Ahead of every championship fight, UFC staff writer E. Spencer Kyte will sit down with some of the sharpest coaching minds in the sport to break down the action and provide UFC fans with insights into each championship pairing from the men that spend their days getting these elite athletes prepared to compete on the biggest stage in the sport.
For UFC 276, Kyte called upon James Krause of Glory MMA & Fitness and Tyson Chartier of the New England Cartel to provide their thoughts on four points heading into the middleweight championship main event between defending champ Israel Adesanya and powerhouse challenger Jared Cannonier.
Best Trait of Each Fighter
At a time in the sport where everyone is pretty solid everywhere, generally speaking, what is the one thing that each of these competitors do better than anyone else?
James Krause: Izzy’s is range deception. He’s so good because he does this little thing where he’ll lean his head forward so when he draws back, he is balanced. He’ll lean his head forward to sucker somebody to punch, and he’ll draw back to a neutral stance and fire back off of that.
He does this lean when he punches that he’s famous for (as well) — he’s hurt Whittaker twice with it now, he did it to Costa. It’s a little lean where he leans out of the way and throws a nice left hook off of it.
Tyson Chartier: I think with Izzy, it’s his creativity and using his length properly. He’s hard to get in on, and he makes you almost desperate to get in, and then you’re walking into shots. He puts you in these places where you’re being big and erratic, and he sees everything coming slow because he’s almost predicting how you’ve got to defend what he’s doing.
And then with Cannonier, it’s his physicality. Any time you have guys that come down from heavyweight and make a slow drop in weight classes like that, the physical nature of those people — when you put your hands on them, it’s like, ‘There is no way you’re an ‘85er; you’re too strong.’
They’re used to carrying around all that weight. They’re working out every day and they’re used to carrying around all that weight, and then they move down a couple divisions and they’re athletic, they’re stronger than they look like they should be, and their endurance is great because they’re used to carrying around this big body. Those guys are beasts to deal with.
Krause: For Cannonier, his range control is really good too, and it’s the opposite of Adesanya. They’re both good at controlling range in the opposite direction.
Jared is very good at getting on the inside, being explosive. If you watch him, he does a great job of controlling biceps on the inside — he’ll get his hand on the inside, control biceps, and then create enough space to punch, and then he maintains the range as people back up; he stays sticking on you.
UFC 276 EMBEDDED: Episode 1
Path to Victory for Each Fighter
Everyone would love a 10-second knockout or a quick submission, but that’s not often how these things go, especially not at the championship level. Instead, it’s usually the competitor that has crafted the better game plan and did the better job of executing things inside the Octagon that comes away with their hand raised and the gold around their waist.
So, how does either man get it done on Saturday night?
Chartier: I think Izzy has just got to manage distance — keep him on the outside and dictate the range; keep Cannonier guessing so he’s frustrated on the outside and will come in with bigger, wilder stuff, and he should be able to pick him apart.
But Cannonier, he needs to make it a physical fight. You saw what Jan (Blachowicz) did to Izzy when he was able to close the distance — I don’t see why Cannonier wouldn’t be able to do the same. If you watch the Jan fight, Jan was winning the striking, so he’s got to be able to get respect with the hands to put Izzy off a little bit, and if he has to start respecting the hands, the takedown will come easier.
I think he’s got to get a little respect with the hands, and then close the distance like Jan did and make it messy.
Krause: Izzy’s got to stay long and just do what he does. He’s so good at saying long, chipping away at people with the jab, the low kicks; keep his range and picking away at people before getting them to over-commit and find that big left hook off that lean that he does. He counterpunches so well because he leans out of range and throws that tight left hook with it.
He just has to do what he does — stay long and keep the fight at distance, and pot shot. It’s gotten him this far and he’s so good at it.
I might have a slightly different viewpoint on this, but I think he needs to come in big. Obviously, we saw a weakness with Izzy is having a big body on you, and one of the things that’s interesting about Cannonier is that he’s come down from heavyweight. I know he doesn’t have the heavyweight body anymore, but you don’t lose that strength typically.
I do think him being as big as possible while still maintaining a healthy weight cut and being able to have cardio for 25 minutes is important. I think Cannonier needs to close the distance, work from the clinch, punch on the break, put that big body on him, wear on him a little bit.
