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Jared Cannonier hopeful title shot is next after Israel Adesanya endorsement, questions Sean Strickland’s chances

All signs are pointing to Jared Cannonier soon challenging for UFC gold.

On Saturday, Cannonier scored an emphatic second-round knockout of Derek Brunson at UFC 271 in Houston, notching his fifth win in six appearances at 185 pounds and seemingly booking a ticket to face middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.

Nothing is set in stone yet, but Cannonier is optimistic that he could be next after UFC President Dana White endorsed Cannonier at Saturday’s post-fight press conference and Adesanya did the same. According to Adesanya, he had told Cannonier on Friday that he needs “fresh meat.”

“The only thing I’ve heard is Dana sort of kind of agreeing to it in his post-fight press conference,” Cannonier said Monday on The MMA Hour. “He sort of gave me the nod and the smile when I was in the cage getting his attention and all that stuff. We’ll see what happens.

“Izzy also threw me an alley-oop there, so hopefully that’s enough to have them guys send me that contract. But we’ll see.”

As noted by Cannonier, he hasn’t heard anything official after Saturday’s event, but a June date has been tossed around, and Cannonier said he’s “ready for five rounds” should the fight be booked for the summer.

Cannonier entered UFC 271 ranked No. 6 at middleweight in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings, and with his win, he’ll vault over No. 4 Derek Brunson in the contenders’ line. No. 9-ranked Sean Strickland was victorious in the UFC Vegas 47 main event earlier this month, and a third fight with Robert Whittaker could also be in the cards for Adesanya. But Cannonier believes he’s done enough to get a title shot.

“I know that I earned it,” he said. “But if they choose Strickland over me, that would say something to me. It could be my ego thinking, my ego over my shoulder telling me, ‘They’re scared of you. They don’t want that heat just yet.’ But I don’t know. I can’t really say that for sure. Those guys are smart.

“Apparently, Izzy gets to pick his fights, and he did say my name in the post-fight interview and in the press conference, and it’s been in the making, so I would say that I’m confident that it’s gonna happen, but I’m just gonna stay prepared for anything.”

“To be honest, it’s the fight that should happen,” he continued. “Anybody who’s mentioning Sean Strickland, No. 7 [in the official UFC rankings], who just beat or No. 9 or No. 6 — I don’t know how the number rankings go — but I beat No. 9 in Kelvin Gastelum, don’t nobody give me a title shot after that. Who knows? Like I said, anybody can say if they look at the landscape, the top 10, Cannonier is coming off of a finish, who just beat a streaking opponent, if I was just a fan I would say Cannonier’s next.

“I wouldn’t say give him Vettori, who just lost a title [fight]. And the third rematch with Robert, that’s plausible, it’s likely, but I don’t know.”

Until Cannonier gets the call, any talk about how he’d fare against Adesanya is purely speculative. “The Last Stylebender” is undefeated at middleweight, and his win over Whittaker was his fourth straight successful title defense.

Cannonier has some idea of how their matchup would go though, and he wants everyone to know he won’t just be relying on one good shot to land.

“It’s gonna be interesting, if that fight happens, to be fighting somebody who’s not gonna be diving for my legs every second, every time they feel pressure they gonna be shooting for the legs,” Cannonier said. “It’s gonna be fun fighting another striker. I’ll really get to let my skills show in this fight. All these other guys have only ever tried to shoot on me because they can’t go with me skill for skill on the feet. So this will be a good opportunity to showcase my true skills as a striker. People have only seen me as this big, powerful guy who can hit you with one shot and it can hurt and all that good stuff, but my opponent will usually bring out the best in me. Izzy being the caliber of fighter he is, the type of fighter, the striker that he is, I feel it’s gonna bring out a better version of my striking as well.

“Not only that, I have to be good everywhere. I’m gonna give him looks everywhere. I’m good everywhere, so wherever the fight goes, I know one thing if he ends up on the bottom it may not last too long. So I may end up taking that to him in this fight. I’m not saying I’m gonna be shooting for his hips, we gonna fight, I’m gonna throw some punches at his face, I’m gonna throw some punches at his body, I’m definitely gonna kick his legs out from underneath him. He’s gonna do the same. But it’s gonna be a good fight, that’s for sure. That’s the only thing I can say right now.”