Adesanya outpoints Cannonier to stay undisputed

Israel Adesanya defended his UFC middleweight crown for the fifth time, scoring a clinical albeit unspectacular decision win over Jared Cannonier…


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LAS VEGAS — In a clinical, albeit unspectacular, performance, Israel Adesanya outpointed Jared Cannonier via unanimous decision to retain his middleweight championship in the main event of UFC 276 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.

The judges scored the bout 49-46, 49-46 and 50-45 for Adesanya.

Adesanya’s superiority in striking was evident throughout the bout. Cannonier landed nothing of real significance with Adesanya keeping him at a distance, picking him apart with jabs and kicks to the body and legs.

The crowd grew restless with the lack of thrilling action, especially in the fourth round, which was marked by boos and fans holding up lit-up smartphones. But Cannonier did nothing to push Adesanya, a former champion kickboxer, into anything resembling a firefight. Adesanya, meanwhile, was content with safely landing strikes with his length from so far out that Cannonier could not counter them.

Adesanya outstruck Cannonier 163-141 for the fight, including a 116-90 edge in significant strikes.

“They had an excellent gameplan,” Adesanya said, giving credit to Cannonier’s coach, John Crouch. “It was really hard to get my follow-ups going.”

Coming in, ESPN had Adesanya ranked No. 3 in the world on its pound-for-pound list. At middleweight, Adesanya was ranked No. 1 and Cannonier is No. 3.

Next up for Adesanya could be Alex Pereira, who knocked out Sean Strickland on the undercard Saturday. Pereira owns two kickboxing wins over Adesanya, including one by knockout.

“The first time I told you it was an error on my part spamming the right hand,” Adesanya said, directing his comments to Pereira. “That was in kickboxing. … Next time I punch you, you’ll be on skates and you’re gonna be frozen like Elsa. I’ll leave it at that.”

Adesanya (23-1) is undefeated at 185 pounds, posting a 12-0 record in the UFC in that weight class. The Nigerian-born New Zealand resident was coming off a unanimous decision win over rival Robert Whittaker at UFC 271 in February.

Adesanya, 32, has five successful middleweight title defenses after unifying the belt with Whittaker in 2019. His lone pro MMA loss was up in weight, for the UFC light heavyweight title against Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259 in March 2021. “The Last Stylebender” has won three straight since that defeat.

Cannonier (15-6) had won two in a row and five of his last six coming in. The Arizona resident was coming off a second-round knockout of Derek Brunson at UFC 271. Cannonier, 38, has finished fights in three weight divisions: heavyweight, light heavyweight and middleweight. His only middleweight loss before Saturday came against Whittaker in 2020.

In attendance for the main event were WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, along with his daughter Stephanie, the interim CEO, and her husband, retired WWE wrestler and current executive Paul “Triple H” Levesque. WWE president Nick Khan and color commentator Pat McAfee, the former NFL punter, also were cageside.

They got to see Adesanya’s walkout as the Undertaker, but didn’t see the most exciting fight. Adesanya kept Cannonier at bay and Cannonier had little to no luck getting inside Adesanya’s length for strikes or takedowns. He attempted clinch work and takedowns in the third, fourth and fifth rounds with little to no success.

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