Robert Whittaker (+100) vs. Jared Cannonier (-118)
Weight Class: Middleweight (185 lbs)
Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier are set to square up in the co-main event of UFC 254 on fight island. The fight is almost certainly a middleweight title eliminator.
For Jared Cannonier, UFC 254 will mark his first Octagon appearance in a little more than a year. The “Killa Gorilla” last fought on September 29, 2019 in Copenhagen. It was a dominant outing for Cannonier, who secured an underdog victory against Jack Hermansson on the latter’s home turf. Cannonier finished the fight with a viscous uppercut followed by ground-and-pound, demonstrating his crazy power for the division.
Prior to the big win over Hermansson, Cannonier emerged victorious over Anderson Silva after a leg kick led to an injury. This was another win on hostile territory for Cannonier, and I mean hostile. His other fight in the middleweight division also ended via knockout when Cannonier KO’d David Branch in late 2018.
Jared Cannonier started out as a heavyweight, fought at light heavyweight for a time, and has now settled in at middleweight. At light heavyweight, Cannonier lost fights with Dom Reyes, Glover Teixeira and current champ Jan Blachowicz.
Needless to say, this is a classic case of an overall win-loss record meaning very little. None of his three victories at 185 have gone more than a round and Cannonier is incredibly big for the weight class. As such, his power is arguably unrivaled in the division currently. This is saying a lot considering the heavy hitters that populate the 185 pound division.
As for Robert Whittaker, he recently got back on track with a huge victory over Darren Till. The fight island win was Whittaker’s first appearance since his KO loss to Israel Adesanya last October. The former champ was initially slated to face Cannonier before having to withdraw. By the time Robert Whittaker was ready to go, Cannonier was on the shelf with an injury. As a result, Till and Whittaker fought.
The fight lacked action in terms of raw output, but it was a chess match start to finish. Each fighter was looking for the power shot, which they both found more than once. When the fight went to the ground, Whittaker was absolutely dominant. Granted, Darren Till isn’t much of a wrestler, but it was still good to see Whittaker implementing all elements of his game. He is one of the most well rounded fighters on the roster and demonstrated it during the Till fight.
Till injured his leg midway through the fight, which certainly sapped his mobility. With that said, Darren Till was a big challenge for Robert Whittaker following the Adesanya loss. Till has a very similar striking style to Adesanya in that he stalks for power shots as opposed to going with volume. Adesnya was able to punish Whittaker on entries repeatedly, so the fact that he weathered a sniper type fighter was great to see. It showed that Whittaker clearly went back to the lab after the title fight KO and wasn’t afraid to change tactics.
Robert Whittaker really needed a win against Till and the results of it are already showing. He seems a lot more relaxed lately and described himself as being stuck in a “rut” that has now ended.
Now in terms of this fight, I ultimately don’t see where Cannonier’s game is better than Whittaker except in the power department. Robert Whittaker pushes a higher output and has been in more than one dog fight in the middleweight division. His fights with Yoel showed that he is one of the sports most prolific brawlers. Whittaker’s chin is solid, despite the Adesanya KO. More importantly, his head movement is elite. If Whittaker could avoid the power shots of Darren Till, a very talented kickboxer, he should be able to evade big shots from Cannonier.
On the ground it’s tough to say. Whittaker has held his own against bigger fighters before, but Cannonier is just such an enigma for the division. I could certainly see Cannonier getting into an advantageous wrestling position and doing damage.
Ultimately, however, I expect this one to take place largely on the feet. If it does go to the ground, I doubt either fighter will be able to dominate the other unless they’re gifted a great position.
I like Robert Whittaker in this fight. A Cannonier KO is a good hedge, but I just don’t see how he outscores Whittaker if it doesn’t end beforehand. Whittaker has been here more than once and has beaten tougher opponents in the division than Cannonier has. This isn’t to take away from Cannonier’s success, but his only big win for the division was against Hermansson. Hermansson tends to lose if he can’t take a striker down, so it’s not like this was an earth shattering win.
For these reasons, I view Robert Whittaker moneyline at (+100) as a gift line.
Prediction and play: Robert Whittaker moneyline (+100)
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