Paths to Victory: How Israel Adesanya and Jared Cannonier can win at UFC 276

Israel Adesanya

On Saturday, UFC 276 takes place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main event will see the middleweight champion Israel Adesanya defend his title against the tough No. 4-ranked contender Jared Cannonier. 920-ranked contenderJared Cannonier.


Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Paths to Victory for Israel Adesanya at UFC 276

As the betting lines suggest, this fight is Adesanya’s to lose, and as such, the UFC middleweight champion does not need to do anything outside the norm to retain his title this weekend.

Adesanya’s striking is some of the best that MMA has ever seen, and it begins with his ability to dictate range and pace. Adesanya’s height and footwork allow him to create a large distance to fight behind. From there, he is content to potshot away with jabs and leg kicks until his opponent decides to wade into the middle ground, at which point he fires nasty counter shots while stepping off on angles. Cannonier will find it difficult to resist both sides of the strategy. There’s plenty of tape.

Against Robert Whittaker, Cannonier spent the better part of 15 minutes getting his face jabbed off while trying to keep pace with leg kicks. Whittaker, who was stepping in to replace him, either circled and reset his position at the middle or settled on a counter combo before going out. Whittaker won a unanimous decision by clinching a win with one of these combinations in the third round. A similar thing happened in Cannonier’s fight with Derek Brunson when he got reckless and charged forward on Brunson – he was dropped by a counter uppercut that nearly ended the fight.

Adesanya has the ability to exploit Cannonier’s recklessness in charging in.

Alternatively, Adesanya can also have success by taking the initiative from Cannonier. Cannonier, like many MMA fighters, is substantially better when he’s moving forward than back. Brunson put Cannonier repeatedly on the sidelines of their fight. When he did so, Cannonier was able to land a few more points than Brunson, who kept Cannonier from retreating. Adesanya has substantially more craft than Brunson when taking the lead, and there’s a lot of logic in making your opponent fight in the manner in which they are the least comfortable.


Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Paths to victory for Jared Cannonier at UFC 276

Cannonier, as mentioned earlier is clearly at an advantage in this fight. Cannonier is not in a position to win, but that does not mean that he cannot find success. Perhaps paradoxically, his best way forward is to focus on what he excels at, even though it puts him within firing range Adesanya’s most powerful weapons. As the old saying goes, dance with the girl who brought you, so Cannonier needs to dance with pressure, leg kicks, and haymakers.

Cannonier’s best moments are when he dictates the fight’s pace. For him, that usually means consistently coming forward, using kicks to respond to counters and to corral opponents, and then swinging hammers. Against Adesanya, that is going to open him up to return fire, but it’s also a proven method of success against the champion. Kelvin Gastelum gave Adesanya hell by virtue of having a granite chin and a total disregard for his own safety. He launched himself at Adesanya, and while he mostly got the worst end of the exchanges, he landed big and hurt Adesanya a few times as well. This is Cannonier’s best wager.

Cannonier doesn’t have the same chin as Gastelum (most don’t), but he has other tools that can help him: body kicks and low. The challenger must cut the legs and bodies of Adesanya when he disengages with Cannonier for reset. This will not only score you points, but it can also lay the groundwork for your future success. If Cannonier, a good kicker, can take out Adesanya’s legs, he’ll be much easier to force into exchanges as the fight progresses. Plus, Cannonier has tremendous cardio, and while Adesanya has never shown that to be a weakness, rifling shots to the ribs will suck the wind out of anyone, again opening up more chances in the later rounds.

Cannonier should clinch whenever he can, even though it has not been an important part of his game. Marvin Vettori managed to eat large portions of the rematch by simply holding Adesanya against his cage. Although Cannonier is shorter than Adesanya’s champion, the former heavyweight should still have a greater strength advantage. Cannonier can be worn on Adesanya during the clinch, which helps to achieve the same goals as kickboxing but also puts the champ in an area where he is limited in offense. This is the fourth line of hockey. It’s more physically than technically and serves to shorten fight time and take up more minutes.


Jared Cannonier’s chin.

I’m not here to say that Cannonier has a bad chin, but “The Killa Gorilla” has been dropped in two of his last three fights, which is concerning for a man who turned 38 this year and is facing arguably the most precise counter-striker in the sport today. Cannonier will have to win. If his chin doesn’t stand up, it becomes much more difficult.


Adesanya is strongly favored in this fight. Cannonier is not a bad fighter, but he is going to struggle to generate consistent offense, and when he does, he will eat a lot of counters. Cannonier will have to be more risky as the fight goes on. He will then eat all the shots that are going to put him down.

Israel Adesanya by KO in Round 4.