The Rise of Jared Cannonier
By Jack Maher
One half of UFC 254’s co-main event, Jared Cannonier has come a long way from where he once stood.
From an out-of-shape heavyweight to just another brick in the wall at light-heavyweight, the ‘Killa Gorilla’ has shaped himself in to a top contender at middleweight.
After his brief stint at heavyweight to begin his UFC career Cannonier initially turned heads after his move down to 205lbs, picking up wins over Ion Cutelabaand, Nick Roehrick, but ultimately lost more than he won at the weight, losing to top contenders like Glover Teixeira, Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz.
Few would have predicted Cannonier’s current run of form watching him compete at light-heavyweight, but his career soon changed forever.
A late shake-up to the UFC 230 card meant that Cannonier was called upon to fill in for Jacare Souza against David Branch, meaning the big-punching American would be dropping down another weight class.
Back in 2018 his opponent Branch was a top-10 middleweight and was coming off a knockout victory over Thiago Santos, so it came as a relative surprise when the late notice Cannonier knocked out Branch in the second round, giving himself a foothold in his new division.
The 36-year-old’s next middleweight outing came when he flew out to foreign territory to take on MMA legend Anderson Silva in Brazil.
The 45-year-old Brazilian became Cannonier’s second middleweight victim, the fight was stopped in the second round after Silva could no longer stand following a brutal leg kick from Cannonier.
The stoppage may have seemed underwhelming, but Cannonier (13-4) stuck to his game plan and continued his hot streak by finishing one of the sports all-time greats in hostile territory.
The consensus around Cannonier is that he has carried his heavyweight punching power all the way down to middleweight, and this was no more apparent than in his last outing where he battered Jack Hermansson into a TKO late last year in front of a pro-Hermansson crowd in Copenhagen.
Hermansson had also been enjoying a good run at middleweight, so for Cannonier to dispose of ‘The Joker’ in the way he did spoke volumes about where he stands at 185lb
After a year out of the cage, Cannonier returns this Saturday in the toughest test of his middleweight journey to date, squaring off against #1 ranked Robert Whittaker in Abu Dhabi. If Cannonier beats the former champion on Saturday, then he should stand as the undisputed number-one contender for Israel Adesanya’s belt.