Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight talents David Branch and Jared Cannonier will square off this Saturday (Nov. 3, 2018) at UFC 230 inside Madison Square Garden in New York, New York.
For three years, Branch ran roughshod over the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) Middle- and Light-Heavyweight divisions. His entrance UFC entrance proved more difficult, beginning with a close decision win in his debut before coming up short to former champion Luke Rockhold. Luckily, Branch righted the ship last time out, scoring a first-round knockout win and pushing his way back into the mix. Meanwhile, Cannonier decided to abandon the Light Heavyweight division just in time to join in on this Middleweight showcase event. His previous record inside the Octagon isn’t great (3-4), but it’s worth noting that Cannonier only lost to seriously talented fighters who were also larger than him.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Thiago Santos (UFC Fight Night 128), Krzysztof Jotko (UFC 211), Yushin Okami (WSOF 15), Vinny Magalhaes (WSOF 33)
Key Losses: Luke Rockhold (UFC Fight Night 116)
Keys to Victory: Branch began his career entirely as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu player, but he’s developed a well-rounded game. His best attribute remains his top game and subsequent strangulations, but Branch is a solid and smart boxer.
Could Branch box with Cannoner for the entire fight? It’s very likely that he could and still win, but the better question is why would he ever do that? A majority of Cannonier’s wins come via knockout, and he appeared rather helpless from his back opposite Glover Teixeira.
The smart money — and Branch succeeds largely by making the most of his smarts — says that a takedown is coming sooner than later. Expect Branch to box with Cannonier just long enough to get him comfortable, at which point a level change will come and switch things up entirely. Once on top, Branch is a very nasty black belt. Cannonier has struggled with his gas tank previously, and those issues came without this new weight cut. Even if Branch cannot tap him out early, expect him to wear down his foe to the point that the submission finds itself.
Key Wins: Ion Cutelaba (TUF 24 Finale), Cyril Asker (UFC Fight Night 86), Tony Lopez (AFC 104)
Key Losses: Glover Teixeira (UFC 208), Jan Blachowicz (UFC on FOX 26), Dominick Reyes (UFC Fight Night 129)
Keys to Victory: Given his remarkably high level of competition, it’s easy to forget that Cannonier has less than 15 fights on his record. While he was originally set to receive a step back in competition for his 185-pound debut, injury created an opportunity, and Cannonier is too much of a badass to say no.
The Alaskan’s primary skill is kickboxing, and his slow dropping of weight classes does make sense. At both Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight, Cannonier stood out for his style of kickboxing, which relied heavily on movement and off-beat punches.
Opposite Branch, movement is life. Cannonier cannot likely defend takedowns for long, meaning he’s in big trouble once Branch gets his hands on him. If, however, Cannonier is circling, changing directions, and feinting often, his opponent should have a much harder time taking a shot or even forcing a clinch.
Every second Cannonier is still striking increases his odds of landing something dramatic.
Bottom Line: It’s definitely a risky fight for both men.
Branch should win this fight — it’s the type of foe he dominated repeatedly in WSOF. Cannonier is dangerous and talented, but there are definite holes in his technical game, and few are better at exploiting a foe’s weakness than Branch. Nevertheless, this is a significant risk for Branch, who was originally matched with “Jacare” Souza. Branch is expected to win and gains little with victory, whereas a loss could boot him from the Top 10. Meanwhile, Cannonier gets no reprieve from his tough schedule, which is a shame. He’s still young enough in his career that just two or three fights against the middle of the division could really benefit him, allowing him to gain confidence and make the most of his skill set. Instead, he faces a man with twice the fights and a major grappling advantage, as UFC has largely set him up to fail here.
The bright side, at least, is that a win would be huge for Cannonier and push him far up the division.
At UFC 230, David Branch and Jared Cannonier will scrap. Which man will earn the victory?