MMA Ratings Podcast

October 1, 2019

UFC Copenhagen: Jared Cannonier's Middleweight Rise Couldn't Be More Unexpected

By Adam Martin

Jared Cannonier was never expected to be a UFC middleweight contender. When "The Killa Gorilla" was signed to fight in the UFC in 2015, he competed as a heavyweight. He lost to Shawn Jordan, someone who wasn't fought in the UFC for years, by knockout in his UFC debut. Fast forward to 2019, and now Cannonier is slimmed down and fighting as a middleweight. He not only fights at 185 lbs, but is a top contender in the weight class. His transformation has been remarkable.

After Cannonier's loss to Jordan, one could be excused for believing he would have never turned into anything special. After all, he only had seven fights leading up to UFC 182, and all of his opponents were mostly unknown fighters up in the Alaskan regional circuit. But Cannonier is proof you can't judge a fighter by his UFC debut.

In his second UFC fight, Cannonier was able to save his job with a first-round TKO win over Cyril Asker in April 2016. It was a sold performance, but it was over a mediocre opponent. So Cannonier decided that instead of continuing as a heavyweight he would drop down to light heavyweight.

His first fight at 205 went the way he wanted, with a decision win over Ion Cutelaba in a "Fight of the Night" in December 2016. He then got the chance to step up in competition and face Glover Teixeira at UFC 208 in February 2017. But he was dominated, losing a one-sided decision.

Cannonier bounced back with a TKO win over Nick Roehrick, another mostly unknown fighter. It was a win that saved his job, but again, it really wasn't a quality win. And once again Cannonier tried to take a step up in competition and lost, this time in back-to-back fights, to Jan Blachowicz in December 2017 and Dominick Reyes in May 2018. At this point, Cannonier was once again on the chopping block, and it looked like Cannonier was nothing more than a gatekeeper, at best.

But then Cannonier decided to do what very few fighters do at age 34, and that's drop down a second weight class. Most fighters who get older move up in weight. Cannonier did the opposite, and it's turned out to be by far the best decision of his career. Cannonier is now an unexpected title contender at middleweight.

In November 2018 Cannonier debuted at middleweight in a short notice bout against David Branch and finished him in the first round. It was an incredible performance for Cannonier over a former two-time WSOF champion. He then followed it up with a TKO win over the legend Anderson Silva in May 2019. Although the win over Silva was via injury stoppage, it still earned Cannonier earned his first UFC main event, a date with Jack Hermansson at UFC Copenhagen. It was a fight that Cannonier was not expected to win. But he defied the odds and finished the hometown fighter via second-round knockout. The win over Hermansson was by far the biggest win of Cannonier's career, pushing him into the elite of the UFC middleweight division.

It's been an incredible, unexpected rise for Jared Cannonier, from a guy who looked like he wouldn't have more than a cup of coffee in the UFC to turning into a title contender in his third weight class. They say old dogs can't learn new tricks, but Cannonier is 35 and looks like he's still getting better. Cannonier, the unexpected middleweight contender, is a legitimate dark horse for the title. And at this point, you'd be silly to keep counting him out.

UFC on ESPN+ 18
Jack Hermansson vs. Jared Cannonier: Jared Cannonier def. Jack Hermansson via TKO (punches) at 0:27 of Round 2.

UFC on ESPN+ 18: Hermansson vs. Cannonier took place September 28, 2019 at Royal Arena in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Click HERE for more UFC on ESPN+ 18 Post-Fight Analysis

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