Jared Cannonier has been in the UFC for six years, competing in three weight divisions. He is closer to 40 years old than 30.
Yet on Saturday night, the former Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employee put forth perhaps his most remarkable performance in the Octagon. Cannonier bested Kelvin Gastelum via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47) in a poised showing in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas.
“It’s always glorious to go five rounds with a guy like Kelvin at that level,” Cannonier said in his postfight interview. “Winning is even more glorious, if you will. I’m happy.”
Cannonier made all the right adjustments after a close early portion of the contest. He dropped Gastelum with a right hook in the third and put a stamp on the outing in the late rounds. It was the first time Cannonier has ever won a five-round decision in his career and only his first winning decision since 2016.
Normally, the explosive Cannonier can end a fight with one punch or kick. But Saturday’s outing showed he (and his coach, John Crouch, of The MMA Lab) could outpoint a wily veteran like Gastelum.
ESPN has Cannonier ranked No. 5 in the world at middleweight.
Gastelum, meanwhile, is the man who gave UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya his most difficult test yet at 185 pounds.
Afterward, Cannonier said he would love to get the next shot at Adesanya, but he might have to fight again before a chance at the belt due to a light bank account. Adesanya is very likely to defend next against former champion Robert Whittaker.
“I’m broke, so I need to fight,” Cannonier said. “Hopefully, I get that title shot. But the right name might make me say, ‘Yes.'”
Cannonier (14-4) would have earned a title shot with a victory in his previous fight, but he fell to Whittaker via unanimous decision in October. The Texas native, who fights out of Arizona, was on a three-fight winning streak before that loss.
Cannonier, 37, is one of only two men (Conor McGregor being the other) to win via KO/TKO in three UFC divisions. Cannonier started his UFC run at heavyweight (weighing more than 300 pounds) after leaving a job doing maintenance on traffic control equipment for the FAA. He then moved to light heavyweight, and now he competes at a shredded 185 pounds.