz can be credited with bringing back “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler.
Now the question remains, was that fight a one-off, or is the ruthless one really back?  Lawler is a quadruple O-G in this MMA game, with a career dating back to 2001, including championships under multiple promotions.  Robbie has been known for his hair-trigger temper inside the cage and uber-aggressive stand-and-bang style.  In both hands, Lawler carries hand grenades without pins and throws them indiscriminately all over the arena.  The first twenty rows are taped off and labeled “splash zone.”  Who knows how much Robbie has left in the tank?  One thing is for sure, he can still make for entertaining matchups like this one against another savage, Bryan Barberena.  
Bryan Barberena is a grimy little southpaw who’s fought to a decision against Colby Covington and Leon Edwards.  He was also seconds away from beating Vicente Luque in a three-round war but was caught by a knee and finished inside the last ten seconds.  Barberena’s riding a two-fight win streak and coming off a close decision over Matt Brown.  I guess you could say Bryan Barberena is groupie on a legends tour right meow.
Barberena’s downfall has always been his willingness to wade into the pocket with zero point zero regards for defense.  He’s a volunteer firefighter in the pocket, slowly wearing down opponents with sneaky slick counters and a willingness to engage for the entire fifteen minutes.  
The aggressive styles of both fighters will make this a hands-down banger.  Lawler showed he still has his trademark power and mean streak against Diaz, and Barberena will bring it out of him again.  Ruthless Robbie Lawler via decision.
Winner: Robbie Lawler | Method: Decision
Ruthless Proj:65
Ruthless Proj:65
Sean O'Malley (-300) vs Pedro Munhoz (+225)
O'Malley: DK: $9.3k | Munhoz: DK: $6.9k
“Sugar” Sean O’Malley and I have a lot in common.  For example, O’Malley and I are in love with the same girl, Mary Jane, and there’s nothing I can do about it since he can whoop my ass.  So, of course, I let him have the girl, but he’s kind enough to let me sit in the corner and watch while he and Mary Jane get intimate.
Anywho, Sean O’Malley is a fighter and a character much like Colby Covington or Conor McGregor; he’s a showman and often focuses not only on finishing fights but finishing them in a flashy fashion.  O’Malley’s striking features all the bells and whistles, spinning and flying techniques, and is also technically sound.  
Sean weaponizes range, using his long strikes and lateral movement to dominate the pocket from the outside.  The jab isn’t the only way to establish range; O’Malley uses distance kicks like snap kicks, teeps, and side-kicks to keep opponents at the end of his punches.  O’Malley combines the ability to establish range with excellent hand speed and high output while landing flashy techniques like they’re fundamental.
The Sugar Show is making a leap up in competition against Pedro Munhoz, and the key for O’Malley will be defending leg kicks.  Munhoz is a notorious Civil War triage surgeon who specializes in lower extremity amputations.   O’Malley’s one career loss came to Chito Vera; Chito landed a calf kick in the first round that made O’malley’s leg look like it couldn’t perform after taking too many shots of whiskey.  It flopped around like a Ramen noodle until he could no longer stand.  Munhoz’s main objective will be to attack O’Malley’s legs from the jump.
Take a look at Pedro Munhoz’s last six fights.  That’s a murder’s row of names if I’ve ever seen one.  Although he’s gone 2-4 in that span, Munhoz has been facing former and current world champs almost exclusively.  If Sean O’Malley overlooks Pedro Munhoz, this could end like the Chito Vera fight.
Munhoz loves firefights and won’t hesitate to engage in wild, 50/50 exchanges.  He relies on his chin and tends to Bear-Grylls-camp in the pocket too long, but that’s also where he tends to deliver the most damage.  Pedro will look down at the floor and throw hooks and use cover-up counters in the pocket to catch the opponent at the end of their combinations.  Munhoz is an adrenaline junky who likes to live on the edge, always putting himself in harm’s way.
The low calf kick will be the key for Munhoz.  He has to use it early and often to slow down O’Malley, or he’ll get out-maneuvered all night and picked apart.  Munhoz also has to be careful not to chase O’Malley; he has to cut off the cage and use the jab in multiples to get inside on O’Malley.  Pedro will be looking for the calf kick counter all night to try to catch O’Malley when O’Malley is closing the distance.
The Sugar Show will come in as the massive (-280) favorite, and the plus money is on the fight going the distance.  Pedro Munhoz is 19-7 and has never been finished while facing the highest level of competition in the division.  If it does end prematurely, it will likely be O’Malley getting his hands raised, but at (+125), going the distance is dripping with value.  Sean O’Malley via decision.  On wax.
Winner: Sean O'Malley | Method: Decision
Sugar Proj:103
Sugar Proj:103
Highlighted Matchup
Brad Riddell (+110) vs Jalin Turner (-140)
Riddell: DK: $7.8k | Turner: DK: $8.4k
This is an undercover banger.  Jalin Turner is longer than night in the Artic circle, and Brad Riddell is a short, explosive wrestler striker; something will have to give.  This will be a battle of range and who can control it. 
