After Sean Strickland won over Jack Hermansson, a lot of people may be wondering who’s the next number one contender at middleweight for Israel Adesanya or Robert Whittaker. The answer is going to be on the same card, when Jared Cannonier and Derek Brunson face off against each other. The winner of this bout will get the winner of the main event and it makes sense for both sides, given the magnitude of the rematches.
Middleweight has come down to the top guys beating each other, going on streaks, and then rematching each other later down the line. This all happens because the elite fighters stay at the top of the division, however, Adesanya is the only one who has reigned for an extended period of time in this era.
Canonnier and Brunson are going to be the feature bout aside from the title fight in my opinion. The stakes in this fight are huge. If Brunson wins, he will get to run it back with the guy who beat him last. Adesanya knocked him out after they had a high profile back-and-forth leading up to the fight, notably when Brunson claimed that Adesanya was “too skinny bro”.
Brunson lost a fight with Whittaker, who also knocked him out in the first round a few years ago. Brunson has been on a five-fight win streak since the Adesanya finish. He has cleared out everybody in his way decisively and ‘Blonde Brunson’ is a real thing.
If Cannonier wins, he will get the match that the champion has sought after. Adesanya has been on record stating he’d love to share the Octagon with Cannonier if he was able to beat Whittaker back in October 2020 at UFC 254. This would be the only top contender that the middleweight champion has not faced and defeated.
Whittaker is Cannonier’s only loss at middleweight so far. If Whittaker were to win then this would set up a nice rematch between the two if the immediate trilogy wasn’t made for Adesanya. I believe that Cannonier would be a big enough draw to where they can allow the trilogy some time to build up into a bigger fight as opposed to running it back immediately.
For this fight specifically, I think that Brunson will be able to do enough in the wrestling to get a win. If he’s able to get his opponent down then he will be able to dictate how the fight ends. He might be able to ground and pound to victory or possibly find a rear-naked choke after some groundwork. I do think this fight will be closely contested on the feet as Cannonier has a great equalizer in his hands that he’s able to use to his advantage.
If he’s able to use his patented leg kicks to get to Brunson, the wrestling may be easier to slow down and if he’s able to keep it standing then this fight is a coin toss. I do believe they’re both trying to make a statement in which they’ll be able to get the next title fight no matter what so a close decision is off the board for both of these gentlemen.
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