UFC 276: Israel Adesanya vs. Jared Cannonier Head-to-Toe Breakdown
UFC 276 goes down this Saturday in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event will serve as the climax of the UFC's annual International Fight Week bonanza, and the promotion has stacked it accordingly with two title fights and appearances from a host of former champions, ranked contenders and popular veterans.
Headlining honors will go to a middleweight title fight between once-beaten champion Israel Adesanya (22-1), who is looking increasingly unimpeachable, and ferocious contender Jared Cannonier (15-5), a former heavyweight who has kept all of his power at 185 pounds.
DraftKings currently has Adesanya installed as a -365 betting favorite, and Cannonier as a +300 dog. That's as wide a spread as we've seen in an Adesanya fight for quite some time, which is reflective of the champion's dominance.
Still, it would be foolish to discount Cannonier. The challenger is focused, ferocious and potentially primed for an upset.
Keep scrolling to see how he and Adesanya match up on paper.
Israel Adesanya might be the best striker in MMA right now. Sure, the argument could be made for a few other fighters, but the UFC's middleweight king is up there with the very best of them.
That's bad news for Cannonier, who is used to being the more dangerous striker in the cage in his fights. This time around, the Alaskan will be at a stark technical disadvantage on the feet, with little more than a power advantage for comfort.
Interestingly, several key stats suggest the opposite. Cannonier has Adesanya beat both in terms of striking accuracy (50 to 49 percent) and striking defense (63 to 61 percent). But as is often the case, the stats don't tell the full story.
They ignore the fact that Adesanya has been out-dueling far better strikers than Cannonier has and for a much longer period. They ignore the fact that he has won titles in kickboxing and knocked people senseless as a pro boxer. They ignore his speed, precision and ability to set traps. They ignore the intangibles, which—when we're dealing like a dynamo like the middleweight champ—are far more relevant than the numbers.
As you hopefully gleaned from the last slide, Adesanya and Cannonier are both strikers by trade. Both men are at their best on the feet and tend to avoid grappling as much as possible, so it's challenging to say who has better submissions.
Here's what we do know.
Adesanya is a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu under the great Andre Galvao. He has attempted an average of just 0.2 submissions per 15 minutes since he arrived in the UFC. He has never won or lost by submission in MMA.
Cannonier also has a purple belt in BJJ. He has not attempted a single submission in the UFC. There are three submission wins on his record, but one of those wins came by way of strikes, so it doesn't really count—let's call it two.
All that to say, it's very difficult to say which of these two strikers is better at submissions, and it's unlikely to matter in their matchup. Pressed to make a pick, however, we'll give it to the guy who has actually submitted people in the past.
Because Adesanya and Cannonier are both strikers, we generally only see the defensive side of their wrestling games.
You're far more likely to see either guy defending a takedown than shooting for one, and the stats reflect this.
Adesanya has never attempted a takedown in the Octagon because he simply hasn't needed to. On the flip side, he boasts a commendable 77 percent takedown defense rate, which has allowed him to keep his fights vertical and light his opponents up on the feet.
Cannonier, meanwhile, has a 50 percent takedown success rate in the UFC, which looks decent, but he has attempted an average of just 0.23 per 15 minutes in the Octagon, so we're talking about a pretty minuscule sample size. As for his defense, he stops slightly fewer takedown attempts than Adesanya at 65 percent.
It's very hard to say who's the better wrestler—and it almost certainly won't matter—but we'll give the Cannonier because he's actually shown that side of his game before. The fact that he's absolutely massive for the middleweight division won't hurt his chances either.
A little extra weight is seldom a bad thing when a fight gets up close and personal. Just ask Jan Blachowicz, the only man to have beaten Adesanya in the Octagon.
Adesanya's X-Factor: Fight Smart
Cannonier has the power to hurt and even stop Adesanya in an instant. As such, the champion will need to fight a patient, measured, and defensively flawless fight for as long as it lasts. Any error in judgment or moment of complacency could be his undoing.
The good news is that Adesanya seems to be well aware of how dangerous his challenger is. He has been talking about fighting Cannonier since at least 2019 when the Alaskan had much less credibility in the division. He has clearly seen him as a threat for a long time, which suggests he will have a smart game plan when they finally meet this Saturday.
Cannonier's X-Factor: Fight Like a Heavyweight
Cannonier is a big underdog in this fight for a reason. His most relevant advantage seems to be his power, but Adesanya has dealt with power-strikers before—most notably Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa—with little issue.
Then again, Romero did almost nothing in his fight with Adesanya, and Costa has never looked worse than he did in his bid for the Kiwi's title. Neither guy was able to ply their power against the champion, and really, nobody else has been able to either.
That could be Cannonier's best shot at winning this fight: to walk the champion down, cut off the cage, throw heavyweight-grade artillery, and trust that, as a veteran of that most perilous weight class, he can withstand whatever comes back at him. It's risky, but so far, nothing else has worked.
Hopefully, what you've read so far hasn't given you the impression that Cannonier is a mediocre or one-dimensional fighter. He is talented, gutsy and dangerous and would probably be favored against most other middleweights in the UFC.
It's just hard to see where he wins this particular matchup. His heavyweight power will keep things interesting for as long as the fight lasts, but power hasn't been enough to beat Adesanya in the past and likely won't be here either.
At this point, the champion has been challenged by every style and game plan imaginable but—aside from a loss to Blachowicz at light heavyweight—has found a way to win every single time. He'll do it again this weekend, and he'll do it the same way he always does: with his striking.
Cannonier should hang in there for a while, but not forever.
Prediction: Adesanya by TKO, Rd. 4
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