On Saturday, the UFC is in Las Vegas for UFC 276. The pay-per-view card is headlined by two title fights and what might be a title eliminator.
In the main event, UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya puts his title on the line against heavyweight turned light heavyweight turned middleweight title challenger Jared Cannonier. In the evening’s co-headliner, featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski faces the man he took the title from in 2019 and defeated in a rematch in 2020, former 145-pound titleholder Max Holloway. As for the possible title eliminator. In that contest, Sean Strickland faces Alex Pereira in a 185-pound scrap.
UFC 276 takes place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view following prelims on ABC and early prelims on ESPN+.
Ahead of the July 2 fight card, I look at the storylines to follow on the four-fight preliminary card portion of the UFC 276 fight card.
Brad Riddell vs, Jalin Turner
Brad Riddell’s rise up the lightweight ranks ended in December when Rafael Fiziev knocked him out in the third round. Before that, Riddell, who fights out of City Kickboxing, was on a seven-fight winning streak. He’s the No. 14 ranked fighter in the division right now.
Turner is not ranked, but he’s on a run of four straight stoppage wins and he has finishes in all his victories. Turner is coming off a March TKO win over Jamie Mullarkey.
Turner has massive advantages in reach and height in this scrap. He’s 6’3” and has a 77” reach to Riddell’s 5’7” and 71” reach. He also has a higher significant strikes landed per minute rate with 6.5 as compared to Riddell’s 4.76. This bit of matchmaking is what Turner’s performances have been leading toward. This is his opportunity to take the step into the UFC rankings.
Turner impressed with his composure in his last fight. He’s going to need to count on that against someone like Riddell, who along with a well-rounded skillset will carry a huge chip on his shoulder heading into this matchup following the loss in his last outing.
If there’s a sleeper pick for possible “Fight of the Night,” it’s this one. Riddell and Drew Dober served as the final prelim bout ahead of the UFC 263 PPV card and that one took home those honors for that card.
Ian Garry vs Gabriel Green
No one believes in Ian Garry as much as Ian Garry and hey, confidence is something a fighter needs to have, but I’m not sold on the young - he’s 24 - Irish fighter just yet. Sure, he’s 9-0, but Garry is still extremely green and with his lack of striking defense, he has been very hittable.
One of the biggest positives about Garry and is he knows he’s still a work in progress. And self-awareness, like confidence, is an important trait in a combat sports athlete. Where Garry needs to improve is in his striking defense and his willingness to allow his opponent to dictate the location and distance at which the fight is contested. Win or lose, if Garry shows improvements in his overall game in this fight, it will be a victory for him.
That’s not to say a loss is a positive, but at his age, a defeat will not be the end of the world for the rising welterweight.
Like Garry, Gabriel Green is a fighter who is still coming into his own. At 29, Green did not fight at all in 2019 and he only fought once in each of the two following years. Green got his first UFC stoppage in April after more than a year on the sidelines. That win was his fourth career knockout.
Green is a tough and resilient fighter who should give Garry a big test especially in the pace and defensive striking department.
Jim Miller vs. Donald Cerrone
This is a rematch of a 2014 UFC Fight Night main event. Cerrone got the better of Miller in that first fight. The story in this fight is the uncertain future of both men as far as their UFC careers go. Miller, who was supposed to face Bobby Green at lightweight on this card, said that he is heading into UFC 276 with zero fights left on his contract and no offer from the UFC to extend that deal, which I have spoken about as being shortsighted on the part of the UFC.
Miller is on a two-fight stoppage streak heading into this bout, which will take place at welterweight because of the short-notice nature of the contest on Cerrone’s part. Cerrone has not won since May 2019 when he defeated Al Iaquinta. Cerrone’s future with the promotion is also in doubt because he is 0-5 with one no contest ( that was originally a loss) heading into this one.
Cerrone has been stopped in four of his past six bouts and with Miller being one of those fighters who employs a finish or be finished style, this contest could be an interesting one for fans of all ages.
Brad Tavares vs. Dricus du Plessis
How long has Brad Tavares been a part of the UFC roster? Long enough that his second fight with the promotion was against Phil Baroni. His first fight with the UFC was a June 2010 decision win against Seth Baczynski. Tavares’ opponent on Saturday, Dricus Du Plessis had his first professional MMA bout in 2013. He debuted with the UFC in 2020 after holding titles with EFC and KSW.
Tavares is coming off back-to-back decision wins, but he hasn’t fought in nearly a year. That time off could be an enormous concern heading into this middleweight fight.
Tavares had a superb defensive performance in his most recent outing opposite Omari Akhmedov. He limited his foe to a 28 percent significant striking rate and stopped seven of nine takedown attempts in that bout. He’s going to need to have similar numbers against Du Plessis if he wants to extend his winning streak to three straight.
In his two UFC appearances, Du Plessis has two knockout wins. He lands his significant strikes at a rate of 5.07 per minute and his takedown rate is 2.99 per 15 minutes. A lax defense will not cut it in this matchup.
This booking feels like the UFC wants to see what it has in the 28-year-old Du Plessis who is 16-2 as a pro with 16 finishes (7 KO and 9 subs) and who has never gone the distance.