A win Saturday has the potential to rewrite Jared Cannonier’s legacy.
“It means I’m a step closer to the title,” says Cannonier. “A win here shoots me right back in line for a title shot in 2023.”
Cannonier meets Sean Strickland in the main event of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night. It is a middleweight bout that will help define the top of the division, elevating the winner beside Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa, who are set to fight in February.
Cannonier (15-6) is coming off a loss to Israel Adesanya in July. Despite five rounds of opportunity, he was unable to corral Adesanya and land the type of shots necessary to crown himself champion.
“I still have work to do, and that’s what I’ve been doing since that fight,” says Cannonier. “He implemented his game plan, but I took a lot away from that fight. I’m a much better fighter because of it, and I’m excited for what’s to come.”
A lot has happened since the fight against Adesanya. Alex Pereira defeated Adesanya to win the middleweight belt, opening a whole new world of possibility in the division.
“A new champion means more interest in the whole division, not just more interest for Israel,” says Cannonier. “It was unfortunate how Israel lost. He was on his way to winning, on the precipice of victory, but that’s how fights go. You’ve got to be on and on it ‘til the ref says stop or the clock runs out. One shot landed can turn the whole fight.”
Cannonier will be looking to land that explosive shot tonight. Strickland (25-4) had been on a hot streak, having won six straight, yet all that momentum evaporated when he was knocked out by Pereira in July.
“I want to knock Strickland out,” says Cannonier. “I have no emotional connection to him. I don’t care if he runs his mouth. I’m not thinking about him as a person. But that knockout is the easiest path for me to victory, and that’s how I get paid.
“I said it before, and I’m still a level-38 badass. I’m even better now, and you’re going to see that in this fight.”
Lewis-Spivak Bout Back on for February
The fight between Derrick Lewis and Sergey Spivak, which was supposed to take place prior to Thanksgiving, is now rescheduled for February in Vegas at the Apex.
Lewis (26-10) has dropped two in a row, and he desperately needs this win to remain relevant in the upper echelon of the heavyweight division. Spivak (15-3) has been on a tear, winning five of his last six (with three of those coming via TKO), and a victory here would represent his most significant. If Spivak wins, a fight against Sergei Pavlovich would be a massive bout–and full of title implications.
The initial bout was canceled when Lewis fell ill on the day of the fight with a stomach issue. But the rescheduling worked out, and it will provide some excitement to a wintery February night.
Topuria Wants Fight vs. Ortega and Path to Title Shot
An early candidate for fight of the year in 2023 is a potential bout pitting Ilia Topuria against Brian Ortega.
The same can be said about Topuria against Arnold Allen. But Ortega is the better matchup for Topuria, as he is a far bigger name in the sport. The winner of Topuria-Ortega would also set up nicely to challenge for the interim title, which will be decided when Josh Emmett and Yair Rodriguez fight in February at UFC 284.
It is hard to believe that Ortega has never held the featherweight title. He ran up against Max Holloway during the height of his run in 2018, then lost to Alexander Volkanovski in what was the champ’s career-defining performance. Despite his brilliance in the cage, Ortega could again be the odd man out again as Topuria makes his rise. His showing last weekend at UFC 282 was outrageous. No one had defeated Bryce Mitchell, let alone made quick work of him, yet Topuria was the better striker and grappler, and won their fight convincingly.
There are many fights to look forward to in the coming year, and Topuria-Ortega is high atop that list.