The first thing you have to overcome against Jalin Turner is his height and reach; he’s built like a 155lb Kevin Durant and is a physical mismatch for virtually every fighter in the lightweight division.  He has long quick hands and uses all of his weapons to cause damage from the outside.  The only weakness Turner has shown is from his back, and Riddell has the wrestling to take advantage.  Turner’s last loss came to Vicente Luque up a weight class and has won four straight at lightweight. 
Brad Riddell has excellent wrestling/grappling and reminds me of a Ryan Bader action figure that no kids ever beg their parents to buy them.  He has powerful wrestler striking, including a Quagmire-like massive right hand that can change any fight quickly.  Riddell uses the two-three (cross-hook) combination to cover distance and has the speed to get away with it against most strikers.  But if Riddell can’t find different pocket entries other than using his right cross, he’s going to get countered and picked apart all night. 
Riddell’s path to victory is on the mat.  He has to make this a close-quarters grinder up against the cage.  When the fight is standing, Riddell will need to attack Jalin’s lead leg; Turner doesn’t defend leg kicks, and Vicente Luque was able to take advantage of that.
The finishing threat will be Jalin Turner, and he’s entering as the (-130) favorite.  Turner is 12-5 with a one hundred percent finishing rate, noine TKO/KO’s and three subs.  Since dropping to lightweight, he’s gone 4-0 with two TKO’s and two subs.  Riddell is 10-2, including 4-1 in the UFC.  He has five career TKO/KO’s but has yet to finish a fight in the UFC.  Both Riddell’s losses came by finish, but I think this will be nip/tuck until the final bell.  Jalin Turner via decision.
Winner: Jalin Turner | Method: Decision
Turner Proj:76
Turner Proj:76
Twenty-Twen-Twen Sleepers
Twenty-Ten-Twen Sleepers
Although I lost the main event last week, I had the ol’ win-win in place, pick one fighter to win and bet on the other. Some call it putting your money where your mouth isn’t. I dropped an Andy Jackson on Mateusz Gamrot at (+240) and came up victorious in defeat.
This week, all I can say is: Max Holloway at plus money (+155). His volume will always give him an advantage in close fights, and he’s near impossible to finish.
Jim Miller recently worked his way up to the morning shift at the Bridge Of Death. He’s a gatekeeper coming off two second-round finishes. Both dubs were against young killers, stand-up specialists who got their asses cracked like the San Andreas Line. Donald Cerrone has zero dubs in his last six bouts and hasn’t looked good in any of them. At (+160), Miller is saturated with value. Cerrone’s odds are legacy odds and not based on recent performances.
Looooongshot: Uriah Hall (+240): The Gamrot odds. Any Given Saturday. Uriah can KO anyone in the division at any time. His major malfunction has been his lack of aggression. It has plagued him his entire career. He has mental lapses where he just refuses to let his strikes go. The longer the fight goes against Andre Muniz, the better chance Hall will have to pull off the upset late. Muniz is as good a submission specialist as there is in the promotion, but his stand-up ain’t it, boss. And his cardio is number four in the lineup, suspect.
Pick ‘Em
Jim Miller (+160) vs. Donald Cerrone (-200)
            Winner: Jim Miller
            Method: Decision
Ian Garry (-180) vs. Gabriel Green (+145)
            Winner: Ian Garry
            Method: TKO Rd.2
Brad Tavares (+115) vs. Dricus Du Plessis (-140)
    Winner: Dricus Du Plesis
            Method: TKO Rd.2
Uriah Hall (+240) vs. Andre Muniz (-310)
    Winner: Andre Muniz
            Method: Rear Naked Choke Rd.2
Jessica Eye (+200) vs. Maycee Barber (-250)
    Winner: Maycee Barber
            Method: Decision
Jessica-Rose Clark (-150) vs. Julia Stoliarenko (+120)
    Winner: Jessica-Rose Clark
            Method: Decision
Thanks for reading LineStar Weekly Knockout! We’ll be back next Thursday with another one. Until then, good luck and support your local MMA Gym.
About Me
My name is Chris Guy, and I’m an avid combat sports enthusiast and practitioner. I’ve been a fan of MMA since the early 2000s when Limewire was still around, and I downloaded Bas Rutten’s Big Book of Combat. In 2004, I started training Muay Thai at City Boxing in San Diego, CA. I competed as an amateur for many years, and I’ve also dabbled in Jiu-Jitsu. I follow many different disciplines, such as Combat Ji-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Glory Kickboxing, Boxing, and MMA.
I’m equally as enthusiastic about the craft of writing, and in addition to writing about combat sports, I also write short fiction and music. I hope to bring unique prose to sports writing, and along the way, encourage people to not only become Martial Arts fans but to also become Martial Artists themselves. 
In the future, you may see me refer to the Thunderdome; it’s an ode to the old Mad Max movie and refers to the world-class training facility I built in my one-car garage. It’s complete with throw dummies, wrestling mats, heavy bags, and six months’ worth of Chef Boyardee cans from when I thought the world was going to end back in March. I hope you enjoy my work, and if you don’t, the Thunderdome has an open door policy. 
Check out my Podcast The Whiskey (S)ick Podcast on Apple and Spotify. Parental Advisory Warning
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Chris Guy (MMA Expert)
Chris Guy (MMA Expert) @LineStarApp


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