In the co-main event of UFC 254 taking place this Saturday, October the 24th on Yas Island AKA Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., former UFC World Champion Robert Whittaker continues his climb back up the Middleweight ladder when he fights surging contender, Jared Cannonier.
Hats off to UFC matchmakers Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard once again for what they have done with this fight card.
There are interesting matchups from the top to the bottom.
I know, it’s very difficult not to focus only on the main event.
As a fan, that’s what I would do.
As handicappers and gamblers, though, we have to scour the entire fight card for betting value.
You will see a lot of large betting favorites in main events.
There are a few reasons for this but it’s mostly because those are the fights that feature the best fighters and, of course, those are the fighters that are expected to win.
To touch quickly on Saturday night’s main event at UFC 254, Khabib Nurmagomedov is a large betting favorite but I don’t think he should be.
I definitely understand why he is but the wrestling of Justin Gaethje is on a higher level, at least on paper than any of the Eagle’s previous opponents.
Before I talk about that fight all day long, let’s focus on the co-main right now.
"I'm going to put Cannonier away." 😳
— UFC (@ufc) October 19, 2020
Jared The Killa Gorilla Cannonier has Uncle Mo on his side.
Yeah, you know Uncle Mo.
I’m not talking about Monty or Maurice.
I’m talking about Uncle Momentum.
After dropping down to the UFC’s middleweight division from light-heavy just less than two years ago, Jared Cannonier has won all three of his fights in convincing fashion.
David Branch was his first victim.
Cannonier closed as a (+250) betting underdog for that fight.
That was the bet to make.
I don’t really want to talk very long about his next fight as it brings back bad memories.
Thinking my favorite fighter of all time, Anderson Silva, writhing in pain on the ground, holding his leg just breaks my heart.
Jared Cannonier was dominating that fight the whole time, though.
His low kicks are outstanding and Robert Whittaker is very heavy on his lead leg so I know there will be an opportunity for Jared to dig in.
We will see. Bobby Knuckles is one of the best all-around fighters in MMA today and the man is only 29 years old! That is hard to believe.
The former Champion has been in some wars.
We have seen him grow up in front of our eyes inside of the octagon.
It wasn’t that long ago when Robert Whittaker lost to Court McGee.
Is the Aussie is able to pull this fight off, we are going to have to start calling him the “Gorilla Killa” because Darren Till is The Gorilla and Robert doubled him up on significant strikes, took him down multiple times, and put on a show in the fifth round.
Jared Cannonier is the Killa Gorilla.
Taking down two gorillas in two fights is quite the task but if anybody is up to it, it’s Bobby Knuckles, the New Zealand-born Maori raised in Australia, Robert Whittaker.
Let’s take a look at the measurables for each fighter and note any major differences.
|Jared Cannonier||Robert Whittaker|
|Fight Record: 13-4||Fight Record: 22-5|
|Age: 36||Age: 29|
|Height: 5’11”||Height: 6’0”|
|Reach: 77.5”||Reach: 73”|
|From: Dallas, TX||From: Auckland, New Zealand|
|Fight Camp: The MMA Lab||Fight Camp: PMA Super Martial Arts|
The Aussie Robert Whittaker is the much younger fighter and the more experienced fighter.
Jared Cannonier has some kind of frame, though.
Nearly 78 inches of reach standing less than 6 feet tall?
- Those aren’t gorilla arms.
- Those are orangutan arms.
- I love orangutans, though.
It seems like they are the most forgotten of the large primates.
I think there’s just something about orange skin that turns people off.
It doesn’t matter if the orangutan is good at his job or not.
It must be the orange, man.
22-5 is a significantly better fight record than 13-4 but Jared Cannonier began his career as a heavyweight after being knocked out by Shawn Jordan and after fighting once more, he decided to make the move down to 205.
In his debut at light heavyweight, Jared Cannonier defeated another one of UFC 254 Fighters, Ion Cutelaba, by unanimous decision.
He had a very tough test, though, on the horizon in his next fight with Brazilian boxer and wrestler, Glover Teixeira.
The Killa Gorilla fell short but he went the distance with one of the toughest and most dangerous fighters in the division.
To me, this was a win for Jared and he definitely grew from it.
After taking a step down in competition, Cannonier got a win by elbow stoppage but in his next two fights, he fought the two men who just competed for the vacant 205-lb title, Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz.
Jan took a unanimous decision and Dominick Reyes was able to get the TKO win over Jared.
