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Israel Adesanya once called Jared Cannonier the deadliest contender at 185 — now he’ll have to fight him

Reigning UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya retained his 185-pound title by defeating former division titleholder Robert Whittaker in the UFC 271 pay-per-view (PPV) main event last night (Sat., Feb. 12, 2022) inside Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

It was a close fight, but the judges sided with the champion (watch the highlights here).

“I knew he was gonna bring everything, because last time I took everything away from him,” Adesanya said during his post-fight interview. “He had nothing to lose. Like I said, I’m the champ. You want it, come get it.”

The unanimous decision victory puts “The Last Stylebender” up two-zip over “The Reaper” so we’re unlikely to see a third fight unless something crazy happens (and it often does in this sport). That means Adesanya will likely move on to fight surging contender Jared Cannonier later this year.

Cannonier also competed at UFC 271 in what was widely-considered to be a title eliminator bout against veteran contender Derek Brunson. Despite an uneven first round from the former heavyweight, Cannonier settled down and landed fight-ending elbows in the second stanza, his tenth career victory by way of knockout (see it again here).

Adesanya saw it coming as far back as 2019.

“He’s a beast in the division,” Adesanya previously told MMA Fighting. “He’s the dark horse in the division. He’s the guy everyone is sleeping on but you can’t sleep on him because you’ll get put to sleep. I think he’s the guy, the second most dangerous guy in the division behind myself. I look forward to fighting him after his next fight.”

Cannonier has now won five of his last six with four knockouts.

Despite the lofty praise, the 37 year-old “Killa Gorilla” had little-to-no competition (outside of Brunson) coming into UFC 271. He’s the only fighter currently ranked in the middleweight Top 5 who hasn’t been defeated by Adesanya.

Sean Strickland, currently sitting at No. 6 after turning away Jack Hermansson at UFC Vegas 47, is now the winner of six straight, but his output inside the cage has been a little underwhelming over his last couple of fights.

Besides, I’d rather see “Tarzan” fight No. 2-ranked Marvin Vettori.

In addition, middleweight newcomer Alex Pereira — who holds two victories over Adesanya on the kickboxing circuit (including a brutal knockout) — has just one fight under the UFC banner and will need to get past fellow Brazilian bruiser Bruno Silva before we can talk about a “Poatan” title shot.

“Hey Dana, I want that shot next,” Cannonier shouted to UFC President Dana White after the contest. “I get the shot next. It’s me. Nobody else! Me! I turned ‘Blonde Brunson’ into ‘Blood Brunson’ like I said I was going to do.”

Cannonier called his shot back in December.

“Made a title push. Number three versus number four in the world,” Brunson wrote on social media. “I came up short. Life lessons. I’m all good. Sad, but life will give you these moments. I’ll pick myself up for one more fight. Blessings all.”

Brunson is expected to retire after his next fight.

The middleweight division appears to be back on track and the Adesanya vs. Cannonier title fight is the kind of matchup that UFC fans can get excited about. This is a clearcut case of precision vs. power but more importantly, it’s not a rematch.

For all the UFC 271: “Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2” news and notes from last Sat. night be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.