Jared Cannonier: A Ticket Straight to the Top

Jared Cannonier after finishing Cyril Asker.

Jared Cannonier: A Ticket Straight to the Top

There are many fighters in desperate need of a win this Saturday night at UFC 208. Whether it be the suddenly struggling Holly Holm, the declining great Anderson Silva or the contender in waiting Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza, fighter’s futures will be dramatically altered and effected on the upcoming PPV event. Another fighter undeniably on that unenviable list is long-time Light Heavyweight contender Glover Teixeira. After three straight wins, Teixeira’s momentum was violently derailed last August when he was knocked out in just 13 seconds by the terrifying Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson. Nonetheless, he returns this Saturday, his opponent: the unheralded and somewhat unknown Jared Cannonier.

The focus during this 205lbs tilt Saturday will understandably be on the former title challenger Glover Teixeira. After eleven UFC fights and multiple promotional main events, Teixeira is a very familiar face to fans and it will definitely be interesting to see how he rebounds from that devastating and stunning defeat. However, the other side of the story often has its own intrigue. Jared Cannonier is no different. It was over two years ago when ‘The Killa Gorilla’ first entered the famed octagon as an undefeated 7-0 Heavyweight prospect. In his first six showings Cannonier had only left the first round once, on that occasion quickly ending it in the second too.

With a 100% finish rate, Cannonier’s final fight before joining the UFC would be a five round split decision victory over veteran Tony Lopez. A proven finisher and now experienced in longer bouts, Cannonier was a natural fit for the ever growing UFC roster. Nonetheless, it would be almost a year later when Cannonier finally fought his first fight inside the octagon, taking on the much more experienced Shawn Jordan. An athletic mover that weighed in at 235lbs, Cannonier seemed to fit the bill as a rare prospect in the thin Heavyweight division. On fight night though Cannonier was unable to get any real momentum against the seemingly more relaxed and assured Jordan.

Eventually, the overly aggressive debutant would be dropped and quickly finished by Jordan in the very first round. With his undefeated record taken and a defeat in his first UFC performance, Cannonier wouldn’t return until April 2016, taking on Cyril Asker. After stuffing a strong early takedown attempt, Cannonier showed impressive poise and confidence as he walked down his foe. It didn’t take long for the American to find his range and timing as he soon dropped Asker with a left hook before brutally finishing the fight with elbows. In under three minutes Cannonier had erased the admittedly distant memory of that Jordan loss and announced himself as a talented and dynamic Heavyweight in a very stagnant division.

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Surprisingly though, Cannonier’s time as a Heavyweight was in fact over. Returning just two months ago in December 2016, Cannonier would make the move to Light Heavyweight, fighting the aggressive Ion Cutelaba. In a genuinely memorable affair, Cannonier would whether a storm before using crisp and sharp striking to damage his visibly fading opponent. In the third round to great fanfare Cannonier would confidently walk towards Cutelaba with his hands down in almost Nick Diaz fashion. The weight-class newcomer showed impressive stamina to go with his improved athleticism and technique. Aggressive and domineering, Cannonier simply stole the fight, not only coming out the unanimous decision victor but also leaving a lasting impact.

Fast forward just nine weeks later and Cannonier is only days away from the biggest fight of his life. After one fight at 205lbs Cannonier finds himself matched with one of the world’s most respected and revered Light Heavyweight fighters. Granted on paper it’s an incredibly tough test but for Cannonier the UFC’s current whirlwind schedule has created an opportunity. With a win here ‘The Killa Gorilla’ can announce himself as a top contender in what is still his brand new weight class. A division crying out for new blood, perhaps Cannonier can fill one of those wide open spots. One thing is for sure, opportunity knocks this Saturday at UFC 208 and Cannonier has a ticket straight to the top.

Image courtesy of BJPenn.com

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