Over five rounds, Adesanya largely dominated the striking exchanges with Jared Cannonier, who was really struggling to put together any kind of consistent offense against the champion. By the end of the fight, the Las Vegas crowd was letting the fighters hear it with a chorus of boos but regardless of the emotions, Adesanya did more than enough to secure the unanimous decision victory.
The judges scored the fight 49-46, 49-46 and 50-45 for Adesanya, who paid credit to Cannonier and his team for a job well done with the strategy that prevented him from putting on what he hoped would be a dazzling showcase.
“I’ll tell you one thing, they had an excellent game plan,” Adesanya said afterwards. “It was really hard to get my follow ups going, my second phases going because they had a good game plan.”
As deadly and accurate as any fighter in recent UFC history, Adesanya came out strong while picking and choosing his shots with Cannonier struggling to find an opponent to use his fight ending power. Adesanya also started snapping off a lead jab that was clearly bothering Cannonier, who was stuck operating on the end of the champion’s punches.
The methodical approach from Adesanya allowed him to control the pace while breaking down Cannonier with kicks to the legs and body before he came back up top to the head with his punches. Adesanya was really started to put some pop behind his strikes including several kicks that reverberated off Cannonier’s arms when he went up high.
A right hand was also connecting for Adesanya and that was yet another problem Cannonier was forced to solve except he didn’t appear to have any answers. A mouse was also forming under Cannonier’s right eye, which wasn’t helping with his reaction time to Adesanya’s blistering speed.
There were moments when Cannonier did find a home for his power punches when he actually closed the distance but Adesanya still avoiding taking too much damage before circling away to retake the center of the cage. From there, Adesanya stuck that same jab back in Cannonier’s face, which seemed to be the punch that was giving the challenger the most issues.
Cannonier attempted to mount some offense when he pushed Adesanya against the cage but he was still being wary about giving Adesanya any room to escape and that prevented him from really throwing a flurry of punches. On the outside, Adesanya was just the superior striker by a wide margin and that was ultimately the story of the entire fight.
While it certainly wasn’t the best fight of the night, Adesanya still leaves UFC 276 as champion and it sets him up for a potential rematch of epic proportions against a fighter who already holds two wins against him from a pair of past kickboxing matches.
“Look we know who’s next,” Adesanys said calling out Alex Pereira. “Trust me, the first time I told you, it was an error on my part spamming the right hand and that was in kickboxing.
“It’s easy to knockout, what’s the hillbilly’s name [Sean Strickland] because he was parrying the jabs but like I said at the press conference, the next time I put you on skates, you’re going to get frozen like Elsa.”
With Pereira finishing Sean Strickland earlier in the night and Adesanya doing his job in the main event, it all but guarantees the former rivals will meet again but this time with the UFC middleweight title going up for grabs.