The UFC 254 co-main event was the setting where the company’s former middleweight champ, Robert Whittaker, had to survive a late surge to take a unanimous decision over the #2 ranked, Jared Cannonier. Whittaker was able to out-strike his foe for the bulk of the fight, showcasing his technical superiority, but Cannonier aggressively went for it late. This makes back to back wins for Whittaker since dropping his 185-pound title. What could be next for the former title holder?
Cannonier attacked the legs of Whittaker early on, causing a welt behind the left knee. Whittaker started to counter Cannonier with his right hand as Cannonier tried move forward. Whittaker also checked one of those leg kicks, which made Cannonier not want to throw them anymore. Whittaker was the busier fighter towards the end of the round, pumping out volume to keep Cannonier at bay.
Cannonier went back to the leg kick early in the second round, too, but Whittaker quickly got back to throwing his volume and being the more active fighter. Cannonier was pressing forward, but he was getting countered. Whittaker would land his combo and then cut an angle and move out of the way of what Cannonier was throwing back at him. Whittaker even hit a short-lived takedown towards the end of the round just because it was there.
The final round opened up with Whittaker cracking Cannonier with a head kick that made the American do the stanky leg. Whittaker pursued his dazed opponent, following him to the ground looking for the finish. Cannonier fought his way back to his feet and started to rally. He went at Whittaker with an aggressive barrage, but was unable to produce the finish he so desperately needed.