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UFC 276: Expert predictions for Israel Adesanya vs. Jared Cannonier

Israel Adesanya aims to make his fifth successful defense of his middleweight championship versus the heavy-handed Jared Cannonier in the main event of UFC 276 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. 

Adesanya is coming off of a chapter-closing decision triumph over Robert Whittaker while Cannonier punched his ticket to his first crack at UFC gold by stopping Derek Brunson with a second-round knockout in February. 

Cannonier has been in Adesanya’s sights for some time as “The Killa Gorilla” remains one of the heaviest punchers in the middleweight division, with four of his last five victories coming by way of stoppage. 

Adesanya remains perfect at 185 pounds with eleven consecutive wins and is now in the hunt to catch Anderson Silva as the greatest middleweight in UFC history. A victory over Cannonier will continue to build the momentum to that goal. 

In just over four years you can argue that Israel Adesanya has seen just about every style imaginable in the UFC middleweight division. He’s defeated kickboxers, wrestlers, boxers, brawlers, one-punch knockout artists, and grapplers. The only thing missing is a serious Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner on his resume.

Jared Cannonier is not that.

Suffice to say that Cannonier doesn’t offer Adesanya anything new. That doesn’t mean that he won’t be a threat, but it’s difficult to see a path to victory aside from a knockout. Adesanya has arguably faced bigger punchers (Paulo Costa), better overall strikers (Anderson Silva), and stronger fighters (Yoel Romero) than Cannonier. Not to mention that Adesanya is well versed in going 25 minutes while Cannonier has only been past 15 minutes once in his UFC career.

This fight could get ugly in a hurry if Cannonier finds himself stuck on the outside and unable to get close.

The discrepancies in height and reach are profound, especially for someone like Adesanya, who uses every single physical advantage to dissect his rival. Cannonier will have to catch the middleweight champion early and make him uncomfortable to have an opportunity. There’s always a chance he lands a big right hand, but he’ll have to set it up because Adesanya has exceptional range control and defense.

Considering neither fighter has a submission victory or been submitted in the UFC, the likelihood of the fight ending with one of these fighters tapping out is ridiculously remote. 

Cannonier has one path to victory, and that’s by knockout. Decisions haven’t been kind to him, although he went 25 minutes and won versus Kelvin Gastelum last August. Outside of that, he’s lost three of four decisions. But six of his last seven victories came by knockout. His best bet is to take risks early and hope for the best. At +600, that’s the only way to go if you think Cannonier will win. 

But Adesanya has proven to be too sharp for opponents who are willing to stand in front of him. He could certainly outpoint Cannonier over the course of 25 minutes, which sits at +125. But there’s a strong chance that Adesanya’s counter-striking and Cannonier overcommitting on his strikes will be the perfect recipe for a knockout.

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