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UFC 254 preview: Jared Cannonier, the dark horse of the middleweight division

Matt Marino

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UFC 254: High praise from the champion

During UFC 253, we may have witnessed perhaps the most efficient display of mixed martial arts in recent memory, from none other than UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.

The headlining match between Paulo Costa and Adesanya showcased just how good Adesanya is. With Adesanya seemingly landing whatever he wanted, Costa mocked, moved, and took an incredible amount of damage.

This title fight ended quickly via a second-round TKO. In victory, the champ changed his focus from his win to the rising dark horse, Jared Cannonier.

The Champion praised Cannonier with humility and respect, virtues which were seemingly void during the upcoming weeks of UFC 253. Cannonier is set to face former middleweight champ, Rob Whittaker, at UFC 254 on Oct. 24th. A win over Whittaker all but guarantees a shot at the title.

UFC 254: Rise of ‘The Killa Gorilla’

Nov 3, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Jared Cannonier (blue gloves) celebrates beating David Branch (red gloves) during UFC 230 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Since he’d moved to the middleweight division, Cannonier has been an unstoppable force. He won his past three fights via early-round stoppages against the divisions’ top contenders.

To put it in perspective, Adesanya defeated UFC legend Anderson Silva via decision. Cannonier defeated Silva via first-round TKO. Of course, every fight is different, but you have to respect what the Killa Gorilla has recently accomplished in the cage.

Style Bender sure does. His most-recent win was over the rising contender Jack Hermansson, a brutal second-round knockout made the Copenhagen crowd go silent. Cannonier has a successful history of competing in enemy territory and defeating hometown heroes.

At 13-4, Cannonier is one of the few fighters to cross three separate weight classes. He has found success at Heavyweight, light-heavyweight, and now most consistently at middleweight. He has truly evolved into an incredible mixed-martial artist and a dangerous competitor.

Whittaker vs. Cannonier

Jun 9, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Robert Whittaker (red gloves) before his fight against Yoel Romero (blue gloves) during UFC 225 at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

This co-main event between Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker and Jared “The Killa Gorilla” Cannonier is favored to reach a decision. With that said, each fighter has held impressive finishes throughout his career. A viral knockout win could easily be provided from either of them.

Regardless of the outcome, one thing is certain. This fight has the potential for ‘Fight of the Year’ accolades. Even being the co-main to probably the most anticipated fight of the year, this match will not be lost in its shadow. With the winner being destined to face middleweight champion Israel Adesanya for a chance at the belt. This will be Cannonier’s greatest test. As for Whittaker, he has already held the title. And if he does win on Saturday, expect a call out for a chance at the belt. Cannonier will be the most-challenging matchup for the champ.

Cannonier is currently favored to win at -122, while Whittaker sits closely at +100. It should also be mentioned that Cannonier holds a four-inch reach advantage.