Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight contenders Derek Brunson and Jared Cannonier will square off this weekend (Sat., Feb. 12, 2022) at UFC 271 inside Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
The rebirth of Blonde Brunson was one of the more unexpected storylines of the last two years, but it’s been a lot of fun for everyone outside of his opponents. The veteran has won five in a row, knocking off hyped-up, would-be contenders with a mixture of patience, wrestling and raw strength.
He’s hoping to earn a rematch versus Israel Adesanya with a victory.
On the flip side, Cannonier is the highest ranked contender who has yet to duel with “Stylebender.” Robert Whittaker derailed his last attempt to earn a title shot, but if he can pull off the win here, Cannonier tangling Adesanya is still a rather juicy potential match up.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Darren Till (UFC Vegas 36), Kevin Holland (UFC Vegas 22), Edmen Shahbazyen (UFC Vegas 5), Lyoto Machida (UFC Fight Night 119), Uriah Hall (UFC Fight Night 94), Ian Heinisch (UFC 241), Lorenz Larkin (UFC 177)
Key Losses: Robert Whittaker (UFC Fight Night 101), Israel Adesanya (UFC 230), Yoel Romero (UFC Fight Night 35), Ronaldo Souza (UFC on FOX 27, Strikeforce: “Rousey vs Kaufman”)
Keys to Victory: Brunson is among the most experienced contenders at 185 pounds, having mixed it up with many of the division’s top names since roughly 2014. In his latest form, Brunson appears to have figured out when it’s necessary to explode and rely on his athleticism, and when a more patient, technical approach is appropriate.
Perhaps the biggest overall key for Brunson is to control after the takedown. At 185 pounds, Cannonier has been taken down a few times, but he’s always been able to athlete his way up rather quickly. He’s a difficult man to hold down, and when top control specialists like Jack Hermansson throw him three times only for him to pop back up, it’s demoralizing.
Brunson cannot be discouraged. On a long enough timeline, it becomes exhausting and ultimately impossible to continually powering one’s way up from bottom. If Brunson remains committed to mat returns and chain wrestling, Cannonier will fatigue and present openings for Brunson to really lock down the position.
To set up the shot, I’d like to see Brunson patient from the outside, firing his left kick often. That left kick can really do wonders to slow Cannonier’s right hand and convince him to step into his punches, opening up the reactive double.
Key Wins: Jack Hermansson (UFC Fight Night 160), Kelvin Gastelum (UFC Vegas 34), Anderson Silva (UFC 237) David Branch (UFC 230), Ion Cutelaba (TUF 24 Finale)
Key Losses: Robert Whittaker (UFC 254), Glover Teixeira (UFC 208), Jan Blachowicz (UFC on FOX 26), Dominick Reyes (UFC Fight Night 129)
Keys to Victory: Cannonier is a powerhouse at Middleweight. His punches land with an unpleasant thud, and thus far, opponents have had little to no success in controlling him on the mat. It’s really proven the correct weight class for “The Killa Gorilla.”
Brunson is likely the stiffest wrestling test Cannonier has faced since his drop down to Middleweight. To avoid being planted on the canvas, Cannonier has to ensure that he doesn’t give away easy shots. Ideally, he’ll be the man moving forward, but he’ll do so from his own distance.
Range strikes will be key here. Cannonier has a stiff jab and punishing inside low kick, and he has to use those weapons to win the distance battle. If Cannonier is touching Brunson up from the outside, the onus is on Brunson to make something happen.
If he tries to push forward, Cannonier’s counters open up. If not, the Alaskan can hang back and win on points.
Given Sean Strickland’s lackluster win last weekend, this bout is almost certain to be the Middleweight title eliminator ... unless Whittaker upsets “Stylebender,” in which case a trilogy is likely in order.
Assuming Adesanya is indeed victorious once again, Brunson has history with the champ. Adesanya pretty much kicked his ass in 2018 (watch highlights), but that’s also the defeat that sparked the Brunson renaissance. For him to work his way back up and earn a rematch would be one hell of a storyline for the fight — better than the usual rematch story, at least.
On the other hand, Adesanya has repeatedly mentioned Cannonier as a fight that interests him. He’s the champ, and he’s beaten most everyone else at Middleweight already, so why not? If Cannonier and Adesanya win here, the sensible match up is a striker’s delight with gold on the line.
At UFC 271, Derek Brunson and Jared Cannonier will go to war. Which man has his hand raised?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 271 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV. Bet on UFC 271 at DraftKings Sportsbook.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 271: “Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.