The two top-five contenders are set to meet in an apparent title eliminator at the first pay-per-view of 2022. Having competed across three different weight classes in the UFC, a victory would likely lead to Cannonier’s first title shot on MMA’s biggest stage.
Since moving down to 185 pounds, “The Killa Gorilla” has gone 4-1. Three straight victories over David Branch, Anderson Silva, and Jack Hermansson established himself in the championship conversation. While a loss on the scorecards and a broken arm at the hands of former champ Robert Whittaker stalled his charge to the top, Cannonier revived his title aspirations with a main event win against perennial contender Kelvin Gastelum in August.
Brunson, meanwhile, has transcended from the status of divisional gatekeeper to contender with an impressive five-fight winning streak since a defeat to current champ Israel Adesanya. After decision triumphs over Elias Theodorou and Ian Heinisch, “Blonde Brunson” entered the scene and dominated Edmen Shahbazyan, Kevin Holland, and Darren Till. The veteran will be looking to secure a rematch with “The Last Stylebender” at Cannonier’s expense come January 22.
Despite his opponent’s hot form, Cannonier is confident he’ll impose his will and end Brunson’s unbeaten run as a blonde fighter when they enter the Octagon together. In an interview with The Schmo, the 37-year-old revealed his intention to adjust Brunson’s new moniker in a brutal way.
“Get ready. I’m about to bust open this UFC middleweight division wide open as soon as I turn blonde Brunson into blood Brunson, because I’m gonna bloody him up, I’mma batter him up. Ground beef Brunson, whatever the hell you wanna call him, I’mma beat this man up. Then I’m gonna move on to my title, and I plan on doing the same thing to each and every person after that.”
Cannonier: I’m A Terrible Matchup For Brunson
Despite mostly being known for his standup skills, which has helped him record nine knockouts in his 19-fight professional career, Cannonier believes he has the grappling pedigree to hang with the best in that regard.
For that reason, “The Killa Gorilla” believes his all-round abilities make him a terrible matchup for Brunson, who has often been criticized for his technique on the feet.
“I think it’s a perfect matchup for me. It’s a classic grappler vs. predominant striker in myself. But I can grapple with the best as well. And I feel that, you know, this is a perfect matchup for me, a terrible matchup for him. So yeah, I plan on going in there and making that happen.”
A victory for either man should see them book a meeting with either Adesanya or Whittaker for the second half of 2022. The reigning middleweight king is expected to defend his title against former champ “The Reaper” at the UFC 271 pay-per-view in February.
Who do you think will have their hand raised at UFC 270, Jared Cannonier or Derek Brunson?