International Fight Week is always a celebration of some of the biggest stars of past and present in the UFC, with the Hall of Fame induction ceremony honoring icons and iconic moments and the annual pay-per-view showcasing some of the top stars in the sport today, and this year is no different.
During the week, teammates, friends, and former champions Khabib Nurmagomedov and Daniel Cormier will be inducted into the Modern Wing of the UFC Hall of Fame, with the epic UFC 206 clash between Cub Swanson and Dooho Choi being enshrined in the Fight Wing. And then, on Saturday night, an all-star cast of competitors will take to the Octagon at T-Mobile Arena for UFC 276, capped by a pair of intriguing championship contests.
But before Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway meet for a third time, and Israel Adesanya defends his title against Jared Cannonier, a trio of fighters with designs on one day joining that championship class will step into the cage in hopes of getting one step closer to reaching that goal.
Here’s a closer look at those competitors in the UFC 276 edition of Fighters on the Rise.
Through his first two UFC appearances, Pereira has shown that he’s capable of forging a lane for himself in the middleweight division, posting consecutive wins over Andreas Michailidis and Bruno Silva, the former by second-round knockout and the latter by unanimous decision.
This weekend, the former kickboxing rival of Adesanya takes a giant step up in competition as he squares off with Sean Strickland in a clash that should tell us exactly where “Poatan” stands in the 185-pound weight class.
No one questions Pereira’s skills and talents in the striking department — the 34-year-old was a two-division champion under the Glory Kickboxing shingle, amassing 33 victories in 40 career appearances, with 21 coming by way of knockout. He has outstanding height and a quality reach for the division, plus the kind of dynamic array of kicking attacks you would expect from someone with his pedigree, all of which has made him an intriguing addition to the UFC roster from the outset.
But jumping from besting Silva to facing Strickland is a considerable step up in competition, as the combustible California native is on a six-fight winning streak overall and undefeated when competing at middleweight. Though he’s not a big finisher, Strickland is a technically sound fighter with a bottomless gas tank, non-stop forward pressure, and the kind of well-rounded skill set that should test Pereira in ways he’s yet to have been tested.
Should the Brazilian successfully navigate this assignment and collect his third straight UFC triumph while halting Strickland’s lengthy run of success, expect him to lobby hard for a chance to face Adesanya for the title, should his former rival retain the belt in the main event.
Pereira has looked good thus far, but this is a possible breakthrough moment for the talented kickboxer.
Standing out in the crowded lightweight field is difficult; just ask Turner.
Over his last four fights, the 27-year-old Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS) alum has posted four wins, all by finish, all before the start of the third round. For his career, the gangly and aptly nicknamed “Tarantula” has a 100-percent finishing rate, collecting a dozen stoppages against five career setbacks heading into his meeting with Brad Riddell on Saturday.
Turner is one of those fighters that those who are plugged all the way into the sport were hearing about several years ago when he was just getting started and spending time with the Jackson-Wink crew in Albuquerque. He started his career by going 4-3 in his first seven fights, but even when he started putting it together a little bit, it wasn’t quite enough to get him a chance to compete in the Octagon, as he didn’t get a contract following his DWCS win over Max Mustaki on Season Two.
But a few months later, Turner accepted a short notice fight at welterweight against Vicente Luque, which he lost in the first round. However, it helped him get a foot in the door in the UFC. He rebounded with a win over Callan Potter in Australia, stumbled in a bout against Matt Frevola, and has been lights out since, extending his winning streak to four with a finish of Jamie Mullarkey at UFC 272 in March.
Turner is long, powerful, and clearly has killer finishing instincts, plus he’s unbeaten in three UFC appearances opposite ANZAC fighters, all of which will be put to the test this weekend against New Zealand’s Riddell.
“Quake” forced his way into the Top 15 with a win over Drew Dober last June but was knocked out of the rankings following a third-round stoppage loss to Rafael Fiziev towards the end of the year. He’s a tough out who tends to get better as the fight progresses, and has spent years training alongside Adesanya, so he knows a thing or two about dealing with tall, rangy strikers.
This is the kind of test Turner’s recent results merit, and it will be interesting to see if he can continue earning top marks and moving forward in the lightweight division this weekend. It’s a little too early to affix the “dark horse” label to him, but if he stops Riddell on Saturday, Turner will definitely be deserving of that designation.
It feels like people are forgetting about Muniz again, so here is your regularly scheduled reminder that the Brazilian middleweight is an entire handful for anyone that shares the Octagon with him.
The 32-year-old arrives in Las Vegas for his UFC 276 clash with Uriah Hall riding an eight-fight winning streak, which includes four victories in as many starts inside the Octagon, the last three of which have come by first-round armbar. The middle of that tetra pack of tap outs came against legendary grappler Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, who exited the cage with a broken arm because Muniz is that quick and dangerous when it comes to attacking submissions, and especially arms.
UFC 276 FREE FIGHTS: Max Holloway vs Yair Rodriguez | Israel Adesanya vs Robert Whittaker 2 | Alexander Volkanovski vs Max Holloway 2 | Jared Cannonier vs Derek Brunson | Alexander Volkanovski vs Korean Zombie
Muniz matriculated from the all-Brazilian edition of Dana White’s Contender Series in the summer of 2018 to the third season of the annual talent search in 2019, where he submitted previously unbeaten American wrestler Taylor Johnson in less than two minutes before embarking on his current run of success on the biggest stage in the sport. Overall, Muniz is 22-4 in his career, but he’s also 16-1 over his last 17 appearances, with his lone setback coming against current UFC light heavyweight and fellow DWCS graduate Azamat Murzakanov well over five years ago.
Simply put, Muniz is the goods.
This assignment against Hall is a tricky one and a proper step up in competition after dispatching short-notice replacement Eryk Anders at UFC 269 last December. The former Ultimate Fighter finalist is the most accomplished and dangerous striker Muniz has faced in some time and hungry to get back in the win column following a lopsided loss to Sean Strickland last July.
Should Muniz maintain his current form and add another finish to his resume this weekend at UFC 276, he’ll likely move into the Top 10 in the middleweight rankings and set himself up for another opportunity to fight forward in the division in the second half of the year.
UFC 276: Adesanya vs Cannonier took place on Saturday, July 2, 2022 live T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!