This prompted another weight class move for the Alabama native, Jared Cannonier.
It wasn’t back up to heavyweight but I dropped to middleweight!
I mentioned his first two fights and the middleweight division but his most previous when was easily the most impressive.
He defeated Jack Hermansson by TKO in the second round.
He hit an uppercut on the much taller man as the Swede shot in for a takedown and quickly followed up with vicious ground-and-pound for the win.
This was over a year ago, though, and Robert Whittaker’s last fight was a whole 3 months prior to this upcoming Saturday night.
Even though the Aussie fought a powerful Muay Thai striker in Darren Till, he didn’t take very much damage at all.
The two men fought the full 25 minutes with Whitaker winning a unanimous decision but listen to the strange statistics of this fight.
Darren Till landed a total of 50 strikes, 41 of which were counted as significant strikes.
I believe the Scouser won the first round but it was all Bobby Knuckles after that.
Robert said after the fight that it was the most technical fight he had ever been in.
Well, the Aussie passed that test with his country’s flying colors of red, white, and blue draped across his shoulders as his hand was raised.
Jared Cannonier is a very technical fighter on his feet. He throws a lot of straight punches and even his looping punches are very tight. The guy has some thunderous leg kicks too. You see this a lot with fighters who used to be much larger guys. They carried a lot of extra weight on those bones and those bones got quite strong as well as many of the tendons and ligaments. So when these guys throw their shots, whether they be punches, kicks, knees, or elbows, they’ll land with some extra pop.
Robert Whittaker has fought at light-heavyweight and when he was there, he went up against guys who are 6’3″ or 6’4″ and it’s pretty much been the same at middleweight. Look at the champion -Israel Adesanya is 6-4 with an 80-inch reach. Whitaker, of course, had a very hard time against the champ and was eventually caught with a lean back left hook as he charged in.
He was the champion just over a year ago.
Let’s look at the betting line and see where we can find some value because this fight is very very hard to predict.
I hope the betting lines will tell us a little bit more about which side we should be on.
Wow, I thought Robert Whittaker would be getting more respect here than he is.
- He is the younger fighter.
- He is the far more experienced fighter.
- He is the fresher fighter.
I can’t lie to you guys.
My gut originally told me Jared Cannonier is just so hot right now and he is so confident, that he will get the win.
Then, I told my gut to shut up.
This isn’t always about gut feelings or else why would I be writing this?
And why would you be reading this because you could just go on your own gut feeling for that matter?
Let’s quickly look at the paths to victory for each fighter and make our play.
Path to Victory
This is a 3-round fight and Jared is very technical.
He has the power to keep Robert Whittaker fighting fairly honest, and that should give him just enough time and space that he needs to hit Robert with the potshots as the Alabama native has the superior range and, of course, land his debilitating leg kicks.
This isn’t just a knockout or bust.
He could, of course, rock and or knockout Whittaker on the feet.
We saw Israel Adesanya do it a year ago and I would have to argue that Cannonier is the more powerful puncher between himself and The Last Stylebender.
It is Izzy, though, that has the edge in timing and accuracy as well as precision.
Australia’s Robert Whittaker is a great fighter.
I just listed some of the checked boxes he has on Cannonier but he’s also 7 years younger.
That means a lot to me and I’m not selling the Killa Gorilla’s preparation short at all as he trains at one of the best gyms in the world at the MMA Lab in Arizona but Whittaker will likely win the first round.
I think it will be hard for the Aussie to take down his opponent but he has such great timing and that makes a world of difference in mixed martial arts.
I don’t think Robert is going to put away Jared and since this is just a three-round fight, I expect an outstanding game plan from his team.
He has fought power punchers/wrestlers like Derek Brunson and Yoel Romero and won.
Robert has also defeated technical lengthy strikers, Uriah Hall for example.
If you’re giving me the former champ as an underdog, I’m gonna take him.
It was silly to fade him against Darren Till.
I think it would be even more of a mistake to ignore the play on Whittaker this week in his fight against the Killa Gorilla.
Jared Cannonier is a finisher and he could very well do it so if Rob looks good but gets caught, don’t get too upset with me.
If you’re looking for more of a sure thing, then I suggest betting on Conor McGregor to defeat Dustin Poirier in their likely upcoming rematch.
He is (-185) at BetOnline.AG.
Jump all over it and show Bobby Knuckles some love as well with a 2 unit play on him at UFC 254.