Jared Cannonier (+325) vs Israel Adesanya (-450)
Cannonier: DK: $6.8k | Adesanya: DK:$9.4k
So, what makes Israel Adesanya so dominant? It’s hard to match his physical attributes, much less his skills. Adesanya uses speed and length to dominate range, and few fighters have the speed and/or length to match. Kelvin Gastelum remains Stylebender’s toughest test outside of when he moved up to light heavyweight to fight Jan Blachowicz. Kelvin had the speed to penetrate the range force field Andesanya sets and caused Stylebender all kinds of problems. Kelvin even landed a head kick that had Stylebender doing a lil’ diddy the Jabbawockeez couldn’t even bust. But Adesanya proved he had the dog in him that night and dominated the final round to win the belt. He hasn’t come close to losing since (at middleweight).
Will Jared Cannonier present a unique challenge that Stylebender hasn’t seen yet in the Octagon? No. Anything can happen, but this is Stylebender’s fight to lose. After matching Adesanya’s physical attributes, the second prong is matching his skills. Unfortunately, Cannonier can’t match either. Stylebender uses feints better than any fighter, manipulating the opponent’s reactions like a sociopathic ex. Once he’s achieved the desired reactions, he turns the tables like an interior decorator and pretends to be the victim, driving his opponents crazy. Then he takes advantage of their momentary vulnerability with short hand combinations and devastating calf kicks. His movements are slight, calculated, and allow him to strike from a secure high ground out of range of his opponents.
Israel uses both stances naturally and can strike while moving in any direction but is especially dangerous while moving backward. He can lean back and pull his head out of range while firing off short counter hooks. Ironically, this is also the time when Adesanya is the most vulnerable on his feet. His chin tends to stick straight up in the air, and it’s the only time you’ll catch Izzy out of position. Extending combinations against a fighter who likes to use “pulls” to defend is the key to catching them when they think they’re safe.
Can Cannonier try to wrestle/grapple? Not likely. Izzy has shown improved takedown defense and even a solid top game when he dominated Marvin Vettori the second time. Adesanya will likely copy and paste the game plan he used to destroy Paulo Costa. Beat Cannonier from the ground up by attacking the legs and keeping the jab in his face until it’s time to drop the whammy and open up with extended combinations.
Fantasy-wise, the only red flag for Adesanya is that sometimes he plays it safe, does just enough to win each round and get out of there with the dub. Other times he comes out looking to make a statement and tries to finish from the jump. He averages just over three and a half significant strikes per minute and is mostly a technical one-punch striker who, in six career five-round bouts, has only hit the one hundred mark once. That was his first main event against Brad Tavares in 2018.
Jared Cannonier started his career with the UFC in the heavyweight division. He was undersized and went on the don’t-eat-so-much diet, dropping to light heavyweight not long after. He beat Ion Cutelaba but lost to Glover Teixeira and Daniel Reyes. It was back to the diet board, and he dropped to middleweight, where he’s won five of six fights.
A reserved power puncher with clean, short combos, Cannonier can KO anyone in the division. He won’t overextend himself and get caught out of position and doesn’t take many risks. He won’t wow you with volume or aggression, his output is closer to a Jairzinho Rozenstruik’s than a Max Holloway’s, but he ends fights suddenly. He’s a compactor, constantly compressing the cage with forward pressure until the opponent runs out of real estate.
Cannonier likes to fight out of both stances but is severely limited when he’s in the southpaw stance. He almost exclusively throws kicks from southpaw and rarely opens up with his hands. Cannonier is a Milli Vanilli southpaw, fakes the funk, and against a keen counter striker like Stylebender, it could be a liability. Cannonier’s only chance is to throw the brown streaked chonies to the wind and just go for it. Put all his nuggs in one Black & Mild and see where he ends up. He will have to force the action and risk getting KO’d in order to have a chance to land a life-changing strike.
Odds-wise, the only way to get plus money is on an early finish under three and a half rounds. The fight going the distance is (-110), which are valuable odds since Adesanya has gone the distance three of his last four wins, including his last two. Cannonier has been finished twice but both came at higher weight classes.
The main event-losing streak has fallen victim to Valero judges as of late. I thought Arman Tsarukyan beat Mateusz Gamrot last week by causing more damage in the stand-up, but Gamrot’s wrestling was just a notch above at times. But that was the most underrated main event of the year, a real banger. This Stylebender fight couldn’t come at a better time. Israel Adesanya via decision. On wax.
Winner: Israel Adesanya | Method: Decision