The top of the UFC 276 billing wasn’t the most exciting fight of all time, but the promotion’s middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya, retained his title nonetheless with a unanimous decision over the #2 rated 185-pounder, Jared Cannonier.
Izzy threw a bunch of leg kicks, jabs, and crosses, but never really had Jared hurt badly at any point. As for Cannonier, he clinched up a handful of times, but never really turned the moments into anything meaningful. There weren’t many wow moments across five frames, but Adesanya earned his fifth title defense in a row. Perhaps it’s time for Izzy to rematch the man that knocked him out in a kickboxing bout in 2017, and knocked out Sean Strickland tonight, Alex Pereira?
The fight opened up with leg kicks being exchanged back and forth, and Adesanya looking to stay at range. Cannonier was being methodical with closing the distance, instead of just rushing in. Izzy was picking his strikes wisely, touching his target without overextending. Cannonier continued to attack the legs of the champion, but wasn’t really building off of them with anything.
Adesanya continued to let his kicks fly from range in the second stanza. Cannonier complained about an eye poke, but the referee didn’t see it so didn’t pause the match. The champion started to unleash his straights, poking at his challenger and mixing things up. Cannonier started to show some level changes, but was not committing to a takedown. Then, Izzy poked Jared in the eye, and the referee called a time out for it. After a warning to the champ, the fight was resumed and Adesanya pressured Cannonier until the bell. The fighters shared a little stare down in between rounds.
Adesanya returned to his leg kicks in the third frame, prompting Cannonier to shoot a takedown. Izzy easily skirted away from the attempt, circling out and not giving the challenger an inch. Cannonier went back to the takedown attempt, and landed some dirty boxing on the inside. That was the challenger’s best moment of the match thus far. Jared started to pressure, scoring with his boxing, which opened up a double underhook opportunity. The champ was stuck with his back to the cage, with Cannonier attacking with knees to the thighs.
Izzy returned to popping with his jab and cross, plus attacking with his leg kicks. Cannonier was doing his best work coming forward, but whenever he was stationary, or going backwards, the champion was getting ahead. Jared was throwing, but missing a lot. He would clinch up against the cage, but didn’t really do much with the position. He tried to land a set of elbows, but Adesanya appeared to have blocked them.
More leg kicks and straights came from the champ to open the final round. Cannonier was trying to close the distance, but Izzy using his footwork to avoid the early clinched entries. The better strikes continued to be in favor of the champ, but there wasn’t a lot of action going on. Jared was finally able to clinch up, but he was mostly holding on, and not able to make anything happen with it.