Coming in with a bigger body is easier to disrespect his space, and that’s the No. 1 key to beating Izzy in my opinion is to disrespect his space, or clip him. Cannonier has the ability to knock somebody out, but I think the more likely of the two scenarios is if you want to catch him, you have to knock him out, but if you want to beat him, you’re going to have to disrespect his space.
FREE FIGHT: Jared Cannonier vs Derek Brunson
It’s a lot easier to disrespect somebody’s space when you’re way bigger than them. You don’t have to respect their range quite as much, and Izzy is obviously a sharpshooter, but the bigger body that comes in there — Izzy is knocking out ‘85ers, but is he knocking out 205’ers? Is he knocking out heavyweights? No.
If there were one thing that was going to significantly impact how this fight plays out — that swings it in one direction or the other — what would it be?
Krause: I think range is going to be everything in this fight. If Izzy is going to keep it at his range, he’s probably going to be able to pick Jared apart, but if Jared is going to be able to get inside, I think he can have some success.
I’m a huge Cannonier fan and I think he brings a lot to the table. There are a lot of things he brings to the table that we haven’t seen Izzy deal with yet, and I’m a big fan of that, but until somebody it’s at range with Izzy and causes him any problems at all, it’s going to be really hard for me to pick against him at range.
I think he’s going to have to get on the inside, and I’ve never seen Izzy have any kinds of problems at range at all.
Chartier: I think the X factor is that you’re fighting a former heavyweight who is just as athletic as an ‘85er. I think if he can withstand the initial shots he might have to take going through the storm, I think he can make it real messy, and that’s the X factor.
Is Cannonier going to be able to get close enough to use that? I keep saying it, but to fight a guy who was a heavyweight, but is now 185 (pounds) and is also athletic, that’s a different kind of beast. You’re fighting a guy that was bigger than Jan. I think that’s the X factor: is Cannonier able to get in there and maul Izzy? Is he able to get in there and make him feel his size and strength?
One Coaching Curiosity
Coaches see the sport differently and look at the sport differently than anyone else, picking up on different things and paying attention to movements, habits, or intangible pieces that others might not notice, but that could have a significant impact on the action inside the Octagon.
Every matchup offers its own unique collection of elements that might pique a coach’s interest and get them paying a little closer attention to once the fight gets underway.
So what is that one thing in this matchup?
Chartier: I think it’s whether the threat of Cannonier’s physicality and grappling can even up the striking. Is he going to be able to find a spot where he’s comfortable on the feet and can hang with Izzy, or is Izzy going to freeze a little bit because he’s so worried about the takedowns?
In the past, Izzy has done really well with that and just kind of play in The Matrix, but you’ve got the Jan fight behind him, you’ve got another big guy coming in where, ‘If he gets in on me, that’s going to be tough,’ and I’m curious to see if that’s going to freeze him a little bit.
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
It’s going to be interesting to see if Cannonier can do enough with the hands to make Izzy freeze because he’s worried about the striking.
I think that’s what Jan did; he got enough respect on the feet because he was landing, and Izzy was like, ‘Ah crap! He’s way better than I thought he was on the feet, so what do I do now?’ I don’t want to say he ‘shut down,’ but he was losing exchanges and then the grappling came way easier for Jan.
Krause: The things that Jared brings to the table, he’s something new; we haven’t seen Izzy deal with Jared yet. He brings that size and explosiveness. He brings a couple things to the table we haven’t seen Izzy deal with.
He’s fast — he’s probably the fastest guy that Izzy has fought. He’s definitely the biggest body and possibly the most physically strong, and he does a good job mixing his game up. He’s not just going to sit at the end of Izzy’s punches like (Paulo) Costa did. He’s not just going to try to wrestle on the fence like (Marvin) Vettori did. He’s not going to sit at range like Whittaker did. He’s going to mix it up.
James Krause is the head coach at Glory MMA & Fitness, the Missouri-based fight team that includes emerging talents Jeff Molina and David Onama, and is the new home of former flyweight champ Brandon Moreno, who faces Kai Kara-France for the interim flyweight title later in the month at UFC 277.
Tyson Chartier runs the show for the New England Cartel, which includes Top 10 bantamweight Rob Font, and Top 5 featherweight Calvin Kattar.
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!